My sister messaged me Tuesday morning:
“The difference between [one’s] ideal (imagination) and reality is sometimes shocking.”
I asked her what prompted that observation at this particular moment in time.
She sent me a picture of her Advent time with her young daughter. The baby was screaming, and her 2 year old covered a whole page (and part of the room) with glue, cut the other paper into tiny scraps, and sang “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad” while my sister tried to read Isaiah. The sink was full of dirty dishes and her daughter was wearing the only jammies she will consent to wear: random pink velour leggings and a blue oversized FOX racing t-shirt with the previous night’s candy cane in her matted hair.
I told her she needed to blog. The event would become a hilarious, endearing moment to which others can relate and upon which she can look back with rose-colored glasses and forget exactly how she felt at the time.
But some things aren’t funny, no matter how you tell the story. Some things are someone else’s story to tell (or not). And some things are too private to share.
And even if you can write a funny story, sleep-deprivation (and utter exhaustion), an extremely needy infant, sicknesses, defiant toddler, and all the other worries heaped on one’s plate are no joke when you are present, in that very moment.
I was in that season just a few short years ago, and well I remember. It was so little like I had imagined. So little like my ideal.
And this season that I’m in now? Still so little like I had imagined, so little like my ideal.
Our children are human. We are human. And life is just plain difficult so much of the time.
Friends, this time of the year, it’s a time when our expectations and imagination can be so wildly different from the reality. We have our own expectations according to our personal desires (a clean house, a beautifully decorated clean house, charming crafts, heart-warming Christmas events, handmade gifts, peaceful and obedient children) that may not match the desires or expectations of those around us. We also have our perceived cultural expectations as we see the glimpses and details that others seem to pull off effortlessly.
I can tell you that we had a delightful morning symposium yesterday morning. We sang Adeste, Fideles with the Lingua Angelica CD and Songbook, we read our Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader, we listened to Adam Andrew’s first installment of A Christmas Carol while following along in our lovely illustrated edition, and we began to memorize a Christmas poem by George MacDonald. And then we listened to classical Christmas music for the rest of the day.
What you don’t know is that we did no other school work the whole day. That was it.
What you can’t hear is the blow up I had with one of my sons. It was ugly. I was ugly.
What you can’t see is how disgusting my whole house is. Every room. I cannot manage to keep a single small area clean and beautiful for more than 5 minutes at a time (and certainly not more than one small area at a time, and only the 5 minutes after I clean it).
Yesterday, I told my children that I wanted to spend some time cleaning up so that we could enjoy the atmosphere. I cleaned off our little kitchen table (the only decent-sized flat surface in the house other than my bed) and moved on to another spot. The next time I glanced at my kitchen table it was covered, edge to edge, with construction paper, scissors, glue, tape, ribbon, and assorted other items. My son wanted to make Christmas ornaments and paper chains with Lola.
Today, I was just trying to survive lunch time in the disaster (see above picture), and my son wanted to make caramels. Caramels. Candy thermometer and all. [They were incredible, by the way.]
I have friends who are hurting—emotionally, physically, financially, relationally, or all of the above.
I could share my own litany of faults, weaknesses, fears, shortcomings, sins.
I don’t have a lovely quote for you that will make it all better.
I’m not going to give you a brilliant piece of advice, a piece of rose-colored glasses advice.
But I will offer solidarity. Empathy. Grace for those of us (all of us) who don’t have it all under control.
Even if we have our house decorated (I don’t), or have our shopping completed (I don’t), or revel in wrapping and crafting (I don’t), or never leave the house in yoga pants (I do), or always speak kindly and gently to our children (ahem), or vacuum ourselves out the front door (hahahaha!), we still don’t have it all together. We are such imperfect people with imperfect lives.
So I just want to tell you that I see you. And it’s okay if you don’t have it all together. You are loved.
Let’s be gentle with each other, full of grace, full of kindness this Christmas season and always.