Last week, amidst all the pre-Christmas chaos, I had a day off and I would like to say thank you to the universe. A day when Jesse was with his childminder and I wasn’t working. I didn’t organise the house or write lists, I didn’t try to get a hard start on finishing up work before maternity leave, I didn’t sort through the baby clothes or make bunting or tidy up the relentless toy chaos or get on top of Christmas (despite all those inner voices telling me I should). I spent the morning sitting in bed.
And I found myself craving kindness.
I am tired and there is so much to do. Parenting our little boy is a beautiful, sublime gift and a gruelling marathon, intensified during that last week by our attempts to wean him off his milk bottles (he’s quite indifferent to the milk itself but completely addicted to the comfort of sucking on the bottles). Andy was doing all the hard yards and the crazy wake-ups because I was exhausted and emotional. I felt grateful and guilty and scared Jesse would never sleep a whole night again.
Our new home is an incredible gift and a joy, but there is an inevitable list of tiny ongoing domestic disasters and things that don’t work that sometimes just overwhelms us, pushing us into the worst versions of ourselves.
Being heavily pregnant with a completely new cast of midwives and doctors who have to keep being retold the story of Jesse’s birth at each new appointment is hard. The baby seems healthy but is big and there are ongoing conversations about the birth, some of which are fine and some of which push me over the edge. I am up and I am down.
It’s only a day now until Christmas and I have barely completed any preparations. I had all kinds of grand creative ambitions for hosting Christmas, baking and batch cooking ahead of time, creating beautiful memories, treating family, giving thoughtful and meaningful gifts. And the reality is that very little of it is going to materialise. Heck, making my own lunch is enough of a challenge right now. I’m trying to make peace with very low expectations.
And then there is the wide world, which keeps breaking in. The families who have had to abandon their homes and carry their children across new countries in bitter winter, in the hope of finding safety. The people being bombed, attacked, shot at, persecuted, violated. So many people who won’t feel safe this Christmas, not for a moment.
As I sat in bed on my morning off, I tried to think where I could find someone to say kind things. I wasn’t seeking actual people to talk to, it was a lay-low kind of a day in which I mainly wanted to hide away from the world. So, podcasts? Sermons? The Bible? Who could I google? What should I read? I couldn’t think of much, and then I remembered my friend Travis’ website, The Work of the People, full of thoughtful and beautiful films of wise and reflective people, and I starting watching some of them. And it worked. There was this one from Glennon Doyle Melton, and then a little gem from Rowan Williams in which he starts –
‘Living in reality, I guess, ought to be the easiest thing of all, and it’s the hardest. Because our minds are really active, fabricating worlds that we can cope with. The real world isn’t a world we can easily cope with, however much we think we’re coping…the world is bigger than we can cope with. So, somehow connecting with the reality which is not just the one I make for myself to keep myself comfortable – that’s faith, that’s where we have to end up.’
Somehow hearing him tell me that of course the world is more than I can cope with made me feel ok. It made me feel human and weak and inadequate but loved and accepted all the same. And that it was ok that I’d run out of energy to fabricate a word that I could cope with. Of course it’s too much. But there is acceptance and kindness and grace for me. And he used a beautiful metaphor for grace, that cosmic kindness bending towards us:
As I talked to him the landscape changed. There was a different light on it.
The story of the first Christmas sounds to me like more than anyone could cope with, or feel on top of, let alone the thought of all that might follow. So I will be trying not so much to cope, or to expect myself to be on top of anything in this season, but instead to rest and listen out for kindness and acceptance. Who can say what will arrive with us or stare us down in the days that follow? But I have faith in a bigger picture than I can explain, one that I don’t need to fabricate or fully understand in order to be carried by. And I’m thankful.
Andy recently recorded some of the worship songs he has written in the past year or so, ready for an event over new year, and I was listening to one in the car this week. It speaks beautifully of that ache of our current brokenness and not-enough-ness, the promise of the healing to come, and the reality that God is here right now, in all the not-yet-ness. So here is a recording of it if that sounds like something that would bless you this Christmas (and his website, for more tracks and resources is www.andyflan.com).
May you have kind Christmases.