i didn't see it, but my oldest, emily, informed me that tonight bella kissed the christmas tree. it was bedtime and littlest one had been told to go upstairs and get on her pajamas. but before doing so, emily watched as her tiny sister went over to the tree, put her arms around it (as best she could), whispered "goodnight christmas tree," and then leaned in to kiss it.
a couple of weeks ago bella tuned in big time to christmas. last year it was exciting with it being her first christmas and all, but this year she really, really gets it. i think the fact that she was asked to "play" mary in her preschool christmas pageant sealed the deal. after her big performance, she was all in -- both feet firmly planted in the most wonderful time of the year. and let's just be honest here, it is pretty special to watch the wonder. i mean who doesn't love a chinese mary? who doesn't love a 3 year old girl with tiny white lights twinkling in her bright eyes and some jingle bells in her every step? christmas has become a magical word in our house. all we need to say is "it's for christmas bella," and she's right there with us. christmas. christmas. christmas. i love how the word rolls off her newly english speaking tongue. she is pure delight in this season of celebration.
a few weeks ago, when our neighbors began to hang lights from their eaves and wreaths on their doors, bella began to take note. we live far back in our neighborhood and she believes every trip in and every trip out is a time to leisurely enjoy the festive house happenings. we'll begin driving, and immediately i hear from my back seat, "i wanna see christmas mommy." and so we drive slowly (well... as slowly as i possibly can since i seem to usually be running late). and we drive carefully. and we drive looking at and remarking on every wreath, bow, bough, swag and holiday display. we look at the lights and we take in the trees and it seems to my little girl, brand new each and every time. and i wish i could just bottle what she's selling me from the backseat, because the wonder of it all is that good. it is that sweet. it is that christmas. wouldn't life be kinder if everyone had the enthusiasm of a 3 year old come christmas time.
but even her sweet exuberance can sometimes cross the line. "more christmas, mommy!" she'll demand if we hit a stretch of humbug houses. "i want more christmas mommy!" she's much too short to stomp her foot from her car seat perch, but she would if she could. it was cute at first, but when she is in need of a nap, or i am in need of a nap, or it is the 12th trip in or out of the neighborhood (no exaggeration here), she becomes a little querulous and i become a little irritated. the sweetness is gone and the selfishness steps in. and i get it. because i can be kind of like that too. "give me more! more. more. more."
more christmas. it seems to me the very holiday has exploded in recent years--everything from the shopping to the showcasing. all of it bigger and brighter each year. i have to wonder where we're headed with it all. don't get me wrong, i LOVE christmas. in fact, i ADORE christmas. but it has gotten a little, umm...complicated, in some ways. do you know what i mean? maybe it is just that my kids are getting older. maybe it is that they are getting more expensive. maybe it is just that life in general is a little more complicated then when they were all in footed pajamas with a bedtime of 8pm. i guess being a family of seven, spanning from preschool to high school, has something to do with it. but it just seems to me that christmas shouldn't be like that. it shouldn't be complicated, but simple and easy.
it is almost impossible to ignore the way our culture seems to scream, "i want more christmas!" i guess the truth is, it screams "give me more!" in general, doesn't it? like if a little is good, then a lot is better, right? but no. that's not always true. i disagree. sometimes less is more. but this is hard to explain to children. just like bella demanding "more" from my backseat, i have to also hold off my others kids. connor, age 8, is kind of like a life size elf. i am not sure i've ever met a kid more excited about christmas. he truly talks about it all year long. a few years back we dubbed him "captain christmas." i mean he really is into the entire experience. i constantly hear from him, "mom, are you going to ___? mom, are we going to _____?" (get the tree, see the lights, bake the cookies, make the candy, paint the ornaments, read the story, build the gingerbread houses, wrap the presents, hang the stockings, mail the cards). seriously, the boy keeps me on my toes. and now he has this other little elf in training trailing behind him with two fingers in her mouth -- captain christmas and his chief elf, bella. connor is one of those who whole heartedly believes more is better. i think he'll outgrow this - at least i am hopeful. but right now, i have to literally hide all the decorations i'd rather not use. if i leave anything, i mean anything, in the storage room, that boy is down there and dragging it out and around the house trying to find a spot for the reindeer with a broken antler or the hot pink santa candle. he is determined to use every last bell, ball and jingle-jangle. he gets this appalled look when i tell him, "no honey, i am not going to pull out the collection of 42 snowmen this year." "WHAT? but why, mom?" this makes no sense to my son.
rick and i have been married for 21 years and we have collected a good amount of christmas stuff. stuff which cannot possibly all be used. plus, the truth is, it shouldn't be. simple is good. at least in my book, simple is beautiful. every year i am tempted to put nothing more on my christmas tree than tiny white lights. i think it is absolutely lovely that way. some fresh greenery and candles and a little bit of ribbon and our house is all set. but that's absolutely no fun with the under 10 crowd.
connor is always trying to get me to do more -- he has a host of ideas. i always tell him, "honey, i can't wait to see what you do someday with your own house. i promise to visit at christmas time." (i am thinking along the lines of clark griswold in christmas vacation here). only last week, we were in wal-mart picking up supplies and hot chocolate for a party we were hosting, when he came sprinting toward me -- breathless and wild-eyed. "look mom, look! it's that antler and rudolph nose set that easily attaches to the car that i've been telling you about and look mom, it is only $9.97, only nine-dollars-and-ninety-seven-cents! (big breath)... can we get it, can we? can we? can we get it mom?" i wasn't sure what to say. i was still trying to calculate how much hot chocolate was needed for the party. i was lost in my own "more"...and had little mental room for his. honestly, i just sort of stood there for a minute and stared at my cart full of party supplies. he was like something unleashed and unmedicated and before it was all done, bella was also jumping up and down chanting, "can we? can we? can we?" i am certain she had no idea what she was even asking for, but it was right along the lines of "mommy i want more christmas!" and so on board she came. captain christmas and the littlest elf and their mama frozen for a long, kind of crazy, moment in wal-mart. classic. i told him to give me a minute to think about it. i almost said pray, and i probably should have prayed. but instead i just paused, closed my eyes, clutched the cart and focused on breathing deeply. what would it hurt? clearly my son's christmas would be now be perfect if we attached a large red nose and two flimsy looking antlers to my black yukon. we could drive proudly around johns creek georgia, the envy of everyone. we would be a true christmas-loving, joy-bringing, o-come-all-ye-faithful-family. maybe then we could reclaim the christmas spirit and recapture the holiday hoopla and all for only $9.97. "okay, we'll get it." i agreed. it was a christmas steal, we almost had to. everything, even christmas, depended on this purchase--or so it seemed while standing in the mind-numbing hum of wal-mart. connor looked downright shocked at my answer. this wasn't like me. he hadn't expected it. but then the biggest grin caught up with his face and it spread and it spread. i watched him bend down to bella, "she said yes!" he whispered triumphantly, and we headed to the check out.
now i have to tell you, the looks on my older three children's faces when i picked them all up in afternoon carpool were the best part of that $9.97. i know they were thinking, what in the world has mom done. this isn't like her. she's throwing a party this weekend and she's already beginning to crack. each one of them came to the car and peered inside, unsure of what they'd find. i joked about donning santa hats and rolling down the windows with christmas tunes playing full blast...the older ones all laughed rather nervously ... connor and bella said, "sure!" but i also have to tell you, we enjoyed our decked out car for about 4 hours before we lost one of those reindeer antlers. that evening, while rick was running some errands with the kids in my yukon, littlest elf girl decided to play with her automatic window and somewhere while flying down old milton parkway in the chaos of five kids and christmas carols blaring, an antler flew off the car, probably to join the other lone antlers roadside from families just like ours trying to get "more christmas!"
and so they come home and tell me the story and all i can think is, of course it did. because the things which we add, just do that. antlers fly off cars and ceramic santas get broken. christmas trees crash over and cookies sometimes burn. presents aren't perfect and loved ones disappoint us. and more is just never enough. if anyone should ever have been allowed to demand more, it should have been Jesus. Jesus, King of creation. Jesus, Prince of Peace. Jesus born in a simple stable, to a simple girl. Jesus the son of a simple carpenter. Jesus wrapped in simple, swaddling clothes. Jesus laid in a simple manger. and there's no mistake in this manger...but there is a message. and it's simple.
"...she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger..." ~ luke 2: 7
“I come that you may have life,
and have it MORE abundantly.” ~ john 10:10
and have it MORE abundantly.” ~ john 10:10