Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Santa Behind the Glass

 What a year 2020 has been! A few weeks before the new year, I gave birth to a sweet baby girl. Shortly after, Jake and I finally sold our house in Arizona, allowing us to purchase a much-needed new (to us) family vehicle and put a generous down payment on a lovely new (to us) home here in Oklahoma. Exactly one week after moving into our house, the world turned upside-down, creating quite the paradox in our lives.  

As one of my favorite authors said in one of my favorite books, "it was the best of times; it was the worst of times." At no point in my life have I felt as isolated or as surrounded by love as I have this year. Never have I felt so much despair for the present or hope for the future as I have this year. Never have I felt as much crippling fear or pure joy as I have this year. Never have I felt farther from Heaven, or closer to the Savior as in the year 2020. 

I've always thought it was appropriate that we close out the year and begin a new one with the Christmas season. As the youngest of six kids, I had a lot of people working very hard for many years to keep the magic of Christmas alive for me. Because of this, Santa Claus has always meant a lot to me.  Instead of feeling as if I'd been lied to, I felt extremely loved by my family. What's more, I developed a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and the meaning of Christmas because of him.  Santa taught me that it was possible for someone I couldn't really see to know and love me and want to give me good things. It has always been important to me that I try to pass those feelings to my children. 

This year, our experience with Santa Claus was a bit different. I don't know what I was expecting during a pandemic, (I suppose I was a bit surprised they were doing it at all) but I was taken aback to find the department store Santa we took the kids to see sitting behind a sheet of glass. He was hesitant at first, but eventually his excitement overcame his fear, and Milo rushed to see him when our turn came.  Pressing his little hands against the clear pane, Milo talked to Santa, but it was quickly evident that neither could hear what the other was saying.  After a few moments of awkward non-communication, we took some photos and went on our way. 

I've thought about that experience quite a bit over the last three weeks. These are strange times which create unusual circumstances. Unlike the department store Santa, our Savior doesn't sit behind a protective wall.  The only barriers between us and Jesus Christ are the ones we put up ourselves. No plague, shutdown or rioting mob can keep Him away from us. 

Tonight as my kids were sleeping and I was watching the little lights twinkle on my tree, I thought about how extremely blessed I am and how upsetting this year has been.  I have "It's a Wonderful Life" playing and heard these lines at the beginning of the movie:

        Joseph: "A man down on earth needs our help."
        Clarence: "Splendid! Is he sick?"
        Joseph: "No, worse. He's discouraged."

This Christmas, as so many are facing immense discouragement, I'm reminding myself that peace and joy can be found in the midst of chaos and despair as we try to stay close to Jesus Christ.  It truly is a wonderful life, no matter what, because of Him who is the Light and Life of the world.

Merry Christmas 2020!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Light in Our Eyes: My Mission from Alanis

Lately (at least once a week) I've been having existential mom-crises.  Combinations of self-doubt, exhaustion, frustration, inadequacy and guilt regularly cloud my mind and leave me anxious and depressed.  Prior to marriage and children, most of my identity and self-worth was based on certain things I was good at or liked about myself.  My athleticism. My creativity.  My musical discernment. My friends.  
Now I find that my only remaining athletic ability is climbing baby gates and navigating toy-strewn floors.  My creative outlet is limited to making foam hats, constructing paper pinatas and building cardboard playhouses. The music in my head has all been replaced with nursery rhymes and the Team Umizoomi theme song.  My friends are busy and far away.
I feel I'm losing myself in a very small world.

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about her own struggles when another friend randomly (at least it seemed random to me) sent me this link to a music video for the song "Ablaze" by Alanis Morissette. Something inside me switched on when I watched it. 

Now, I need to tell you all that Alanis and I go way back.  Her edgy, emo rock was everything in my angst-filled, semi-depressed, fully-anxious youth. I listened to her secretly in my room after school (because those lyrics would not have been mother-approved.)  

This song is completely different.  Her music has grown and evolved over the years, but this video in particular spoke to me.  Not only was it the message I needed to hear, but it was a message I needed from her.  I needed to see Alanis Morissette with her mom hair. Her mom bodyThe hint of wrinkles on her face. Her kid-cluttered home.  I needed to see how she's changed.  Different, but still herself.  A softer, perhaps better version of her edgy, younger self.  Embracing this stage in her life.  The "jagged little pill" a bit more rounded. I see you, girl. And I hear you.

I haven't lost myself.  I'm still me. A little chubbier. Clumsier, perhaps. But still me.  Only my little world no longer revolves around me.  It revolves around these tiny people who were once, still are, a part of me.  Those traits I used to value in myself have been repurposed for now, but for a very worthy cause.
The greatest accomplishment I could achieve would be to fill their lives with hope, joy and love.  My most vital self-care includes caring for them, because focusing on the light in their eyes allows me to see myself more clearly. (Isn't it ironic? ;) )