"I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect... or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I'll ever get, the one I'm in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic." ~Shauna Niequist
This December, I've been trying to focus on being present. Not the kind that can be placed in a box and gift wrapped under the tree, but the kind that keeps me accountable to be in the moment, in these times and circumstances that we've been given.
Last December was a different story. Last December, I was feeling overwhelmed with disappointment that we weren't spending our first Christmas in a new house, a bigger house, a house more equipped for entertaining and gatherings and a Christmas day spent entirely in our own home. Last December I spent an entire week in California in 12-hour a day meetings, away from snow and twinkly lights and bedtime stories around the tree, missing Christmas parties and downtown girlfriend nights while sitting in a board room by the ocean instead. The ocean was beautiful but not getting to enjoy it while you're right next to it is quite the kick in the pants.
And though this December I'm still feeling that same disappointment as last year, I know that there is a plan in all the waiting, and that I need to do a better job of making the most of our circumstances despite the disappointments that accompany them. And thankfully this year, I didn't have to spend a week away from home in the midst of it all. I can't help but think about the pure joy and gratitude we'll feel once we get to the other side of this wait.
In the meantime, I have been working to fill my cup up with the best this season has to offer to us. And good ol' Shauna Niequist is guiding me through it with her words that speak so deeply to my own heart and mind right now.
"Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness."
Some of the moments that have brought me joy this December...
//Letter writing to Santa followed by a trip to the North Pole mailbox. Lists that included watches and nerf guns and Star Wars Monopoly.
//Brandon's poster for school depicting what he likes most about December. Sledding and Christmas music and a decorated home. He was so proud when they hung it up right inside the school entrance.
//So many game nights by the tree. And how fun it is to be able to have game nights with our two growing boys. No more Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders - they've been donated to Goodwill!
//The way their faces glow by the Christmas tree and how much they enjoy our bedtime readings underneath it.
//Catching them peeking at the growing collection of wrapped gifts.
//A growing Christmas village like the one I grew up with and a tiny bedside tree just for us.
//Jingle and Mingle downtown, $2 glasses of champagne, and Mom's birthday at Noble Oak. I'm obsessed with their brisket, and their Pumpkin dessert is amazing!
//Friday night Christmas movie nights. We started with Christmas Vacation and are working our way through Elf, The Polar Express and the Santa Claus. We put on our favorite Christmas pj's, fill our cups with hot cocoa and sprinkles, and unwind from the week with only the tree lights on.
//Christmas cookie decorating with cousins.
//Checking the mailbox every day to find new pretty greeting cards from friends. And our own Christmas card mailer - my favorite one yet.
//All the basketball tournaments. The Outlaws have played in a tournament every weekend this month, and though it's exhausting at times, I am loving this season, and we are so blessed by this group. We are so looking forward to the Outlaws Christmas party later this week.
//Decorating Mickey's gingerbread house and discovering Jaden eating off of it the very next morning, frosting all over his mouth at 7am. His sincere plea to me that, "I just can't help myself!!"
//A new ornament for the tree.
//Personalized letters from Santa delivered right to our own mailbox. It was so cute watching the boys open these up and read their personal messages. Soaking up this time of belief...
//The first snowfall of the year and how these boys spent hours outside on a Sunday afternoon, overjoyed with it all. I first asked them to shovel the driveway, and I looked out just a few minutes later to seeing the neighbor boys helping with their own shovels. I eventually had to force them inside, and we warmed up over mugs of cocoa before dinner.
//Brandon's winter school program, followed by a stop at Cup of Joe on Main St. and a walk along the streets to see the ice sculptures. I loved our night in this quaint little coffee shop. The hot chocolate was on point, the live music inside was cozy and the pile of board games in the corner of the store just adds to its charm. I'm looking forward to another visit or two here over Christmas break, cuddling up with our boys and some treats and some game play on a quiet winter's night.
//An early Christmas gift exchange before sending half the family off to England for the holidays. I drank three glasses of bubbly, watched Ivy soak up her role of "Santa" as she very happily and eagerly passed out the gifts, and laughed at Brandon's reaction to his new talking Chewbacca mask. And I just love our new friend, Alexa, also known as the Amazon Echo Dot. ;)
//A kitchen renovation project that I'm so glad we did. All new cabinetry and countertops and sink and micro hood - just waiting on the subway tile and hardware installation. I can't believe we chose December to do this, but I'm glad to have it mostly done. And I loved baking my first batch of Christmas cookies in our newly remodeled space.
//Christmas parties in the McLeod Center and a night of beer and appetizers at Pepper's with my fellow Scholarship Club Team Captains. And nights that end with Netflix binging, bokeh lights, warm cups, fuzzy blankets, and cuddly kittens.
Just one more day of work and then it's two weeks of vacation time. Looking forward to sending 2016 out with a lot of resting, recharging, and a little bit of celebrating.
"Present over perfect living is real over image, connecting over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn't need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful." ~Shauna Niequist