I fight the urge each Christmas season to focus on shopping lists and searches for the perfect party dress. It's easy for me to get caught up in what I'm doing to make it "feel like Christmas" that I neglect the meaning behind the madness.
I've blogged about it before, but it's a struggle for me to tune out toy commercials and put Christmas in perspective. What am I doing to celebrate and, most importantly, why?
The saddest thing is waking up in January realizing I've missed the chance to truly enjoy the season, the time with family and the opportunity to worship and be grateful for the birth of our Savior.
What I need this time of year is a healthy dose of perspective.
Boarding our flight to LaGuardia, I was still antsy about flying with a little one. I let the others board and kept Mac in the terminal burning off some last-minute energy. Once we finally got in line, we waited with another mom and her son.
After trading babies' names and ages, we began mama banter. I promised her things do get easier, assured her good sleep would come soon and asked where she was going for Thanksgiving.
It turns out her sweet four-month-old was flying for the first time as well; they would land in LaGuardia to introduce him to his dad's parents and siblings. She was beyond excited - her baby had never met these grandparents, these aunts and uncles.
In fact, he hadn't yet met his dad, who is deployed in Afghanistan.
This woman gave birth to her son without his father. She's handled every feeding, diaper change, meltdown and "first" - alone.
I have kicked myself many times since for not hugging her, thanking her profusely and telling her how often I'd be praying for her family.
Here she was, a single mom juggling a baby, a carry on, a stroller, a diaper bag. I squatted, a toddler on my hip, to help pick up dropped baby toys and maneuver stroller handles. How could she be doing so much solo? She told me how hard it was to travel alone with an infant, and I could only imagine how hard it is to raise one with your husband overseas.
It's no wonder I couldn't speak up, as I can barely type this story without crying. I was boarding a plane to join three others who would help me read to, kiss, coo at, entertain and love on Mac throughout our trip. This mom had handled everything alone from start to finish.
I looked for her on the flight and even at baggage claim, but never saw her again. What I'd give for a moment to tell her how grateful I am for the sacrifice her husband - and, most certainly, she - is making. I have thought of and prayed for her often since.
When B works late, when Mac is having an off day, when I can't get the ornaments up or get to every event I'd like to attend, I remind myself of what matters. And of the sweet mom who would love to have her husband around, however late he might come home.
Earlier today I read this true Depression-era story about the generosity of a stranger at Christmas time and the effect his gifts had on a community.
The thought of Americans struggling so much that they had to choose between giving up their children and letting them go hungry - it's unfathomable. (And driving by the mall, the packed parking lots convince me that our current recession comes nowhere close to the impact of the Depression.)
I have moments where I wish I could snap up everything on my Christmas list and spoil our friends and families with bigger and shinier gifts. These reminders, though, put Christmas in perspective for me.
What do you do to take your focus away from picking the perfect Christmas card and remembering the perfect gift we were given?
(If you have heard me rant about how late I am in doing the former, you'll find as much irony in that sentence as I do. Oh, to have my priorities straight all the time!)
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