December 8, 2010


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!)


Stephanie said...

What a beautiful post, Anne, and such a great reminder for us all of what's truly important this season! I recently had a similar experience when I was somewhat doing the "woe is me" thing about my husband having to travel so much and how hard it can be to do it on my own when he's gone. Then a new client told me she had a 8 month old and her husband had been deployed since right after the birth of her son and would be gone for at least a year. It really made me think and realize I have nothing to complain about at all. Hope you are doing well! Miss you lots!

Kristen said...

Anne, you have such a beautiful way of putting things in perspective. And whether it's a call, a text, an e-mail or a blog post, your words always make me happy. It seems like I've seen nothing but "Dear Santa" wish lists on blog after blog/ endless Twitter chatter about who's getting and giving what, it's so refreshing to read a beautiful post like this. You are one of my most FAVORITE people on the planet and I love you with all my heart!

Kitty said...

This is beautiful, Anne, thanks for posting and reminding us of what's important. I read the article you linked to and it truly made my day :)

Rowena said...

Your post hit me at exactly the right time. Thank you for that. One thing my family did when we were kids was the three gift rule. Mom and Dad gave us three gifts total for Christmas. Mom's reasoning was that if it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for us. Also, when we got a new toy, we had to give one away to charity. I've always kept that mentality about the gifts (although I am pretty slack about giving something up).

Perfectly Imperfect said...

This has me in tears. Too many times I've complained about the hubs not "doing enough" or something trivial and I forget those who don't have their hubs around to help at all.

These women are my heroes.

Beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth said...

Sweet, sweet post Anne. I'm sure that just your kind words and encouragement were much appreciated by that new mom!


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