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Two quotes for the day:
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to help you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope, and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. – Kelly Clarkson
Darling Working Mommies, you’ve got this.
My brain moves on to Thanksgiving and Christmas now. It’s like planning an invasion. Thanksgivingandchristmas. THE HOLIDAYS. We are entering the time of year in this Christian household when I want everything to be homey and loving, when I want the house to sparkle with warmth and magic.
The cards, the food, the family marching through…
I have to force myself to pause, and breathe, and remind myself what this is all about.
Thanksgiving is not about a Martha Stewart perfect pie, although they are very pretty and very fun.
Christmas is not about the matching embroidered stockings hung on the mantle by equally festive and matching stocking holders.
No. Much as I do love the trappings, that’s not what these holidays are about.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful that I am here. That I am alive, that we have enough. That’s what the original settlers were celebrating. They were thankful to God that they’d made it so far, and that it looked like they’d have enough food to make it through the winter.
And Christmas is about the birth of new hope, Jesus of Nazareth, that guy who came to tell us to forget the whole eye-for-an-eye thing, and try love and forgiveness instead. Love God, love people. The coming of the light into the darkness.
When I start to froth at the mouth about whether or not we can afford exactly the right Lego set for kiddo, or whether I have eighteen affordable and relatively equal presents for all the extended family, I need to step back, and very intentionally remind myself what this time of year is all about.
Holidays, ideally, are about taking a moment to be grateful, to feel how blessed we are, to say out loud how much we love and value the special people in our lives.
Don’t lose that, Mamma. Let the commercials and the Must-Have! ads and the no-money-down-credit-yourself-
Keep your hand on what matters as the festivities swirl around you; let that steady you.
The air changed outside yesterday – there was that crisp Fall-is-coming feel to the air. I can feel the change in the house too. Everyone is back to school now, all the orientations are done, and we are back to our school-year routine.
Aaaaand so my mind turns… to Christmas.
Yes, I’m laughing at myself a bit, but I’m also preparing, crazy as it may seem.
I know that very shortly we will start to blitz down the candy & costumes, relatives & gratitude, Santa & tree & presents & caroling & cookies whirlwind that is Q4 in this Christian household. Oh, and don’t forget, it’s also the end of the fiscal year for my company, and my boss will inevitably ask me to make “one last push” sometime around December 2nd.
So I get ready.
Forgive me, but you see I’ve had one too many Christmases where I find myself miserably trolling the aisles of Big Box Mart on December 23rd trying to get that one last thing, and wishing I were back home in front of a fire with my kids. After one such year, I wrote myself a long, passionate plea, and stuck it in my daytimer for the following September.
“Get ready!” It reads, “You do not want to be here again! This holiday is not about presents, don’t end up getting too many and going over budget because you will be stressed and miserable and the two extra things won’t make any difference to the kids at all. Get the lights up in October. Have the cards done by Thanksgiving. Have the presents bought and wrapped by December 3. BE HERE!! Make cookies, relax, enjoy this time with the kids.”
I plan to heed my own good advice this year.
The cards are done; many hundreds of them are sitting in boxes under my desk waiting to be addressed. I have an excel spreadsheet (yes, really) with all the grandparents and godchildren and teachers who need gifts and cards and cookies. I have dollars budgeted for each item, and a total at the bottom of the sheet, and a plan to save that amount before December 1.
And, God help me, I will stay on budget this year.
Because Christmas, like all the massive GO HERE! DO THIS! BE PERFECT! holidays, is not actually about the wrapping and the extras. Oh, I love the extras, and we will have plenty of them in our house this year, but I vow not be obsessed with them.
Real Christmas is a quieter, an impossible to purchase feeling – a realization that we are loved. Peace on earth, good will to all. The wonder and beauty of it need a little quiet to steal into your heart.
They won’t be found in an aisle at Target on December 23.
So, picture your holidays, Mamma. Write it down. What matters to you? What matters to the kids? The husband? What do you absolutely make room for in your calendar and your budget, what can you let go?
Envision what really matters, and vow not to be pressured into doing harm to your peace of mind and your family budget by doing more than what is meaningful to you. Carve out time for sledding and cocoa, reading out loud before bed, baking whatever is traditional in your family. Put it in the daytimer now.
Maybe give it half an hour of thought and planning today, and then go outside and play. These lovely, lazy Saturdays are so delicious.
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine — in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light — truth, understanding, knowledge — is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world — into the black places in the hearts of men — and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”
(As told by Robert Fulghum in, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It.)
I cannot tell you how many times deeply faithful women have confided to me the pressure they feel not to work. Either from some folks in their church, from a pastor, or from various relatives, they are told that “Godly Women” should stay home. Today’s post is for these women.
I’ll link to two essays, one by a Muslim writer, one by a Christian, about what our holy books say about women working outside the home. I thought both of these essays were thoughtful, well-researched and heartfelt. (I’m still looking for a good Judaic and a Hindu scholar on this… if you know of one, please message me so I can read and post.)
Mamma, you can love God, love your family and do a fabulous job at the work you do for pay. Your children will still love you, your husband will still love you and your God will still love you. Whether or not we work is not some sort of magical on-off switch that defines our level of goodness as a mother. Life is infinitely more complicated than that.
Yes, tragically, there are working moms who neglect their families. There are stay-at-home moms who neglect their families too. There are also working moms who are fabulously devoted to kids, husband and hearth — women who arrive back home from their outside work delighted to be home, and determined to make it a place full of love and energy. I like to think I am just such a woman. Maybe you are too?
Whether or not we work is not the sole determinant of how good we are as a mom. Check out the links I’ll post today to see what our Good Books say.
Be blessed Mamma, and bless your family.
Essay by Christian Mom on what the bible says about moms working: http://www.kimberlychastain.com/articles/biblesay.htm
Essay by Muslim Mom on what the Quran says about moms working: http://www.mwlusa.org/topics/rights/econrights.html
(Lord, here I go taking risks again. Well, ladies, you get authentic me, and if it is inevitable that we won’t agree on everything, I still want to give you real me. Ready? Here goes:)
I was invited to an Iftar dinner on Thursday of last week – a fast breaking dinner at a local mosque. I work hard to be a tolerant and loving person; even so, I was nervous.
The invitation asked that women bring something to cover their hair if they wanted to participate in the prayer ceremony. I bristled a little at this and wondered if I was giving in to a misogynistic culture, but I brought the scarf. I made sure my cross necklace could be seen; I wanted to see how I’d be treated when I was clearly a Christian.
As it turns out, I was treated with a hospitality so sincere and gracious it would have met with Sister Jean Charlotte’s approval (the nun who taught me manners back in Catholic high school), and that is saying something.
After the evening, I was left with the unshakable conviction that we don’t trust what we don’t understand, and that is a loss. And that the media is no one’s friend, whether Muslim or Christian, and that is also a loss; that their histrionic and inaccurate (Hobby Lobby anyone?) hammering on about the ugliest aspects of humanity helps no one. And that people of faith are lovely people. In fact, most people are lovely people.
I met two women, both Working Mommies, one a pediatrician, one a dentist. Ready smiles, brilliant intellects, strong as lionesses, both of them. We were seated next to each other at dinner, and over the course of the next hour we went from the uncertain and tight, “Hello”, of people who know nothing about each other, to the rapid-fire intense conversation that is the currency of intelligent women and busy mothers everywhere.
They were anxious to be understood, I was hungry to understand. As brave women do, we talked. They were grateful for my candid questions and they were generous with their answers. We talked about mothering and work and religion and culture and ignorance and fear. We talked about the impact parents have on their children’s destinies; we talked about Malala Yousafzai (whom they also admired); we talked about Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and America. We talked about Jesus and Mohammed and Moses and Abraham and our own faith journeys. We talked about how critical education is for all people: girls and boys, women and men. We talked about raising children, about marriage and love growing deeper with work and time. We talked about the difference between religion and culture. They shared their pain over the way some people in their home countries have imbued meaning into their religion that isn’t based on the Koran. They gave me a copy of the Koran, and asked me to see for myself what their religion is. Out of respect for these two, and out of my own desire to know, I plan to.
In the end, we traded phone numbers, and hope to meet for coffee.
If nothing else, I will be grateful to have met two more smart, loving, and hard-working mommies. If nothing else, I will have learned that dates and raw coconut together are delicious. But most importantly, I will have been reminded again that the most dangerous label in the world is: Other.
Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan) to all my Islamic readers. God bless us all, every one.