I'm sitting here in my stretchy pants and a sweatshirt, my hair is sticking up everywhere and I'm not sure when I last brushed my teeth.
I nearly drowned in the ocean of this holiday season, in spite of all my efforts to stay afloat. I mean, the closer I got to Christmas, the faster I started shedding hopes and projects and traditions and activities - it was like I was bailing water out of a sinking ship. In fact, by Christmas Eve, I realized that I still hadn't caught the magic - the spark and warmth that I always get during the Christmas season - and I was pretty sure it was because of all the things I didn't do.
I didn't ever finish decorating my tree.
I didn't knit presents for my kids.
I didn't make gifts for my kids' teachers or classmates.
And many of the things I did attempt failed miserably.
I tried making beeswax candles as gifts for my family - should have been easy and very cheap, and was neither of those things.
I worked on some Christmas candy while I was making my Plan B family gifts - vanilla extract (with organic vanilla beans) and raw vanilla sugar. I, um, got acquainted with some of the rum I was using for the vanilla extract and sorta screwed up the Christmas candy. Ahem.
When all the family girls got together to bake our cookies on the 23rd, I even messed up the traditional cookie that I make every year - the one that my dad's mom made for him and and she passed her secrets on to me. It's the cookie of the season and the boys all haunt the kitchen doorway, waiting for the first Congo Square of Christmas. I messed it up badly.
I also did something stupid at work and hurt my neck and back a little more than they already were. I have no idea how far back that will set me in physical therapy. But it hurt.
There were more flops and failures, but I found myself heading to church on Christmas Eve, wondering what had happened - where my favorite season of the year had gone. And sort of not even caring.
I was just so tired. And I was in enough pain that I had to admit it and take some medicine. And I had let go of so many expectations and plans, but it wasn't enough. To top it all off, I got sick - some kind of cold or virus, but it didn't matter at that point.
Christmas was here and I wasn't ready for it. I don't even mean in the haven't-finished-shopping kind of way. I mean, I wasn't prepared, in my heart, for the quiet, the peace, the tucked-in, gather-your-loved-ones-and-celebrate kind of day that I look forward to every year.
We had gone through all the motions - we lit our Advent candles and had our devotions with surprising regularity. Presents had been made and bought and wrapped and food was planned and prepared, but I wasn't ready.
There was a little hope, though.
Chris and I have turned to the traditional church calendar more and more at this time of year in search of finding real meaning in our celebrating.
We celebrate Advent - my family always did when I grew up, too. Advent reminds us that the world waited for a Savior and holds the parallel meaning that it now waits for His return. Then Christmas comes and reminds us that He came - Emmanuel - God with us.
But over the years, most of us have forgotten that Christmas is also a season in the church year. It's not just one day - the be-all and end-all of days that we work and prepare and purchase for. The Christmas season, in church tradition, starts Christmas Day and lasts until Epiphany. Twelve days of Christmas, to be exact.
So, this year, I have taken great comfort in learning that Christmas is a season. I didn't get it all done and I wasn't ready for Christmas Day. To be sure, our Christmas Day was beautiful. Traditions were kept and good food was eaten and lovely gifts were passed around. But I wasn't ready.
I slept most of the day away on Christmas. I felt a little guilty that I missed the phone calls to my husband's family as I snored on the sofa. I felt even more guilty that I wasn't on the floor opening new toys with my kids. I hated that I was too sick to hold my baby nephew when I gave him his present I'd worked hard to finish.
But I needed to sleep.
And then I slept for 12 hours that night.
And then I did nothing yesterday.
We lit a fire in the fire pit we bought as a family gift for our kids (We do that every year - one big, relatively inexpensive gift that's designed to encourage family face-time. I'll have to tell you about that some time...). We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
I walked into my living room after it was dark and caught sight of my Christmas tree - now empty of boxes, but somehow, newly magical and beautiful to me.
And then I slept some more last night.
I'm feeling a little bit better today. My cold's almost gone and, though my back still hurts like crazy, I'm almost feeling ready for Christmas.
Guess what I'm going to do tonight?
I'm going to make some Christmas cookies with my kids. They're going to have sprinkles on them and everything. And I'm going to eat a ton of them because I'm still wearing my stretchy pants.
It's going to be great!