I have actually said to my husband on multiple occasions "I can't wait until Christmas" in the dead of summer while smothering sunscreen on my forehead surrounded by the smells of lakefront and BBQ.
Once the season finally does arrive I do all the regular sappy things, like getting a tree the day after Christmas and buying eggnog and wearing mittens even when it's 50 degrees and rainy.
I try to come up with thoughtful and handmade gifts when possible, but I get the most satisfaction crossing people off of my "2014 Christmas Budget and Expenditures" spreadsheet. Nerd, yes. But above all that, I cherish the whole idea of our routine being thrown off and everyone understanding that it's expected because it is the holidays.
This year God decided to pull the smug out of my stocking and serve it up hot.
Usually when I sit down to write, I try to make sure it is coming from a place of perspective. I give myself time to roll around the thoughts and struggles I have about a certain parenting precipice until they fall into some kind of fragmented proverb. I wait until I've learned a lesson or God has melted away my roughness to produce a gem.
However, today I am too raw. Too tired. Too smelly to do all that. You see 48 hours ago I discovered that my kiddos have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Lovingly referred to on the CDC website as HFMD, where the medical experts like to tauntingly remind me there is no medication or magic cure–instead, just good old fashioned quarantine time where you get plenty of one-on-one time with your scab ridden children. Their spotted complexion is then accompanied by high temps, blisters, overall grouchiness and restless sleep patterns.
One of my closest friends even told me that a co-worker had her face paralyzed for a month from it.
Merry Christmas to me.
Oh and my husband has been out of town since the first spot was spotted and has yet to return. I feel like I am carrying this on my own. But I know I'm not. I see God's grace splattered all over the place. I see it in the text's from my sister and other moms who understand. I unearth it next to the dirty clothes and the bread crumb crusted carpet, or in the appreciative texts from my husband. I see God in it all.
What I am beginning to realize is that what I am most sad about isn't that my kids are sick, it is that the picture of how Christmas was supposed to look has been torn up and thrown into the trash next to the newly emptied bottle of Lysol. Once again God has reminded me that, The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9)
We may not be surrounded by toddler cousins and eccentric extended family this Christmas. And I may miss the annual fight over the rules at our now-famous Gift Exchange-that may actually be a win.
All of this points to the truth that I have little lepers on my hands. And we are outcasts, rightfully so. But the window of understanding is open just a crack and I can see a glimmering of reflection. Maybe, just maybe, their spots are nothing more than a reflection of my own. I'm just as sick as they are sometimes, when I allow that sticky sin to blister around my heart.
But the meat of it all: this hanging in there, it is all a part of the job. This is where mommas work overtime and burn ourselves out. We show up when no one else does and we soothe, and feed, and sympathize, and pray, and feed, and tuck in, and flop into bed, and do it all over again.
This is where we really see how the scars of motherhood have come together in stitches of determination and we scoop up our lepers and love them and sit in the trenches with them. This is where we earn our stripes; the unseen badges that grace our biceps hardened from lifting and loving and learning.
We will get to spend our first Christmas at our new address fully and wholly. We will get to have quality family time that isn't about rushing from here to there and making everyone happy but our poor over-tired, and over-gifted kiddos. Don't get me wrong, if I could do the trek and the stress and the over-gifting and the constant chocolate eating, I would. Hands down. Sign me up for the chaos.
But this year God wrapped me up a big old box of "rest even though you're restless." This contagious virus is actually a gift. A gross one at that, but a gift.
And so I will sit here staring at the fresh string of colored lights my son begged to plaster over our nice, clean white grown-up ones. And I will be quick to bite off any sprouting angry parts so that I can be in complete awe of these moments. I know they are going to be gone way too soon. And I will eat licorice and watch Christmas cartoons and welcome that feeling that time is literally standing still.
I'm a wreck with greasy hair and I ate cold pizza for breakfast. The scene isn't pretty. It isn't clean or clear cut. It's adorable and mussed. It is harder and much easier than I thought. It is losing my temper and kissing hot ears. This is my Christmas and I thank God for digital thermometers and infant Tylenol.
And for you? Well I wish you a very Merry Christmas free of communicable diseases and wrapped up in the ridiculous grace that is loving our little lepers.
We are in this together,