I don't mean hold it together like you're going to lose it and have a meltdown at any given moment (though that happens sometimes when the hormones are flying high and there is too.much.to.do)-- I just mean you're hoping you remember to send the wrapped book for the book exchange in with your six your old on the right day, and the lemonade for your 12 year old for her party on another day, and that you don't forget to send the gumdrops and smarties you promised to the 1st grade teacher for the gingerbread houses, and you're secretly hoping that everyone has a Christmas-y looking dress (and tights!) in their closets that actually fit...just in case you need it. And that's just the tip of the proverbial Christmas-with-kids iceberg.
Last week was full, full, full of fun, fun, fun, but left not enough time at home, which means my house is now a mess, mess, MESS!
We went from Thanksgiving celebrations, to visiting friends in Saratoga Springs (a 4 hour drive for us), to Nutcracker rehearsal and performance week, with piano lessons and a chorus concert thrown in for good measure.
I took this picture of my bed to send to one of my friends who confided in me that she kept moving her laundry from her bed (where she promised herself she was going to put it away everyday) to the floor (when it was time to sleep), and then back to the bed again (the next day when the fresh promise of a new day assured her that certainly this was the day that it was going to get done!) and then back to the floor (so she could sleep again)...over and over again.
I wanted to assure her that she wasn't alone, nor was she abnormal. Or, at least if she is abnormal than she's not alone in her abnormal-ness because at least one other momma (me!) is right there with her.
I'm not sure what this all means...that we all need to slow down (probably), or perhaps just embrace the moments because these memories with our kids are formed in such a short period of time-- time that passes very quickly-- and so it is an ebb and flow of doing (concerts, visiting friends, performances, school events) and being (trying to find time to recoup at home, and be together as a family without rushing here, there and everywhere, and finding some time to breathe).
It can be a tricky balance to find sometimes, but it's the only way forward.
In an effort to find some quiet space I booked a one night stay at a local bed and breakfast last night. I told Scott that I needed some quiet- 24 hours worth of quiet- to process what the last few weeks have held, and prepare myself for the next few weeks to come.
Even though I felt guilty leaving the house two weeks before Christmas, and saying no to several requests yesterday and today...the time...the quiet space...it was exactly what I needed.
I was actually signed up to do Centers in Aubrey's 1st grade class this morning, but didn't realize it until Sunday night after I booked the hotel room. As awful as I felt about it, I knew that this was my only chance to get away for weeks to come and that I needed to prioritize it. After several unsuccessful attempts to find another parent to fill in for me, I ended up sending a very honest apology note to her teacher explaining that I couldn't come in this morning.
I only tell you that because I know, as moms, we often struggle with disappointing people and saying "No", but sometimes-- to make quiet space for your soul-- it's the very thing you have to do.
So many of us struggle to make space for our souls to rest. We feel guilty or indulgent for even thinking about a night away. Last year, when I did a similar overnight at a hotel and told my mom about it she told me that that she wished she had done the very same thing for herself when I was younger...that she could have used a night away.
I wish I could go back in time and make that happen for her...I think it would have nurtured things in her soul that desperately needed nurturing.
I needed to breathe, and pray, and breathe and pray some more...I needed to ask God to quiet my mind and my heart so I could see clearly through the fog of busy family life.
I've been reading through the book of Luke this month (Did you know there are 24 chapters in the book of Luke, so if you read one each day you will read the entire story of Jesus' life by Christmas) and was moved by these words, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16).
If Jesus needed to withdraw to lonely places to connect with his Heavenly Father, how much more do we need to do the same?
I'm not sure what that looks like for you this month, or during this season of life. Perhaps it means turning a cartoon on for your kiddos in the middle of the day and committing that time to prayer, and journaling. Perhaps it means giving yourself permission to head out one night this week to Starbucks with your Bible, and a journal and the bazillion thoughts in your head.
Perhaps it means you drive to a park some night this week, or on Saturday, and simply sit in your minivan and read (I love my minivan quiet times!). Maybe you can actually sneak away for a night this week or next (I give you permission if you can make the logistics happen with your husband or extended family members!) to a hotel or bed and breakfast-- to a lonely place-- and just be...be alone with your thoughts, with your prayers, with God. It may be the best gift you give to yourself all month.
I found it ironic, that just weeks before Christmas I ended up looking for space at a small local Inn (Asa Ransom House in Clarence)-- it reminded me, in some ways of Joesph and Mary. Even more ironically, my room had a view that looked over the back wooded yard and down onto a small house/cottage (built years ago by the owner of the Inn). Next to that cottage, set right in front of a small pond was a hand built wooden nativity scene where Mary and Joseph looked down on baby Jesus in the stillness and quiet of the night.
I can't quite explain the peace I felt when I saw the nativity and how it reaffirmed what the Holy Spirit had been speaking into my soul for days...that in the middle of the mostly busy, but sometimes quiet moments of this month, but in actuality, every day of the year--God is with us. He is with you, and me, and very much present in our lives if we slow down to notice.
This past Saturday I wrote this at the top of my calendar for the week, "Emmanuel...God with us."
I knew I needed to see those words every day. To intentionally remember why we are celebrating this Advent season.
I don't have any quick tips to simplify your hustle and bustle this month, nor am I going to tell you to do one more thing. The only thing I will say is that stopping ALL.THE.THINGS. just for a few moments, may be the best gift of all.
Hugs to you all.