But for me, along with the "Come, O Long Expected Jesus" variety of expectation, comes the (EEEK!) do-everything-just-right kind of expectation.
It is hard for me to release the need to be all the things to all the people. It is also hard to reconcile the pressure of hungry bellies/ laundry mountain/ pile of dishes with the desperate sense that time is fleeting. How can I do all of the things I have to do and also do all of the things I want to do? How can I always feel so unprepared for the season of preparation?!!!???? I have no idea, but I feel like it sneaks up on me every year. I want to make this season magical for the children while the magic is still fresh and young and sparkling in their little eyes. But the first Sunday of Advent comes whether I am ready or not, and life with these four boys rushes by in a whirlwind of meals and baths and diapers and homework faster than the Polar Express. I know my time as "Mommy" is so short, but how do I stop and savor it? How can I do it all? And can I do it all just right? Jen, you only have one chance. . .you can't miss it. They are so sweet and little and they are growing right before your eyes. . .
See how the expectations keep mounting?
See why I was crying in my minivan the other day on the way to preschool pickup?
FOR NO GOOD REASON except that I love my kids and I want to be a good mom?
And I love the world and want to be a good person?
What can I DO?
However. . .
Jesus gave us one big commandment.
It was not give our kids the perfect childhood, bake the most delicious cookies, wrap the presents impeccably, send the most amazing cards, get the just right picture with Santa and trim the tree to look like a magazine.
It was just love God. Heart, soul and mind.
We can ALL DO that, amiright?
Now, all of those other external things are SUPER. Santa is the man, cards are lovely and cookies are just about the best thing ever. And for heaven's sake, no one should make anyone feel bad if they like to do those things. If baking magically delicious cookies is how someone expresses love, then they should DO IT! But, we also shouldn't feel ashamed if we see our friends doing that and that's not our thing. It takes all kinds. That's why Archway makes those Bells and Stars every year, people! And no matter WHAT we choose to do or like to do or want to do, we will never be able to give our kids a Sears-Roebuck-catalog-perfect childhood Christmas.
So. . .
I'm going to be honest that the mountain I need to level during Advent is the mountain of expectations I put on myself. What can I do during the season of expectation that adds to our collective joy? What can we do in this home to truly ready the way of the Lord? My guide for myself is that if I can't do it in love, I probably shouldn't do it. We can't expect more of ourselves than God does.
So, let's release the expectation of external perfection on ourselves.
So we can receive the gift.
God came to us as a gift in human form. A tiny baby. Born in a dirty room, to a humble woman, into a messy, broken, IMPERFECT world.
He can be born, too, into our imperfect hearts. Our messy homes. Our dirty kitchen. Our hectic lives.
That's what Jesus is FOR.
That's why He came.
That's why He's here now, and comes again.
Once He's in, everything is perfect.
His grace makes it so.
Christmas will come whether we are "ready" or not.
(The Whos down in Whoville taught us that.)
Let the un-done be a symbol of all that we wait for.
The half-trimmed tree.
The messy-haired kids.
The pile of unwrapped presents.
The yet unopened Christmas cards.
The imagined and unbaked batches of cookies.
Because Jesus will arrive whether we get these things "right" or not.
This life is not meant to be perfect.
Only Heaven is.
God has given us the gift of grace.
Now, our task is to give it to ourselves.
To release the expectations, and expect only Love.