Saturday, December 22, 2018

Love Is What It's Really All About

This morning our Parish celebrated a funeral Mass for one of our beloved parishioners, Anne. Anne was a beautiful woman, inside and out. She was quick to smile and offer a kind word, always at daily Mass, in adoration multiple times a week, a Eucharistic Minister to the home bound, and just a kind, loving soul.

Being at the funeral today, seeing Anne's children and grandchildren wipe tears from their eyes and console one another was really emotional for me. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting it. I wanted to go to the funeral because of how kind Anne always was to me and how much I'm going to miss seeing her every week. When I saw her family crying, I started crying myself and had a hard time stopping.

I think the reason that the funeral was so emotional for me was because this same time 6 years ago, I sat where Anne's family sat today saying goodbye to my own grandmother.

Memories popped up for me, and I was thinking about the last time I visited my grandmother at the end of her illness. She was home on hospice being cared for around the clock by my aunts.
The last time I saw her was three days before she passed, which was the last day that she was conscious or spoke.

I had brought Kate with me, who was a couple days away from turning one. I held Kate in my arms as I stood next to my Grandma's hospital bed. One thing that I have held in my heart all these years is the way my Grandma reached out to Kate, looked up into her eyes, and touched her feet as she said, "I love you. I love you." over and over again. The tone of her voice as she said, "I love you", was one of anxiousness and insistence and only directed at Kate.

I have always felt that in that moment, my Grandma was trying to impart the years of love she wished she could have given to her littlest great grandchild in the very short time she had left. Grandma was trying with all she had to instill this memory of her love in a child who was too young to remember her.

Love it what life's really all about.

At the end of my life, what do I really want my family to remember about me? I want them to remember that I loved them well in my very imperfect ways.

Like most moms...dare I say every this time of year, I'm so tired. There's just so much jam packed into December. I love all the traditions and trying to make everyone feel special...but the amount of mom work it takes to plan, organize, and execute said traditions takes a LOT of energy. I've tried really hard this year to listen to my internal emotional levels and actually adjust my expectations and my to do list accordingly. I think I've succeeded for the most part. I'm honestly surprised at just how tired I am.

Today I left one of my Christmas lists unfinished. I nixed one of the desserts I had planned to make because I just wasn't feeling it. And I'm really ok with that. I would rather keep peace in my heart and have extra time with my family and enjoy making the multiple pies and one cheesecake I did make then to push myself past my limit and end up cranky and completely wiped out.

Reflecting on today's funeral and the memories with my Grandma reminded me to focus on the love I was trying to put into the tasks I wanted to accomplish and not just get wrapped up in checking them off my list. The timing was especially important as we enter into the festivities of Christmas week, which for me starts tomorrow with a family party we are hosting for my Dad's side of the family. My house will not be perfect...the floors never got washed and there are several Martha Stewart touches that I won't have time to complete...but I'm choosing to focus on making memories with my family rather than on the items that didn't get crossed off my list.

In the end, it's only love that matters anyway....

Wishing all of you a very joy filled (imperfect) Christmas! <3

John 3:16..."For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

On Sanity and Unfinished Lists(of the Christmas Variety)

I'm a list girl. If there's something that needs planning, you can be certain that I have at least one..and sometimes multiple...lists floating around to try and keep myself organized.

And I'm totally old lists are always on paper. There's just something I love about a clean piece of paper and writing in pen that makes me love list making even more! I love brainstorming on my for Christmas gift ideas or, my absolute favorite, vacation planning...and having lots of arrows and underlines and cross-outs and exclamation points for the really good/don't forget kind of ideas. I even love re-writing my lists to make a final working copy after all of my brainstorming is complete. Just to make things neater...and as an excuse to write out another list!

List making helps me to feel like I'm organized, focused, and have a plan to move forward. It brings a certain level of peace deep inside, even when I have a lot to do to accomplish whatever list I'm working on.

While I love lists, they are not my ultimate focus. It makes me feel good to have them, but my joy is not based on being able to cross everything off any particular list. This hasn't always been my go to sentiment. Getting to this thought process has taken a lot of growing and stretching over the years. As a younger mom, there where years when I felt terrible about myself when I couldn't get just the right picture for a Christmas card, or gifts didn't go over as I thought they would, or the tree fell down multiple times in one Christmas season breaking several precious ornaments beyond repair(I think our record is 3 "timbers"), or (shudder) a stomach bug or other illness makes Christmas less than the Merry I had in my head.

If I get caught up in looking at my list as something to check off rather than more of a wish list, I am literally sucking my own joy out of the Holiday Season.

I don't know about you, but I tend to over plan for the Holiday Season. What sounds good when I'm making my to do list in early December, sitting in pajamas on the couch under a blanket with a Hallmark movie on in the background, is usually completely different than actual life come December 20th. When I'm solely focused on creating Christmas magic on paper with all kinds of extraordinary ideas, I have to remember to consider all the real life "goings on" that will still be happening all December long despite all the extra projects and events that I want to add into my schedule.

For example, everyone still expects dinner every night...the laundry doesn't take a hiatus just because it's Christmas...there's still basketball practices and games...still men's group and youth group..still a regular work schedule. (You get the idea!)

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages boxes or bags.
Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. 
Maybe Christmas(he thought) means a little bit more."
~The Grinch

I think in our heads we all know that Christmas isn't really about all the details. Does our attitude and choices we make during the Advent Season reflect this truth? I know mine often doesn't. I get too caught up checking off my list and not remembering the real reason I have the list in the first place:
To show my family and friends the love I feel for them in my heart. To show my coworkers that I appreciate them. To show my children's teachers and therapists and bus drivers how grateful I am for all they do for my children. 

I get so caught up in the to do list that I forget to reflect on the opportunity that God is giving me during Advent....the opportunity to consider the great gift that His Son was for me. There's so much to reflect on this time of year! We have Mary's yes that encourages us to seek and follow God's will, even when we don't know all the details. We have all the innkeepers who had no room for the Holy they were too busy checking things off their list!...that encourages us to to make sure we are ready when Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts. We have the shepherds and wise men who followed the signs given them that led to the most amazing grace of meeting the Savior of the world! 

There's so much that could keep my focus and actions from being a way to shower love on my family. It's not the perfect, Martha Stewart wrapped love that could grace the cover of a magazine that our family needs.(Although if that level of decorating is your God given gift, then you go girl! Being crafty is something I admire yet have no talent in!)  The "perfect" Christmas for your family is going to look different from my family that is going to look different from every other family around me! And guess what? Your perfect Christmas will be different for your family from year to year depending on the ages of your kids, #of your kids, and the circumstances of the months leading up to Christmas. Life is always changing!

The perfect Christmas is one where love and mercy are poured into our families, friends and everyone else God places in our paths. The perfect Christmas happens when we allow God's love and mercy to pour into ourselves first and foremost. 

We can't give what we don't have!

How does that work on a practical level? We HAVE to be willing to let go of things that don't work...even good things. Maybe there are gift bags instead of wrapped presents. Maybe the menu has less items on it than usual. Maybe Christmas cards get skipped this year or go out after Christmas... which is still the Christmas Season! Maybe you only bake 4 kinds of cookies instead of the 10 you wanted to. Maybe you don't put out as many decorations this year as you did last year(or will next year). 

If we focus on getting our lists checked off but are burned out, stressed out and cranky, we are just missing the reason for doing it all in the first place. We aren't spreading joy and we certainly aren't receiving joy if we are walking around aggravated and snapping at people and can't wait for Christmas to finally be over! 

Sounds like it should be part of 1 Corinthians 13...Love does not snap at their children for crying during the family Christmas picture. Love does not throw a temper tantrum because the house was not cleaned from top to bottom for company. Love does get discouraged because the pie got burned. 

(veteran mom tip: if the family picture just isn't working out, pick a photo card that had multiple spots and just choose different pictures that you've taken throughout the year of your kiddos. It doesn't matter if a beach scene or an Easter basket ends up on your Christmas card! Truly!)

So, go ahead and make a list...but give yourself permission to pick and choose what actually gets done. Reevaluate often during the four weeks of Advent. If something's just too much, come up with an alternative. If a heartfelt handmade gift just isn't going to happen without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, just punt and grab a gift card. Save the great homemade idea for someone's birthday or next Christmas.  Pick what you love and what you and your kids have the ability and tolerance to do. Pick what will give ALL of you the most joy!

Wishing you an Advent full of sanity and unfinished lists!