"Are you all ready for Christmas?"
It must be the question to ask because I hear it from several people, several times a day. I smile and say yes, but really I'm thinking, "Ready for it to be over."
I remembered tonight how last year and the year prior Haley used to sing "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle bells" from her room when we'd put her to bed at night. It was that or "Pa rum pum pum pum. Pa rum pum pum pum. Pa rum pum pum pum. My druuuuum." Brent and I would smile at each other and giggle and just think how sweet it was to have her so excited for Christmas.
This year she's especially excited (and for good reason, because 90% of what's housed beneath the boughs of our tree has her name on it) and I'm doing what I can to make sure it's a memorable Christmas for her - and at the same time, I'm wishing it would hurry up and be done with.
It's not because I feel sorry for myself. It's not even because I don't want to think about what it would have or could have been like with Harlynn here. Though I'm sure those are all contributing factors. Mostly, as I reflect on the year we've had, I realize that that so many people, so many people, have hurting hearts this holiday as well. So many people feel as I do. Wanting the world to go away, wanting to be left alone, wanting to just be. So many people have an empty spot at their table. A stocking that will go unfilled. A piece of their heart broken. So many people will be tired of the well-intentioned acts of others who just don't get it.
I miss the days of innocence. Days where I assumed everyone was in love with Christmas as much as we were. Days when I believed a Christmas carol would lift an already spirited mood, and a Santa hat would add cheer to any outfit. Days when I didn't understand that there could be hurt this time of year. How could there be? It's Christmas. Oh how naive I was. And how I envy that ignorance.
Tomorrow we'll frost cookies, and tuck Haley to bed snug with her sheer excitement of what morning will bring. She requested pancakes over cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast (which is fine with me because they're a bit simpler and we can eat them sooner) and we'll dig in to stockings and gifts. I know - I know - that my heart will swell as she rips each gift open with more eagerness than the last. I know as I sip my decaf coffee, I'll be thankful for the day, and for the special intimate time with my husband and daughter.
But... part of my Christmas cheer slipped away that late April night when we learned Harlynn's heart had stopped beating. Then again upon realizing 37 weeks since delivering her (at 37 weeks) falls upon Christmas day. A new chapter begins the next day of being without her longer than with her. A chapter I don't want to have to turn the page on.
However, I've found some encouragement in listening to talk radio (Faith Radio) the past couple of months. I thought about Mary, when she was approached by the angel and told she would birth the Savior of the world. How must she have felt? What must she have thought? What fear did she feel to mother the Christ? "Breath of Heaven, hold me together, be forever near me, breath of Heaven..." Oh how that song has become my song the last eight months.
In Luke when the shepherds visit Jesus as He lay in the manger, it says, "But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart." What that says to me, as a mother, is so much more than those words might say to you. When things happen, good or bad, to our children, our heart wants to hold on to them for always. We always want to remember. Always cherish. Always draw upon how we felt love for our child in a particular moment. Mary felt that for Jesus. I feel it for my kids. All three of them. She was just a girl that the Lord favored. I'm just a broad the Lord has extended His grace and love upon. Her child saved the world from sin. My daughter gave me purpose to help the brokenhearted.
This Christmas isn't about what I don't have. Nor will any Christmas be about that. Rather, I have to choose and remember my choice, to focus on what I do have. I have a husband the Lord led me to and kept me with. I have a daughter who is pretty much the most adorable thing ever (when she isn't disobeying or throwing a fit...and admittedly, even then sometimes). I have a daughter waiting for me in Heaven. And I have a Savior who was born and died to give me the fighting chance to be with her there. Who loves me enough to carry me through this season. And always. I have a baby waiting to meet us in a few months, fluttering now and again within me now.
Jesus' birth is worth celebrating. Certainly his life is reason for mine. I have to remember this. I have to hold on to this. Christmas won't go by any faster. It won't be any less traumatic. Yet, in spite of my grief, it will be a celebration worth having. It will be a teachable event for my family. It will confirm our purpose and our hope.
I may not have a holly jolly Christmas, but I will have a heart that holds on to the meaning of this sacred day. Of what it means for my family. For me personally. And even while we miss Harlynn and simultaneously await her younger sibling, we'll celebrate the birth of our Savior. The breath of Heaven.