Monday, January 2, 2017

A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

My house is bordering on disaster, the tree is raining needles, and I haven't started my New Year's diet -- yet. This Christmas Anna received a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, "Perfectly Imperfect," and that just about sums up this Christmas. It was perfectly imperfect.

But then, isn't that how it is for all of us?

We went to the Living Nativity and once again the kids started arguing right in front of the carolers serenely singing "Angels We Have Heard on High." Ethan heard the song and said, "Hey, they took that from our song we're doing in kid's choir at church!" and I had to inform him that the carolers didn't "steal" this classic Christmas carol from eons ago.

We went to a Christmas light display and there was actual snow on the ground this year! Everything looked so festive. Chloe oo'ed and ahh'd at the lights. Anna and Ethan fought over who should sit where in the car to get the best view. Yes, the stop in the middle of the park at "Santa's Village" or whatever it was called was highway robbery (three dollars to roast ONE marshmallow over an open fire -- whaaaat?!) but Chloe loved riding the Merry-Go-Round (as I slowly froze in the 20-degree temperatures, holding on to her).

My grand plan once again for getting the kids excited about donating money to send animals (i.e. sheep, honeybees) to people in Africa to help them work a trade fell through once again. I lost the pamphlet and forgot to even give them allowance for weeks (to their credit, they didn't even ask me for it). But I did buy some things so we can make little plastic bags full of toiletries and other items to give out to the homeless. We haven't done it YET, but then again, why are we doing everything at Christmas? People need things throughout the year.

This year we finally got on board with having Anna and Ethan get gifts for each other, using their own money (including the allowances I'd forgotten to give them). This was interesting to watch, and the payoff was rewarding. I knew there was some selflessness in there, I thought when one child was about to use all of their allowance saved up rather than the $10 I'd suggested.

We lit the advent candle at church one Sunday and Chloe didn't run away and wreak havoc. She may have stood with her back facing the congregation almost the entire time, but I'll take it. Ethan once again refused to sing a solo in the kid's choir (he has a great voice and had lyrics memorized months ago) but he didn't spent the whole time looking at his watch while on stage (that was a few years ago). Another little girl had a fun time pulling her dress over her head and dancing in circles while they were singing, but that's what made it precious. I almost forgot the words to my Christmas solo due to sheer nerves, but pulled through. And didn't trip while walking across the stage, because I wore my ugly flats rather than deciding to get adventurous.

I found myself several times telling people what I continually tell myself: "It's okay, it'll be fine, you'll do great and if not it's okay because it's not about that." That's not what Christmas about; church is about; God is about.

Christmas break kicked off with Ethan getting sick and throughout the holidays all three kids came down with variations of the same virus. Everyone was hacking and nose-blowing. Ethan and I missed the Christmas Eve service with Dan's family. Chloe was an angel for the kid's Christmas pageant. She actually walked down the aisle. She didn't run in circles but looked very quizzically at the baby Jesus (a.k.a plastic baby doll) lying swaddled in front of her. We didn't get out much to do special things with everyone feeling sick, but we were able to do Christmas with both of our families.

And yes, this Christmas as we celebrated with those close to us I thought of those in my life who have lost loved ones in the past year. There have been some really horrific, difficult things that some have faced this year. And while I've often wondered how they continue to hold on, I'm not going to lie and say that there aren't times like these when my own faith is rocked. There are times when I have to fight to not ask over and over and over: Why?

For a long time I was very hard on myself about this. I hate to be one of the Doubting Thomases of the world.

But more recently I've decided that thinking people are going to ask questions. What matters more is what you do when you feel the answers don't add up the way you'd like them to.

There's been some backlash out there against those who decide to rail against the perfect Pinterest Christmas, about people who have started to "let it all hang out" online, the moms who are in defiance bragging about how inept and messy and imperfect their family is, darnit, and we need to relish in that. It's gotten to the point where some people are asking, "What's wrong with me if I like a neat house? Or if I enjoy doing crafts with my kids? Or if I managed to host a nice party? Do we have to glorify being imperfect now?"

There's a difference, though. There is a difference between reveling in your imperfections vs. accepting them.

There's a difference between being satisfied and willing to stay right where you are vs. knowing you are heading on a path somewhere but you aren't there yet, and along the way you are going to stumble many, many times.

We had an imperfect Christmas and I have an imperfect faith. And we'll keep trying to keep the focus on the right things and to love each other and to love God but sometimes we will miss the mark spectacularly. And the one thing that is perfect about it is God's grace carrying us again and again and again...through loss and failure and yes, in my case, questions, lots of questions.

Being perfectly imperfect means loving yourself right where you are -- but that doesn't mean you have to stay there. I'm going to keep walking.

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