I have always, always loved Christmas... until last year. Last year was the first time I experienced Christmas as a mom (and a very new mom at that), and frankly? It just sucked. And not because our families weren't wonderful (they spoiled us, as usual) or there was some big loss to deal with (Lord knows we've had our fair share), but because of me and my own mental darkness.
I was so stressed out. About EVERYTHING.
I was amped up and adamant that we make the first Christmas with our son AMAZING and WONDERFUL and PERFECT and FULL OF TRADITIONS AND FAMILY FUN! All while still adjusting to life with a pretty tiny baby, in a very small apartment, during one of the coldest winters Chicago has ever seen.
I didn't even get our Christmas cards mailed out, which were also supposed to serve as Caleb's birth announcements, and I cried while wrapping gifts.
As you might imagine, I was determined to do it differently going forward (both Christmas and the whole "having a newborn" thing). This year we decided to really focus on observing Advent, and it is FANTASTIC. I only wish I'd understood the significance of this month of planning and preparation sooner. Catholic or not, it feels so good to stop the chaos in favor of time to reflect, breathe, and contemplate what will truly make our holiday merry and memorable. We've been "going dark" in the evenings in favor of candlelight, and while we plan to get our tree this weekend, it will remain undecorated until the week before Christmas. We're making room, both physically and spiritually, and my introverted soul is so grateful.
I've been praying and thinking a lot about the next steps for my own life, something I shared a bit of here. In all my recent pondering, I keep getting one message over and over again: "You are in a season of discernment." A season of discernment--how lovely is that? What a relief to be able to view this chapter of my life as a time of hope, necessary for what's next, instead of one big ol' PAUSE on "real life." One day I may be called again to bold action, big ideas, and major change. But for now? The craziest, most important thing I can do is watch, listen, and wait... Kinda like what we're supposed to be doing during Advent. We wait in joyful hope for the celebration to end all celebrations.
So that's what I'm doing. Finding the joy, holding onto hope, even as I sometimes weep at the darkness. Somehow I've only just come to see that it isn't mine to shoulder alone. Talk about a revelation! You can let go of the heavy and welcome the light instead. Incredible. I think sometimes we need to set the heavy stuff down, but other times we simply share the load. Suddenly our individual portion doesn't seem quite so burdensome, and we understand we're part of a larger network of overcoming, and it's the sort of bring-you-to-tears miracle that makes your whole being radiate. It doesn't mean the hard parts or sadness disappear, but they lose some of their power: We belong to each other. Love wins.