Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Christmas in August

I found this in my drafts folder and maybe it appeals to me because the weather here is now hovering at one hundred degrees and the humidity is heavy. I keep telling myself, "August is the February of the south." That seems to help me wrap my mind around it and adjust my expectations, but this pregnant Yankee is finding it hard to just breathe these southern summer days.

We awoke this morning to the first Sunday of Advent and the first snowfall of the season. The snowflakes were small and accumulation was slow, but they were snowflakes none the less and there was expectation in the air.

On the drive home from church I was running over all my first Sunday of Advent plans in my mind-- the Jesse tree we were to start today, the decorations I'd dig out from the basement, the Advent wreath and the manger. I thought we'd spend the day together, a fire burning in the woodstove, good things baking in the oven. I was planning a special dinner with appetizers for this the first candle lit meal of the season.

Well, I guess the Jesse tree came off OK with some children participating willingly and others reluctantly, but the real kicker came when my husband reminded me that he was going out to dinner with friends. He had told me about this sometime in the middle of last week, but somehow I'd forgotten it. It isn't often he meets up with with friends. I try to encourage it. Even so, I was disappointed. Our special dinner was off.

Later, as I cleared the table of frozen pizza crusts alone, I thought of something I read somewhere recently (and can't for the life of me remember where) but it was this,

"There is loving that is enjoying and loving that is serving and the first is its own reward."

This seemed a good thing to think about on the advent of Advent. I am always, and especially around the holidays, searching for new and better ways to enjoy my family and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. I hope and expect we will have plenty of that this season and always, but I understand, too, how it is its own reward.

Just yesterday, someone who met me for the first time and learned that we homeschool insisted that I needed to "get away" from my children in order to keep from becoming burnt out. This person only meant well. The truth is, a short get away with my husband would certainly be welcome, but I don't see how that could prevent burn out.

In my experience, the best cure for burnt out isn't escaping my children but really enjoying them--a family picnic or day at the beach, an evening walk, or bike ride. At those times I can sit back and take it all in, everyone getting along, trying new things, and having lots of fun together. We're a family with our own dynamic and when its working, it's a wonderful thing to see. At those times all the good feelings of motherhood rush over me, all the blessings of family and life. I can always go a long while on the juice a day like that gives me.

But I never thought that days like those were when the real work of mothering was taking place. You know, the stuff that trains my children for adult life. Days like those are the loving that enjoys and they are their own great reward for us all.

Most of my days aren't like that. Most days demand math drills, spelling tests, laundry, doctor's appointments, and discipline. Most days are dull and somewhat difficult and while they also have their joys, most days are not their own reward. Most days aim to achieve a much greater future reward.

So, while I didn't enjoy this first day of Advent, I think I've observed it well. After all, what better way is there to begin the season of expectation of the greatest future reward of all than with the love that serves?