Madeline has always loved this time of year. When she was only a little over a month old her first Christmas, I recall her being mesmerized by the tree’s twinkling lights. As a toddler she tore into presents and smiled when I crooned Christmas carols. Last year she delighted in the magic of the season by helping me bake and decorate Christmas cookies. However, all of the holiday hoopla this year is even more exciting. She actually made her first wish list to Santa known: first an “umbella” (translation: umbrella) and then an easel because “I’m a good artist,” she explains. (We’ve also had to start imparting small lessons in humility this year. “Yes, you are a talented artist. Let’s show God you’re thankful for your artistic talents by drawing a picture for someone who may need some cheering up.”)
Today she helped me light the first Advent candle. We said a prayer that we’d all relish in this time of preparation and that we’d be opening more than presents come Christmas. “Let’s open our hearts to Jesus this Christmas season,” I said aloud more as a reminder to myself than to Madeline who already seems to be very open to anything pertaining to God.
As we start to enjoy the Advent and related holiday festivities like putting up decorations or counting down to Christmas with our Advent calendars, Madeline gets more and more excited. “Not going to be too long?” she asks. She’s ready for the big shebang. Four weeks to a 3-year-old can feel like an eternity. How do I teach her to enjoy the waiting? To relish in not only preparing for the holiday fun but also in preparing for our Lord’s coming?
To start, I can be a better example. How can I expect my preschooler to be patient for Christmas when I’m always looking ahead? I’m definitely not the model of patience, especially not lately when I feel tired and a wee bit overwhelmed trying to wrap up looming freelance deadlines while taking care of my holiday to-do list. Plus, our weekends are chock full of holiday social events.
Here it is, only the first Sunday of Advent, and I’m already far too caught up in all the peripheral holiday things – baking cookies, buying gifts, writing out Christmas cards, etc. – so much so that I’m distracted and not nearly as mindful as I should be of the “reason for the season.”
Then there’s the bigger picture. Don’t I far too often mutter something to Dave about how I can’t wait until he’s finished with his residency training and we don’t have to worry about money? Or how nice it will be to have a backyard instead of small plot of grass in our townhouse community? Or about how things will get a lot easier when the girls can share a room, keep one another company and won’t always be waking Mommy up for nighttime nursing sessions or comforting cuddles? Or how having three or more kids instead of two is definitely going to be a breeze because the older kids can play together? But what about now? What am I doing to enjoy this very moment? To enjoy our lean years when we have to get more creative about things we do together as a family? To cherish the way Rachel Marie giggles when Madeline and I do the chicken dance and flap our “wings” for her? Or to value the way both girls stop crying when they’re in my arms? If only it will always be so easy to stop their tears…
I’m not good at waiting. I’ve always been a planner, someone who looks ahead. In some ways, this is a good trait. I look forward to coming events. I really do get as giddy as a child for things like Christmas morning, summer vacations and of course, the end of Dave’s residency (only 2 1/2 years to go – yahoo!). I’m also organized and I get things done. But in all this looking ahead and doing instead of just being I sometimes fear I may be missing out on the present and all those subtle details life has to offer if we only take the time to look.
Just this past week I noticed Madeline started saying yes instead of her old standby response “Nam” (rhymes with mom). Only two weeks earlier the nurse asked Madeline at her well-child visit if she had a nice party and a birthday cake. “Nam,” Madeline replied.
“Oh, you didn’t?” the nurse said, somewhat surprised, thinking she’d said something like “Nah.”
Madeline had also told her she had lots of boo-boos when the nurse was taking her blood pressure because when we play pretend doctor we fix her stuffed animals’ numerous boo-boos.
“Tell the nurse what ‘nam’ means,” I encouraged, thinking I was starting to look like a neglectful mom who had a boo-boo-riddled kid who didn’t even get a birthday cake on her third birthday.
“’Nam’ means yes!” Madeline exclaimed.
We never figured out how this word for yes evolved, but as quickly as it surfaced in her vernacular, it was gone. Poof! She hasn’t said “nam” for an entire week and when I asked her if she was ever going to say “nam” again, she said, ironically, “Yes. Maybe I’ll say ‘nam’ sometimes.”
It was a small thing. Of course, I knew she’d one day outgrow this and wouldn’t always answer questions with “nam” or “no,” but it was bittersweet, nonetheless. My little girl was growing up. One day she’d no longer be saying “nam,” the next day I’d be sending her off to college. Yes, Madeline’s little vocabulary change served as a good reminder for me to savor all those little moments, sayings and gestures my little ones will one day outgrow.
Similarly, there’s no better time than now, this very moment, to celebrate Jesus. I don’t have to wait for a holiday season or a time when I have great prayer needs to invite him into my life. I don’t need to wait until Christmas morning when we open all those colorful presents beneath the tree to consider the gifts Jesus gives me every day.
Advent is a time for waiting and preparing, but it’s also a time for celebrating Jesus now. Let’s not get so wrapped up in the holiday preparations and even in the waiting for his coming that we forget all the joy we have in hearts at this very moment because of him and his selfless love for us all.
“Not going to be too long?” Madeline asks.
No. It’s happening right now. The Light of the World is here if we only take the time to open our eyes and look….