We arrived at my parents around 5pm in a snow squall, 3 year old soundly sleeping, 5 year old wildly excited. My brother and his wife had arrived the night before. All converged together at the family home to celebrate Christmas.
My 3 year old should never nap! Come bedtime she was wide awake, eventually drifting off to sleep at 10:45pm in bed with her grandmother. I carried her, finally in dreamland, to her own bed in the loft next to her snoring brother.
5 adults, 2 children and a cat, all in close proximity, made for a night that was reminiscent of a circus act. Sounds of snoring rang through the darkness. The bathroom door revolved endlessly on its axis. A shout emerged from an active dream life. A brother’s nocturnal thrashings resulted in an unceremonious “whack!” to a little sister. Crying ensued “He hurt me!!!”, followed by further yelling protests “She woke me up!!!” Then, small feet carrying sleep deprived but excited little passengers scampered about at the crack of dawn.
This is what family Christmas gatherings are all about, right? I was awake more than I was asleep, but woke up strangely content. I wandered downstairs to the scent of brewing coffee. A glance out the front window revealed a slowly rising sun over a wide expanse of river that was disgorging its heat into the cold winter air, slowly giving way to ice. Powdery snow covered the landscape surrounding the house, shimmering, the kids said, “like jewels”.
How could I let my sleep deprivation deprive me of this beautiful moment? It’s all in where we focus, isn’t it? I could have focused on my exhaustion, on the reality that this was only night #1 of our 2 weeks of holidays, on my irritated throat and sore neck. But that would have robbed me of the joy of this moment.
Even through the night, I was able to frame the interruptions with gratitude. My 3 year old won’t go to sleep – but she is happy and behaving well. My 5 year old whacked her in his sleep and I am up, yet again – but there is life, there is breath, they are well, and I am up because they ARE. These little people that I longed for, that I prayed for: they ARE.
As I cleaned, bleary eyed, my son’s pee from the back of the toilet this morning (little boys know how to aim but are apparently too distracted much of the time to concern themselves with minor details such as actually hitting the water in the toilet), I was once again reminded of something my sister-in-law said to me: “the toilets are easier to clean now that he’s gone”. She was referring to her son, who died of malaria at the tender age of 10. This statement wasn’t meant as a good thing, but rather, as a statement of just how much changes in one’s life when there is such a profound loss. So now I clean up pee with gratitude – because my son IS, because he breaths, because he is healthy and able to pee all over the place.
As I walk into Christmas, I want to keep my heart in this place of gratitude. I want to frame each moment, whether “good” or “bad” as a moment to give thanks. God is ultimately the reason that I am able to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but Ann Voskamp helped provide me the tool I needed to get there: a gratitude journal (One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully, right where you are – check it out!).
Christmas, (as at all times!) is a time to give thanks and love one another. I challenge you to try to find the good in every demanding or difficult circumstance that comes your way. The disruption of holidays is a both/and scenario – both good AND hard. It’s not either/or – one or the other. Particularly with young children who become over-excited and over-tired and over-sugared and lots of other “overs”! Enjoy family, enjoy friends, give thanks for what IS and for WHO IS.
I thank God for this glorious day of exhausted fun!