Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

We practicing or cultural Christians celebrate next week the coming of God in the form of a baby, a child, yet having children of my own brings the traditions of Christmas to that of simply celebrating childhood.  The simple faith of a child learning the Christmas story with images of angels, a guiding star, shepherds and a serene nativity is as sweet and innocent as their believing in flying reindeer and a jolly guy trickling down the chimney.  The daunting opportunity to mold my children's experiences and share with them wonder of Christmas exhilarates my spirit and helps me to feel more deeply the  meaning of this holy season.


From Christmas pajamas, gingerbread houses, church choir performances to visiting Santa, we try to experience the season.
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 We exchanged Christmas presents as a family on Saturday, minus BJ who wanted to adopt a family for his Christmas present.
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The girls were given their first American Girl dolls from Baba. Anna Cate was ecstatic!
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We visited Santa and Molly refused to sit in his lap by crawling and clawing her way into a ball on BJ's neck, so we have a picture of Anna Cate.

Yet in all these happenings of the season, I am afraid the Christmas spirit and the passion to celebrate my children has been dulled with a deep grief over the tragedy in Connecticut.  Those children and their families is the last thought on my mind when I go to sleep at night, when I wake at night and the first thing I think about when I wake up. I'm sure a big part of it is because I'm a teacher (I wrote a bit about it on my teacher blog here)  My heart is so heavy and any thing I do for or with Anna Cate, I think about those 20 families. I'd like to think it is because I'm a loving, sensitive teacher and human being but I'm sure that it is also because Anna Cate is in first grade.

We made the gingerbread house last Friday night. Anna Cate counted down to Friday for days, so looking forward to this family event. I wonder what holiday plans those children had.

I saw their faces and  I see hers. I think about how Christmas is so much about children  that it breaks my heart knowing that there are families burying their children the week before.  I think about the excitement for a holiday weekend on the minds of those children and their dreams of Christmas and of life taken from them in moments of fear and carnage.

I never keep Anna Cate's work that comes home from school in the sparkly "take home folder" (I do keep the pictures, art work and stories), but today I lingered a little more on the letters and the numbers in the midst of a messy counter, a busy life. I haven't been able to throw it away quite yet.

The shadow on this picture is sort of like how I'm looking at so much these days. I'm thinking about those families and connected with this grief.
I thought about all those backpacks that will be final remembrances of precious little people.  I imagine that not much separates their lives from ours.

One night this week, my heart was so heavy as I lay down with the girls and I thought that in a way, I can't imagine it hurting any more if it were my own, which is ridiculous, right? But I think motherhood deepens my experience in relation to humanity.  As that expression goes about your heart wandering outside of your body, maybe when we truly allow ourselves to experience this common thread of humanity, we let ourselves celebrate and hurt for our fellow man as well. 

Maybe it is motherhood........ or maybe it is the way God lives in human hearts, the way Christians believe He came to the world in the form of a baby.  Perhaps celebrating the coming of God to the world and to our hearts include the exhilarating joy as well as the deep pain for each other's tribulations. After all, this baby grew up to say when asked what was the greatest commandment:

37  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ -- Matthew 22: 37-39 

So maybe my celebrating the wonder of childhood this Christmas lending itself to deep grief has not robbed me of the spirit of Christmas, after all.  
The divine's presence both in our world and in our hearts connects human souls. This seems to be the story the children learn.... that God sought a connection to humanity so he sent his Son in the form of a baby.
In the spirit of this story, the nativity where kings kneel with shepherds beneath angels, I am symbolically kneeling in sorrow with my fellow man. And I'm thinking that is Christmas, too. 

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” ― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Same But Different

“Differences were meant by God not to divide but to enrich.”  ― J.H. Oldham

Lately I've been struggling with my feelings about motherhood, more particularly the way I find myself struggling with Molly in a way that I don't with Anna Cate.  Molly fights me on almost everything and I'm at a loss to know what works for her, either in terms of affection or discipline.  But in my opening up to a couple older mother about this, I left myself open for a revelation I received Sunday.  
Ever since I laid on the table when I was 20 weeks pregnant and saw that I was having a little girl, I was so excited to "do this again." I think I simple-mindedly thought having a second girl meant we got to have a similar experience, and when I couldn't recreate the same experiences for Molly that I did for Anna Cate, I felt guilty.  I often wonder what I'm doing wrong, how I can connect more and have found myself fearing that I would favor Anna Cate over Molly because I understand Anna Cate so deeply. I could feel our family becoming cliche with labels and I wanted that for none of us.  

Yesterday, as I sat snuggling with Anna Cate in an auditorium as we watched the Nutcracker I thought, "I hope I get to do this with Molly." And in the splitting of a second, a wave of healing understanding flooded my soul. I won't be doing anything AGAIN. I will be loving, understanding, exploring with, and experiencing this journey with Molly on her journey, not following in the footsteps of a journey Anna Cate and I take, even though the loving, understanding, exploring and experiencing may look the same.

 I realize that I've been looking at my mothering of Molly through the only lense I knew how to use -- the one I use for Anna Cate. And, in my defense why would I not want to do it the same? But Molly's little soul deserves a fresh outlook. I have given myself the freedom to see that this experience with Molly is her own, this experience of mothering her is mine alone in a totally different way, and it is ok.  Mothering to Molly is as fresh and unchartered as it was with Anna Cate. How foolish I was to think I would be doing this again!
While Anna Cate's gifts abound, so do Molly's  (as do their struggles) and it is my sacred task to learn from both of them, while relying on what I know about love, discipline, faith and health -- the tenants of my values.  This weekend, I opened up my heart to confront my fears, and in this space of vulnerablity I have realized it was my limited perspective that left me inadequate, not my feelings for Molly.  

So Molly doesn't do things to please others, she doesn't want to sit in Santa's lap, and rations out her kisses and hugs with methodical calculation. But she is precious, charming, funny and quick-witted and deserving of my newfound energy and resolve to be the best mother I can, which doesn't have to look or feel the same way it does with Anna Cate. God made me a mother twice, and in my gratitude for experiencing motherhood twice, I will enjoy, struggle with, love, make mistakes, create and recreate relationships with each and both of my girls.
Since learning Molly was a girl, I've mistakenly looked at her as our second girl.
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Symbols of the Seasons

Last weekend Anna Cate was baptized and I spent some time, thought and energy thinking about what dress she should wear.  While I'm loving the young lady she is turning out to be, I'm a little sad to admit smocks and frills are short lived around this house.  I jokingly told her, we'd be  picking out prom dresses, then graduation dresses, then a wedding dress before I knew it...then before I knew it, I was crying.  I see symbolism and sentiment in EVERYTHING. The dress isn't really what I care about it, it symbolizes the stages, the seasons and these precious people.
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So the seaon of Fall was full of symbols and sentiment.
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In October, we enjoyed a quick visit with Nana...
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Where they enjoyed tea parties and a visit to Anna Cate's school.
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And visits to the park.
And as much lip gloss as the girls wanted.

We took a Sunday off from church to enjoy a hike in the local trails.
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We need the breaks some time to enjoy the moments...
To focus on our path.

A hurricane along the East coast gave us a couple days off of school, and the chance to chill with a spa day.
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We reveled in Halloween with friends. The girls were Fairies.
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We didn't notice until the end of the night that Anna Cate's costume was on inside-out.
A little vignette on what a sweet soul Anna Cate is. Her best friend Leana was scared to go see this guy. So Anna Cate, upon her return from seeing him, gave Leana some candy.

 As usual, we ended the evening at Baba and Larry's home.
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I love watching these two together. Molly's best friends are boys (Owen and Luke) so I guess it is good she is a tough cookie.
By our last stop, we figured out how the right way for Anna Cate's fairy goddess costume.

We enjoyed having Nana and Daddy Doug for Thanksgiving. When I say I host Thanksgiving, it is quite a misnomer as Mom and BJ do all the cooking with the help (or mayb hindrance of the girls)
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I do more the stage work, behind the setting the table.
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We did a Thankful garland where during our meals throughout the month, we wrote down our thanksgivings.
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I'm keeping it up throughout the holiday season. Mostly what we are thankful for is family.
Seeing the girls in relationship with my parents is so fullfilling.
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The season, the dressess, the deocration and the meals are a big part of this symphony that sometimes I conduct, other times I play in and sometimes I just sit on the front row to watch. All that I try to catpure through my writing, on my camera or in the constructs of my mind are merely the symbols of these experiences.  Indeed, the fruit is the experience, yet the sweetness of the symbols feed my soul on this jouney. Just as Anna Cate's dress was on the forefrunt of my mind as we were planning for her to participate,  it isn't the dress but the rite of passage in this ancient ritual that remind me what a sacred task I have in joining my family on these holy journeys.

Below are scenes of her baptismal experience with the voice of my Dad in the prayer he gave during the service after her baptism.

AnnaCate'sBaptism from Sarah King on Vimeo.

Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.
Ralph Waldo Emerson