I love reading “mom blogs” and Pinterest boards all year long, except during Advent. Part of me hates to admit it to you, but reading all of the “how to’s” and “what we do’s” of how other families celebrate the tradition-packed seasons of Advent and Christmas sometimes leaves me feeling inadequate, way behind where I “should” be, or totally overwhelmed.
Usually I can ward off Comparison – that most ugly stealer of a mama’s joy – but during this time of year, I can’t help it: how does the mom with seven kids make Saint Nicholas cookies from scratch and decorate them with homemade icings when I can barely get the store-bought icing on the dang cookie with only three kids in my house? And the mom who homeschools, works a part-time job, and has kids in multiple sports – how does she have time to hand embroider Jesse Tree ornaments, and bake homemade gingerbread houses, and decorate her house like a Pottery Barn magazine?
….and I read the how-to’s and the what-we-do’s and the list of what I’m not doing gets longer and longer. Usually it wouldn’t bother me, but I LOVE traditions and parties and celebrations, and I don’t want my kids to “miss out” on anything.
Last Advent, I had a 3 year old, a just turned 2 year old, a 3 month old baby, and a husband with a very serious herniated disc who was pretty much confined to the couch or the bed (CrossFit gym injury – it was horrible). Looking back at that time, I realize I was nearly drowning. I was just barely keeping my head above water and my family’s most basic needs met.
It was from that place of exhaustion, overwhelmed and needy, that I wrote the post Why I’m NOT Doing Advent This Year. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my family – to give myself a liturgical and traditional break and just take it slow – just relax and throw off all feelings of seasonal obligation and just soak up snuggles and rest, as much as possible. I needed Jesus and His grace last Advent more than ever and anything, and He totally carried my family through a really tough season.
This year, I don’t have a newborn or a nursing baby and most nights I get a “regular” (mom version of regular) night’s sleep. I have energy and feel pretty much normal. And so this Advent, we’re doing a lot more. We made Jesse Tree ornaments, and semi-homemade St. Nick’s cookies. We’re going on holiday field trips and reading a zillion Christmas books. Thanks to Pinterest we’ve had free crafts or Advent coloring projects daily.
Part of it has been wonderful. I love the excitement and joy the boys feel for each little activity we do. Their whole faces light up at each new adventure this Advent.
But it’s not all rosey. My heart is not as restful or peaceful this year. I feel caught up in the “do all the things” mentality I read so much about, and it takes it’s toll. In my brain is a constant checklist, a perpetual to-do list of things I want to do and accomplish. And it makes me look back on the version of myself a year ago, literally drowning in exhausting and the needs of others, but with a much more peaceful spirit.
Last week I read the Tomie dePaola book The Legend of the Poinsettia to my boys. It’s the Mexican legend of a young girl whose family is tasked with making a very special gift for their church for Christmas Eve. But tragedy strikes the family – the girl’s mother gets very sick, and the children have to be sent to live with relatives while the father cares for his wife. Thus the young girl finds herself outside of church on Christmas Eve with empty hands – the only person who has not brought a beautiful gift for the Christ Child.
And so the young girl gathers weeds she found growing outside the church. Armful upon armful, she brought the weeds inside the church and placed them all around the manger. Out of her emptiness she brought herself and her gifts, and let God take care of the rest.
Legend says that the people saw the weeds transform into the most beautiful star-like flowers – what we now know as the Christmas Eve flower: the poinsettia.
Tears rolled down my face as I finished the story for my boys. Because for me, the story held a deep and true meaning for us mothers.
I truly believe that what God asks from us mothers during Advent is that we bring our weeds to him, and let Him make beautiful His work in us. Sure, the crafts and baking and decorating and ‘all the things” to-do lists are great. But really, what brings Him joy are the mother-child snuggles on the couch, the mom who nurses her newborn for what feels like all the time even though she’s exhausted, the mom who chooses to sit and read one more story instead of decorate the Pinterest worthy Christmas mantle.
Mama reading this: maybe you’ve recently gone through a miscarriage, or are packing to move to a new home. Maybe your spouse or a child is very sick. Maybe you’re caring for an elderly relative. Maybe you’re homeschooling or working full time and just getting through the day-to-day takes all you’ve got.
This is what I wish I could say to you today, hands on your shoulder, my eyes fiercely holding yours: YOU ARE ENOUGH. You – just you the way you are and with what you can offer – are ENOUGH. More than enough. God knows that. God sees that. He wants you to know that too.
So bring your weeds, beautiful Mama, however ugly or scrawny or sparse. Bring those weeds to His manger this Christmas and let Him make them shine beautiful and bright. He can do this for you, and for me.
I want to share this quote from my favorite Advent book, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp:
“I will bless you,” says the God who comes to where you are. Who comes in the heaviness of the day, to the space where the weight hangs on the edges of you, so you just keep holding your breath, so you just keep forgetting to breathe. But the weight of everything melts like thinning snow in the heart of His words: “I will bless you.” He will not burden you. He will not break you. He will bless you – the God of invincible reliability, the God who has infinite resources, the God who is insistent love. You can always go ahead and breathe – He will bless. You can always breathe when you know all is grace. That is the order of grace…The personal blessings envelope you first. Then you are the blessing sent to the world. You will be experienced as a blessing – to the extent you have first experienced yourself as blessed. You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself (p. 40, emphasis mine).
I hope this Advent is a time of peace and rest, as well as joy, for you and your family. Y’all will be in my prayers!
PS. Here are a few of my favorite words about Advent peace for busy moms: