So this is Christmas…

Well- today is the day. The day that I usually dread. The day that leaves me moody and slightly downhearted.

Today…Christmas is over.

I know it was technically over a few days ago- but I KNOW you ate some leftovers, scarfed a few more sugar cookies, had a couple more cups of sweetened coffee (peppermint mocha only lasts so long!), got some late Christmas cards (maybe from us) and watched and listened to a few more movies and holiday music. And if you didn’t- come to our house next year- where I usually let Christmas linger between “I can’t let go of my white lights” and “it’s almost Valentine’s Day”.

But this year was a bit different. I am not that sad to take it all down and de-glitter the kitchen. This somewhat puzzles me. I mean, we went out to eat for Thanksgiving because it was days before we left for India, and then missed the first 2 weeks of Christmas time. Those two weeks are parties, lights, nutcrackers, movies marathons, cookie baking and swaps, parades, carols, crafts and advent. Skipping over all of that, we got home and went straight into nights that weren’t so silent and no winter’s nap for ma and pa. I didn’t get to make cookies with my aunt that I have done almost every year of my life. We didn’t go to my hometown for Christmas where my mom makes spaghetti and we all have to open our presents one at a time to “oooo” and “ahh”. There were no packages of oreo balls that Robby and I have made and distributed since our first year of marriage when we had little money for gifts. And I have only ingested one cup of hot chocolate and it was not even in a Christmas mug (insert hand on head and fainting spell)! For a girl that loves traditions and any excuse to celebrate with themes, movies and food- I should be a bit devastated.

It is possible that it is nothing short of a Christmas miracle that I am not grumpy and wallowing in pretty much missing the most wonderful time of the year. Or, maybe it is that I am learning and possibly growing up a little bit. Don’t hear me wrong- not grown up in the sense that I won’t want to do all the silly, sentimental, sappy and sacred things of Christmas time next year, because I certainly hope to. But growing into someone who can understand why traditions are so important and how to let go of the parts of them that aren’t.

You see, making cookies every year with my Aunt Donnie is a major tradition. I’m sure we missed some years growing up, or there were fights and burnt candy cane cookies- but what baking those cookies reminds me of every year is that I had an aunt who was there. She was invested and showed up for me always. And still does. Giving oreo balls to all of our friends every year, was not just to give gifts to everyone but it was so we had an excuse to pop in on them during the busiest time of the year for a hug and “Merry Christmas” exchange. All of those people we would have baked for showed up to the airport for a “Welcome Home” and hugs that still make me weep and overwhelmed with thankfulness.

This year was different. We cooked one type of cookie and the cooking really consisted of Meg eating 1/2 pound of sprinkles and Eden yelling on the ground underneath me with flour in her hair. We woke up Christmas Day to unwrap presents (mostly that my parent’s had bought) and then just spent time with the four of us which included both naughty and nice moments from the girls (ok and the adults too). We wore pjs all day, didn’t see anyone else, and only watched one Christmas movie (“The Family Stone” if you were wondering).

It wasn’t just different because of what we did or didn’t do. I had a feeling that I’m not sure I have felt before, even at Christmas. We attended the Christmas eve service at our church with both girls (I know. I know. Breaking adoption rules again. Oops 🙂 Both of the girls came into the sanctuary with us, as did all other kids with their parents. And even though Eden and I could only stay for the first part of the singing-only because she was so happy she couldn’t contain herself(being serious)-it was in those few songs the feeling came. We were singing “Come All Ye Faithful”. I was standing by the best man I know, Meg was rubbing my back and I was holding Eden. We hit “Oh come let us adore Him” and I could not stop the tears. For years we have sat in that sanctuary. Sat there when I was pregnant with Meg and about to step into my role as mom for the first time. We sat in those seats when we were on cloud 9 after deciding to adopt and we sat there when I was mad at God and frustrated at His timing while waiting to match. We sat there as we ached for Eden once we saw her face and were desperate to get her home and wept over the distance between us and the unknown of what life would look like when she was home. And then, we were there again. With both of our girls. The most tangible fulfillment of any prayers I have ever prayed. It was the best Christmas present I have ever gotten.

The reality of that moment. The beautiful weight almost unbearable.

I’m not sure what our Christmas normal will be. But the lesson I am learning this Christmas is growing me. A tradition can change. This year my aunt sent us a recipe and ingredients for one of her specialties and an apron for me and each of my girls. Of course I would much rather spend the day with her, but what I love most about the tradition of our baking still happened- she was still there for me.

Whatever your Christmas looked like- jolly with a new baby, too busy to enjoy, lonely and weary, exciting and full of family, sad from a loss in this past year. It’s ok. Our years and traditions will and can change. You have not failed! You can do it next year…OR NOT! My encouragement to you and to myself, who will possibly forget this perspective at some point in the coming months: Release the grasp. The tight tight hold we think we have over things. The control that is not really ours. Because things will change. We will have loss and gain, sickness and death, sorrows and victory. Sometimes we may can control it- but other times life is just happening. Sometimes faster than we can keep up with and quicker than we can process. And I can stay in mourning over what I thought was the best way/plan/tradition. Or I can be brave enough to embrace a new one.

This is why I think cleaning up today, Christmas over, isn’t so bad this year. New Year’s is coming. And although I am the LAST person who wants to stay up until midnight, throw confetti that I will have to clean up or blow horns while EVERYONE watches me kiss Robby- I do like the fresh start feeling that New Year’s brings.

Thanks Christmas- see you next year.

“Let your heart be light”,

Jess

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