Right now, we have seventeen total ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree in our living room.
Thirteen of them are paper stars cut out of an Anthropologie bag, three of them are vintage style, donated to us by our neighbor after she heard about our paper star "situation", and what we are using as a tree topper is a small silver ornament with a tiny picture of us my mom gifted last year for Christmas.
"It's your first ornament!" she smiled excitedly as we opened it, and we thanked her, although at the time did not understand the dire need. Paul put it up at the very, very top, thinking it was funny that it looked like we were worshipping ourselves. (I also think he put it there because it’s too high for me to reach, and therefore cannot be taken down.
We are blending this year, working within our Christmas budget to mush together traditions from our own families, and stealing the best ideas from friends of ours. We snuck spiked hot chocolate into a theater screening of It's A Wonderful Life, something we both have never done before, and we spent last Wednesday making late night Christmas cookies, a staple from both our childhoods. But before all those, we had a great discussion over whether the tree should be put in the corner, or in the window.
”The tree needs to be safe and protected!” Paul told me in a slightly exasperated tone when I asked him why we would ever put it in the corner. "Okay...." I responded sarcastically (because sarcasm is so good for marriage), squinting one eye at him, wondering who exactly it was that I married, "but it looks so nice in the window, where people can see it when they drive by!"
"The window?!" Paul exclaimed,“The tree is so vulnerable there!” To which I explained that the tree is a tree, and therefore feels nothing, including vulnerability. (PSA, our tree is in the window, but only because it wouldn't fit in the corner.)
Last weekend, we heard a friend tell us that every year growing up, her family would make massive cookie baskets for twenty families (twenty!), and hand deliver them (hand deliver!) over two days, starting at 4pm and finishing around midnight both nights. “It’s how it’s supposed to be, I think,” she told us with a nod, sipping from almond milk hot chocolate as a group sitting around her listened with wide eyes, wondering at her parents and how they ever made this work. “We would spend almost an hour with some families,” she continued, “drinking cocoa at their houses and talking. It’s how community is supposed to be, in each other’s homes, sitting in each other’s living rooms.”
“That’s something I want to do,” Paul told me as soon as we left her house and were alone in the car. I agreed that someday, we would.
I tend to lean toward wanting to do traditions that are loud and fun, like going sledding behind a car the first time it snows just enough to stick (thanks to Frank and Claire for letting us drag you……...literally…….into that one), or waking up way too early on Black Friday to be a part of the madness. And although those are fun, and usually loud, there is something that is missing in them, a quiet stillness I'm finding that my soul needs this time of year.
I’ve never ventured into this territory, but now, I am calling the chaos of Christmas out, and instead of searching for yet-one-more-Christmas party, or yet-one-more present like I usually do, I’m searching for peace. Because in this Advent season, making it to one more white elephant game won’t lead me towards Jesus the way that taking a day off to help Paul make his famous spaghetti will. Although nobody loves a party more than me, life has been feeling a little Advent-ageous lately, a little too much too fast for a time of year that (I am suspecting) is supposed to be about peaceful waiting, meek stillness, a deep quiet and hope.
A few days ago I finally declared what is left of our December off limits to the rest of the world. "No more social events," I said with a stamp of my foot, walking out of the kitchen with a flourish, leaving Paul to chuckle at my dramatic side.
I love that Jesus built in me a need for space, a maximum amount for running. Similar to my actual running, some days enough is simply enough, and it feels okay to let my run turn into a meandering walk.It feels okay to walk through the rest of the Christmas season, instead of hustle through it.
Jesus always meets me on those walks. When I slow down, I often find that he is walking right next to me. Usually when I run I have headphones, and when I walk I take them out, so I’m never sure if he was running next to me, just waiting for me to notice him, or if he was waiting for me to slow down so he could catch up the whole time.
My prayer today is for peace and quiet in a season filled with more, and that some day, you get to enjoy Paul's famous spaghetti with us.
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21