Sunday, December 23, 2012

What Wasn't In the Christmas Letter

 I like writing our family Christmas letter every year because it helps me remember what went down in the Anderson family for the last 12 months. I do it as much for me as I do for our friends and family who are far away or we just don't get to see as often as we'd like.  But this year, since I mailed our cards out,  I keep thinking of things I left out, which I wish I'd put in.

 I strive to make "The Anderson Annual Report" honest as well as hopefully amusing, and avoid straight bragging about my kids if I can help it. But some of the most defining things about my year are usually not it it. One reason: the letter is about my family, not just me. Another: there are some things you don't say in a letter to 100 people including some of your spouses co-workers. And another: sometimes the important things are too personal for your letter, but somehow appropriate for your blog.

What would a slightly more personal letter just from me look like? For some reason, now, at 4 a.m. on December 23, I feel the need to give it a try. 

This year I lost five pounds, roughly 50 hair rubber bands, about  a dozen significant receipts or coupons, and my temper (about once a week). 

I dented another fender on our car, leaving only one out of four corners of our SUV with it's bumper unscathed. 

I baked and frosted about 264 cupcakes for my children, godchildren, and best friend; and one cake shaped like a volcano for my godson. They were all pretty awesome.

I forgave someone that I had needed to forgive for a long time, with God's gracious help. And then they hurt me again. But I found forgiving them the second time was easier. 

I saw our eldest daughter struggle with what it means to make faith her own, wrestle with God in her eight-year-old way, and eventually decided to be baptized. My husband and I wept. 

I reread Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, the entire Anne of Green Gables series, and a couple other chick books I'm embarrassed I own. I need some good book recommendations.

In August, I went to the MOPS International Convention in Texas and was once again inspired to continue ministry to young  mothers. I applied to teach a workshop at next year's convention, and was warmly encouraged but not accepted. I felt -- surprisingly -- not sad the rejection but proud that I had at least tried. I may try again next year.

I made a few new friends -- mothers of kindergarteners in my daughter's class -- that I am really excited about. 

I finished a two-year term in a volunteer job at my church that I absolutely loved, and accepted a new job about which I have extremely mixed feelings. In December I realized that the job is about serving God and not about making me happy. Which didn't exactly make me happy, but gave me peace. 

I got one pretty bad haircut. I think I might still be growing it out. 

One of my best friend's lost a baby late in her pregnancy. Another got pregnant with twins. Both have affected my heart in ways I can't explain.

I learned how to pray for other women in need of healing. I myself was prayed for in this way at least three times. 

We took a week-long vacation to Utah and spent two days of it puking in my sister in law's basement. I'm still a little traumatized.

I took a 15-week Bible study about Jesus and how he relates to women. I fell in love with Jesus again. He is such a gentleman.

My husband logged about 300 extra hours of work this year, and I missed him while he was working, but was proud that he worked so hard. 

I realized I have a pretty darn good relationship with my mom. 

This year I have doubted my ability to be a good mommy, seen negative qualities of myself (and occassionally my husband's) in our children, and yearned to be able to save them from some of the psychological struggles or personality flaws that I have. 

I have also exulted over reports from their teachers that they are kind people and enthusiastic learners, and thanked God that He is helping us grow the best parts of ourselves in our children, too. 

I have felt joy, depression, frustration, satisfaction, grief, boredom and
exultation. On the whole, it was a fruitful year. I hope yours was too. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So This is Christmas

On the center of my kitchen table is a small quilted table runner I made this year. On the runner is a hurricane vase filled with vintage ornaments, and a red wooden nutcracker who is missing both his feet.

And in the runner is stuck an embroidery needle. It has been there for four days.

So this is Christmas in my house.

Though Hubby and I technically "finished" decorating over Thanksgiving weekend while the kids were on holiday in the desert with their grandparents, the crafting and projects go on, pretty much until Christmas Eve.

I stuck the needle in the runner while I was embroidering a feather stitch on my new stocking, and haven't seen fit to put it away, because -- odds are -- I shall soon need it again. (I should mention at this time that my kids no longer put foreign objects in their mouth, and that sharp objects are so much a part of their life that they know how to handle them, much as Italian vintner's children don't abuse wine.)

The nutcracker is one of many forsaken of his kind, rescued from garage sale boxes and redeemed by my husband's handiwork. Our extensive collection is being repaired one stringy synthetic beard and missing limb at a time, over a period of years. 

For a week I have been in a crafting frenzy, trying to get everything "done" so I could rest and enjoy the season. And then my eight year old said something that changed my attitude, or rather, I said something to her.

"Mom, I can't wait for Christmas to come."

And my response, gesturing widely to our decked out house, piles of unaddressed Christmas cards and mugs of cocoa was, "This is Christmas."

Christmas for me is all this chaos. Taming it is not the goal. Embracing it is. If I finish embroidering stockings and stock the fridge with cookie dough and complete all the gifts I'm sewing for my nieces and nephews, then what will I do? My favorite way to spend Christmas time is curled up on the couch with my tree lights on, a pair of scissors hanging from a ribbon around my neck, and a needle and thread in my hands.

I don't do all this stuff because I feel I have to. It's not perfectionism. I know no one will care if I buy store bought cookies and give the little ones in my life gift cards. I do it because it brings me joy. That is, when I remember to savor the scraps of fabric lying around and not believe that picking up the mess is what I really want.

Not that I don't sometimes go overboard or loose perspective. In fact, my husband and I are going to Las Vegas for a Christmas party this weekend, and for an hour or so I was thinking, "Oh no, I'm losing a whole weekend!" Of what? Wrapping, baking, sewing? Hello! I'm gaining  48 hours of sight-seeing, dancing, eating, drinking and sleeping late with my spouse! That, certainly, is Christmas too.