When All Is Not Merry and Bright

Last December was the lowest of the low points for me. Instead of decorating the Christmas tree, I wanted to hide in my bed. Instead of baking goodies with my kids I wanted to cry into my pillow. Instead of looking at Christmas lights, I wanted to revel in the darkness of my bedroom. Instead of finding joy in Christmas songs and hymns, all I felt was despair. Depression had a tight grip on me and didn’t seem to be letting go. I didn’t know what to do or how to be there for my family. I made very few efforts to do anything Christmas-related. It was all I could do to keep waking up each day and putting one foot in front of the other. All was not merry and bright.

I ended up spending 12 days of December in a psychiatric hospital getting treatment for my depression. I cried at night, praying for my girls who I knew were missing me, praying for my husband who just wanted his wife at home. The guilt and shame I felt for being gone yet again was heavy. I threw myself the world’s largest pity party. There were so many things I felt like I should have been doing, and yet there I was in the hospital, feeling worthless and useless. How could Christmas be anything but bad?

Christmas, however, doesn’t depend on me. Christmas is about celebrating God made flesh, God with us–Emmanuel. Christmas is about how the light came to shine in the darkest of places–in the darkness of our own hearts–so that we could be called children of light, children of God. The beauty and wonder of Christmas is that the Son of God came to earth and experienced all the highs and lows of life. He was hungry and thirsty. He was tired. In Matthew 26:38 Jesus tells His disciples that He was sorrowful to the point of death. He knows pain intimately, and there is nothing we face that He cannot know and understand. Even at my lowest of lows, I was not alone.

Last year I made it home just in time for Christmas with my family, and I was met with nothing but love. At the end of the day, my girls don’t need a Hallmark-worthy house; they need their mama. And Jesus. I have realized that God has not called me to create a Pinterest-perfect holiday for my family. God has not called me to be like the filtered images I see in my scrolls through Facebook and Instagram. God has called me to be His. God has called me to be faithful, both to Him and to the ones He entrusts me with. With Him, there is more than enough love to go around. With Him, there is no end to the merry and bright days we can have.

She Likes Smiling; Smiling’s Her Favorite

As I’ve mentioned previously, Ava is not the greatest of sleepers. For example, I think today she took 3 naps of about 30 minutes each, which is definitely better than nothing, but it does make it hard to accomplish any sort of prolonged task. However, what Ava lacks in the sleep department, she more than makes up for it in the smile department. I may be biased, but her smile is radiant and completely infectious. Just look:

Even if I am exhausted and undone by the events of the day, seeing her smile makes me smile. There is nothing better than seeing that open-mouthed grin first thing in the morning and last thing at night. So while she may not be overly fond of sleeping, I’m forever thankful that smiling is her favorite.

 

Walking in Memphis

Today I’m so thankful that I got to go on a field trip with Charlotte’s class. This was something I was not able to do at all last year because I was working full time, so I was glad to have the chance this year. The students traveled to the Orpheum Theater in Memphis for a performance called “Red and Green” by a group of artists known as Rhythmic Circus. The show involved tap dancing and beatboxing and live music. The best part was that Charlotte wanted to sit by me. 🙂

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Grainy Orpheum pic

And I wouldn’t have been able to go at all were it not for my wonderful in-laws, who watched Ava for me. They moved to Jackson back in the spring, and it has been wonderful for all of us to have them in town! I’m so glad that Charlotte and Ava will be so close to both sets of grandparents as they grow up. We are blessed indeed.

I’m also thankful for the fact that thanks to one of the teachers at the school, I was prevented from driving to Memphis on a very low front tire. The teacher noticed the tire when I dropped off Charlotte, so I was able to go immediately to a gas station to put air in it. Then a friend of mine helped secure me a ride to Memphis with her and another mom, and my father-in-law came and took my van to a tire shop and got it fixed while I was in Memphis, so it was ready and waiting for me when we got back! God was definitely watching out for me today.

Five Months with Ava

Ava turned five months old today. The saying “the days are long but the years are short” really does ring true; it doesn’t seem possible that she’s been with us for five months already, but there have also been days that have seemed to drag on forever. We had struggles with breastfeeding early on that led to exclusively formula feeding, then tummy issues, then reflux problems and sleeping problems. There have been few nights of truly restful sleep (although hopefully that is changing, as the last two nights were wonderful), and some days were filled with so much fussing and crying that it brought me to tears as well. Despite this, it’s hard to remember what our family was like before Ava was in it, so completely has she captured all of our hearts. Seeing Charlotte interact with her has been such a beautiful blessing, and there’s really no one who can make Ava smile and laugh like Charlotte can. Ava has a smile for everyone, and she giggles with her whole body. Since she started rolling front to back and back to front two weeks ago, she’s been even more curious about everything around her. Her play gym doesn’t hold her interest for long anymore now that she can move around, and I know that once she’s crawling it will be even harder to keep her in one spot! It seems like her sweet brown eyes don’t miss a thing, and she’s fascinated with her hands and feet and our dog Bailey and everything that Charlotte does.

Being with Ava every day has allowed me to see how much a baby can change in a matter of days, and that means that even the hard days will turn into better days. I have delighted in being with her, even on days when she’s fussing or not napping because I know how very blessed I am to get to raise another girl. The Lord chose us for Ava, and Ava for us, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.