We are halfway through Advent already. How did that happen? Like previous years, it is a hectic and frenzied time, despite my best intentions. Several years ago I wrote the following journal entry. I share it with you now because it has proven timeless. I hope that our story brings you some comfort this season (or at least the feeling that when the kids are fighting, you are not alone!). God bless, Christine.
It was mid-December. The girls had bickered the entire weekend, culminating in one daughter slamming the door in her sister’s face. In our house, the immediate punishment for a slammed door is the removal of the door to your room. What can I say, it seems logical and sends a message!
Advent was proving to be as busy and hectic as ever. Friday night we had two of the girls’ friends over. Their parents came for a while and before we knew it, it was very late (although it had been very fun). We had a busy weekend ahead.
We had the school’s annual pancake breakfast, a Girl Scout winter party at our house and hubby was going to spend as much time as he could at the hospital with his ill cousin and grandmother. So, an early bedtime was what was needed, but not what happened.
I mentally braced for the rest of the weekend, reminding myself that Christmas is in the preparation of our hearts for Jesus’ birth, not in the decorations and trimmings that so often stress me out. I attempted to put things in the proper perspective, despite being a bit frazzled around the edges of my soul (translation =totally fried). Most of my mental energy had been spent praying and worrying for several very ill family members. Too often, in the past (ok, this year too!), I had rushed around to make Christmas events appear, at least photographically speaking, perfect. But perfection stole my presence in the moment when it was happening. I was looking forward to the weekend’s activities that would renew my heart and be time spent together with my girls.
However prepared my heart was, though, the constant bickering and back-talk wore away at my patience until I was ready to send them away rather than spend the weekend with them. The door slamming happened. We threatened them. We yelled. We begged of them, “Why can’t you just stop fighting?” They normally are very good sisters and get along better than I ever remember getting along with my sister, but not this overtired, busy, exciting weekend.
Until Sunday after church. We were busy making holiday gifts for family out of fabric and clay and other assorted crafty items. The gifts were turning out well, even if the attitude that surrounded the gift making was one of grouchiness and obligation rather than a spirit of giving. But then, my oldest had the idea to make a baby Jesus lying in a manger. My youngest copied her. And when the oldest predictably said, “she’s copying me!” I replied, “why don’t you work together on the entire nativity?” Something shifted. They decided the clay nativity would be for Daddy. One used her baby Jesus clay to mold a kneeling Mary. The other began working on a donkey and a camel. I started making dinner and left them alone, thankful for a few moments of peace.
I could hear them in the background, complimenting each other, discussing which animals or people to include, and giving each other tips. When I was done fixing and cleaning up dinner I looked at what they had created: a perfect nativity with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, 3 kings, a winged angel, a donkey, a camel and a shoe box stable.
Somehow, despite the 36 hours of bickering that had preceded this creation, they were able to come together and fashion a thoughtful, beautiful gift for their father, without any advice or cajoling from me. The spirit of Christmas was able to break through the cloud of nasty, bickering, frenzy that had engulfed us all the entire weekend.
Sunday evening, we got them ready for bed, earlier than usual. We tried to take the door off the hinges, but in our new house we lacked the right tool. So, we gave the slammer a little grace about her punishment. Once again, the small baby Jesus proved powerful. Powerful enough to shine through all of the preoccupation, worry and stress of a busy season. And years later, that Nativity set is still my favorite and a reminder to slow down.