Hope, Peace, Joy…
Christmas Eve is one week from today. My job as Mama Bear is orchestrating all the different parts of this holiday to make it special for our family. Christmas cards, shopping for and wrapping gifts, packing and shipping presents to far-away family, baking treats for friends and neighbors, lighting up the tree, and hanging stockings. With four children, this time of year I can get a bit stressed. The “did I forget something?” voice inside my head begins. There have been years where I rushed out to stores at the last minute, which in itself is no easy task with traffic and shelves empty of the popular toys. The frenzy would pull me further away from the true meaning of the season.
This week of Advent is focused on “Joy.” The first week was “Hope” then “Peace” and now “Joy.” For many people this may be a time when joy is in the backseat of the car, squeezed between shopping bags from department stores, while driving in wall to wall traffic. Joy could be stuffed in the back of the attic with the yet-to-be assembled toys and still-need-to-be-wrapped presents. Joy may be at the bottom of a lengthy to-do list. It could be smothered inside a packed suitcase preparing to board a plane in the busiest travel time of the year. Joy may also be lightly penciled in on a busy work calendar as the one day off, the year end looming ahead.
Bah humbug. If any of the above sounds familiar, then I say we stop and bring Joy out where it belongs. Clean the mud from the melted snowy yard off of the puppies’ paws and snuggle with them on the sofa in their holiday sweaters. Joy! Order Alexa to play Christmas music in the kitchen. Joy! Light a candle or two! Eat a piece of homemade fudge (or two)! Joy! Stop outside of the store for a moment and put some cash into the red bucket, and wish the bell ringer a Merry Christmas! Instead of honking at a car that cuts you off, slow down and let him in because he may be struggling to find Joy in his day. Give the puppies the other slipper that belonged to the one they already destroyed, what’s the point in keeping half a pair anyway? Joy!
It’s easier said than done. Standing in a long line with packages to ship across the country to people you’d rather be watching open in person is not a joyful task. And yet when I hand over the carefully packed brown cardboard box filled with wrapped gifts and cards for my parents and sisters, I also tuck little joy inside to make its journey from my heart to theirs via Fedex, UPS or USPS. A doorbell will ring a few days later and this box will be at their doorstep with my handwriting on it, my snowman pattern wrapped gifts and my homemade fudge.
As for the Mama Bear stress of creating the perfect Christmas morning? No such thing as perfect. I’ve learned it’s more important to put my energy into our traditions that bring us joy, than the perfect gifts or decorations. Matching pjs, games, stocking stuffers, Christmas Eve Mass followed by a seafood feast, the pickle hidden in the tree, and cookies left out for Santa are some of the many things that bring us joy. For the past couple years we have not had all six of us home for Christmas, but this year we do! That in itself brings me more joy than I can describe. Koda and Summer are celebrating their first Christmas in our family. JOY!