Last night I was still unsure how today was going to play out. The children were feeling better, but "my plans" continued to unravel. After dinner, when my husband asked me about our traditional birthday cake for Jesus I realized I hadn't made those arrangements. Unable to run errands for days, a few things had fallen through the cracks.
One of the upsides to being stuck at home for a week is that I cleaned out/organized all sorts of things--including my pantry. I realized I had ingredients on hand to take on a 'new tradition.' Instead of our usual red velvet cake from a local bakery, I would try to make a cake from scratch. (I confess I'd never attempted this before.) As I used the last of our butter I realized I was one ingredient shy. With most of the batter already in my mixer, neighbors out of pocket and a fruitless search by my husband for an open grocery store, I made a substitution and hoped for the best. It seems to be a common theme in the life of this woman who has had to learn to let go of A LOT of expectations in the last few years.
Mentally, I started beating myself up. You call yourself an intentional parent? You say that you are more about Jesus than Santa...and you forgot the cake? It's His birthday...You didn't forget the presents, have you forgotten HIM?
I have much more grace for others than I have for myself!
Mourning our inability to take our contagious children to a Christmas Eve service we settled in for cuddle time on the sofa. The Looney Toons Christmas special wasn't exactly the focus my husband & I hoped to send the kiddos to bed with--so taking a page from my friend Cabell, who believes in playing silly games for gifts at Christmas,we played a little Christmas story trivia before bed to establish the gift unwrapping order for the next morning.
With your-name-is-your-buzzer intensity, we reviewed the whole Christmas story, detail by detail through questions and answers. It was certainly not your traditional Daddy in the leather chair in front of the fire moment--but it was ours--and it was effective with nine year olds. For 30 minutes we discussed the miracles of Christmas. Now that the subject of birds and bees has been tackled, the virgin birth makes a lot more sense. We talked not only about the three gifts, but why they were chosen and what they symbolized. The quiz format really allowed a glimpse into how much of the meaning of Christmas our kids grasp (and don't).
Our dry erase tally marks weren't Pinterest worthy, but that wasn't the point. Frankly, most of our Christmas this year has been bare bones, back to basics, a little messy and full of last minute adjustments. During a quiet, sigh-exhaling moment on my stairwell yesterday I asked God to show me a lesson from all this. I can endure just about anything if there's a promise of meaning attached.
As I was going to bed last night I saw the title of this post from Brene Brown in my twitter feed: The Magic is in the Mess. Yes! My heart fluttered. That is it.
"This time of year can be a perfectionism minefield. My expectations always need radical reality-checking and that normally comes in the form of a total meltdown. The good news is that I often have a lot more fun on the backside of my breakdown when I start letting go and leaning into the crazy." ~Brene Brown
Our children haven't missed a beat. They are too busy lapping up the family time...the warmth, the love and the lights to mourn the loss of tradition. They were full of hope and anticipation that allowed them to remember what I was tempted to forget...regardless of the circumstances, Christmas was coming.
As I honestly confess them here, I am aware my first-world problems of 'missing our traditions' are scarcely worth mentioning.
Today I've thought of friends battling cancer, newly divorced parents trying to navigate the holidays with broken hearts, the 38 children at our local group home who cannot be with their families of origin, people who are lonely, sad, feeling forgotten.
THAT is real messiness.
And that is the miracle of Christmas.
The 'unplanned' pregnancy of an obscure teenaged girl.
The census that required travel when she was full term.
The lack of vacancies that led the young family to a stinky manger.
Christmas is more than just another holiday...because Jesus' story was a mess. And He came into a broken, chaotic world.
And the magic is not in the squeaky clean, flawless, beautiful traditions...Of course He is worthy of our best, but the miracle? Indeed it is in the mess.
And guess, what? It did come to pass. No fevers today. We had the breakfast I had planned. The modified cake was delicious and family was still able to visit (albeit wearing masks for safety). Santa Claus came, memories were made and Jesus' birthday was honored here.
Merry messy Christmas!