Advent, anxiety

Adventing, as you do {Abbey, the unready}

I startled awake this morning, anxious and uncomfortable.

Almost immediately, I realized part of my discomfort was from a pair of three-year-old feet pressed solidly into the small of my back, kneading my kidneys with ten still-chubby toes.

Also (possibly related to the toes), I needed the bathroom urgently.

Also, I’ve fallen into my usual trap of Advent anxiety.

Last night after a long day of meeting and errands and one particularly awful grocery store trip (in which a woman in the checkout line suggested that I should drink the entire bottle of wine I was purchasing), we put our four overtired children to bed. I sat at my desk and scrolled back through old blog posts, trying to find one about our favorite Christmas books (how do I not have a post about our favorite Christmas books after all these years?), and I had to laugh at myself. So many words about Advent. So many sentences about waiting and not rushing and being present in the moment. So many reassurances about how this is a time of preparation and we don’t have to have all the things ready right now.

I guess I was writing to myself all that time as much as anyone else. I needed to reread my own words.

So this morning, in the waning moments of darkness before the sun creeps up and my children burst forth to find their new slippers stuffed with chocolate coins and clementines and candy canes, here is a reminder from me to you (and from me to me):

Advent is for preparation. It’s a whole season in which to prepare for the Incarnation…an event large enough that we need weeks to get ready for it- not just once, but every single year. Even Mary, the mother of the Word made flesh, needed time to prepare for Jesus, leading Him to spend the first nine months of His life as a human being waiting silently in her womb. He was gestating. He was preparing, too, as His body was being woven together in the sanctuary of His mother. I can’t even get my mind to wrap around that truth.

And that’s okay, because it’s Advent, and I have time to wonder over it. It is a mystery worth all the wonder I can muster in the coming days and weeks.

As we prepare our hearts, it is perfectly fine to also be preparing our everyday lives for the celebration that is coming. It’s okay to use Advent to clear our countertops while we ponder what it means to clean our hearts. It’s okay to use Advent to spruce up our front porches while we contemplate what sort of outward expressions of Christian joy we’re sharing with the world. It’s okay to use Advent to choose and wrap gifts for those we love as we consider the great Gift that came to each of us over two thousand years ago.

It’s okay to not be ready yet. It’s okay, because Advent is for getting ready, and getting ready is what what we are supposed to be doing right now.

But Advent is more than that, too. It’s an invitation to take advantage of the time we have to join Mary in pondering all these things in our hearts. The Incarnation is a mystery that never gets smaller. It’s never any less amazing. There is plenty of material there for thinking and praying and meditating on for a lifetime.

So stop worrying about not being ready, and go get ready. Get Adventing. Tell me what you’re doing to get ready. While you bake things (if you do that) and wrap things and arrange things, take a few minutes to ponder why we do this and what it all means. And if you are one of those amazing people who is already ready for Christmas before Advent begins, I salute you and would like you to write a guest post for me next year around October so that you can share your wisdom and best tips with the rest of us, because I could clearly use some help in that department.

Happy Advent.

anxiety, five minute Friday, parenting

Five-Minute Friday: Mighty

It’s Friday again, and I’m taking the opportunity to write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt. The goal isn’t perfection or wisdom or perspective. The goal is just to celebrate the process of tossing words into the air and letting them fall where they may (without being too picky about how they land).

Today’s prompt: Mighty.

Somehow, the superhero cape makes you look even sweeter (which I know isn’t what you’re going for, you with your Captain America doll clutched in your hand, flying around the room defending all that is good and right and defeating the powers of darkness). Whenever you put it on, I want to scoop you up and smell your hair and cover your head with kisses.

At night, when the real darkness comes and you fight back by leaving on all your lights, even the superhero cape can’t keep your anxiety at bay. We talk in soft tones about the Worry Monster and the biology of fight or flight and your brain’s production of melatonin and assure ourselves that there aren’t really any saber-toothed tigers roaming the earth anymore. Extinction is permanent, you say with conviction, but your eyes look a little unsure.

Even superheroes can’t guarantee there won’t be nightmares.

I’m awash, sometimes- completely unsure myself. Are we doing the right things? How can we help you? And what will you remember- the times I sat down and talked calmly with you about your fears, or the times I snapped and lost my temper and said, “for the love of everything good and holy, would you please just go to bed already?”

I might be bigger than you are, but I can’t force you to sleep…and I can’t chase away the bad guys and random faces and shadows that seem to creep out of the corners of your room as the sun goes down.

But the God I serve (the one who is mighty to save) is bigger than me- bigger than my impatience, my weakness and my worry. He’s bigger than you- bigger than your biggest, meanest fear. His power dwarfs all the bad guys and all the evil in the universe.

Lucky for both of us, he’s not too big to come sit by your bed and watch over you while you sleep…and that’s exactly what I’m asking of him.

For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Lisa Jo Baker’s blog.
Five Minute Friday

#HolyLens, anxiety, parenting, Theme Thursday

What if there isn’t a Right Answer?

(Not really the answer.)

So…I’ve been thinking about today’s #HolyLens prompt and feeling more pressure than usual. Since Cari and the rest of the Theme Thursday folks are joining in our themes for their Thursday prompts, it feels like more “real photo people” will be looking at this picture than the daily ones we’ve been putting on Instagram. I’m so excited that Cari joined up with us, but today I feel like it ups the ante a little bit.

(I’m not sure that makes any sense.)

Unfortunately, feeling more pressure to take a good photo didn’t help me find the time to do it. I never saw just the right thing or had that moment when I went, “Oh! I should do that…” 

What I did have was a pretty challenging day dealing with the anxiety of the eldest of my offspring.

I freely admit that he comes by it honestly. Both his parents have had bouts of anxiety at various times. We’ve definitely struggled, and we can understand where he’s coming from…but for all my empathy, I can’t figure out how to help him.

His anxiety takes the form of “What If.” What if I have a bad dream about that thing I thought about earlier today? What if I think about a random face appearing and then I get convinced that it will actually appear? What if I forget to sleep at all and when I wake up, I’m really tired? What if the power goes out in the night and my nightlight bulb blows up in the power surge and then I don’t have another one to replace it with?

I want him to feel like I am hearing him. I want him to feel like I care about his worries. I want him to know that his feelings are important to me.

And sometimes, I just want him to be quiet and give it a rest.

Right now, he’s sleeping with all the lights on every night. That’s two nightlights, a closet light, and an overhead ceiling light. There can be no shadows. A few weeks ago, I decided it wasn’t worth fighting the battle over the lights. When I made that decision, though, I really thought this would have blown over by now.

It’s gotten worse.

He is coming out of his room many times every night, sleeping really lightly when he does sleep, having nightmares, and spending the majority of every day grouchy, sleepy and with dark circles under his eyes.

We go back to the pediatric neurologist soon for our regular 6 month visit, and they might say his growth in the last six months means his medication dosage isn’t right any longer. Then we’d have a reason, something we could blame for the sudden worsening in his sleep.

With his continuing seizure-free status, though, he’ll be going off that medication in another six months, anyway.

Part of me is worried that there isn’t a right answer. What if we just have to figure this out? What if we just have to be parents and decide how to balance sensitivity and compassion with firm guidance and boundary-setting?

I am not posting this so people will tell me to read parenting books, or so people will tell me how we’re taking the wrong approach, or so people will pat my head and tell me we’re doing a good job.

I’m posting this because sometimes, being a parent is just hard. It’s hard. It’s tough to realize that I’m the one in charge and that there’s no guidebook. It’s humbling to think that I am making a decision based on my experience and my instinct and my knowledge but that it might not be the best decision for my child. It’s frightening to arrive at the conclusion that, despite my research, careful consideration, and prayer over the situation, there might not be one right answer.

Sometimes, we’re kind of just fumbling around in the dark and hoping for the best.

Tonight feels like one of those nights…so we’re leaving the lights on.