Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas, Round 3

I am smack in the middle of my 3rd wave of Christmas celebrations. Wave #1 happened before Christmas with Non-Texan Granny and Non-Texan Poppy coming to town to visit. It was wonderful. They are fairly young and vibrant and love to play with the kids (in contrast to my own parents). They look forward to these visits and usually stay for 4-7 days each time.

Wave #2 happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Just us in the Texan Household. Very low-key. Seeing all the cars congregating at one house or another in our neighborhood just reminded me of how we are not hosting and have not been invited to any big parties or family gatherings of any kind. My immediate family (parents, siblings, nieces/nephews) is over 20 people, so being without all of them this year was really hard.

And, continuing the "Christmas is a shitty time of year" theme: this Christmas has been a disappointment for me. Mostly spiritually. I am really suffering in my faith life. I have had a hard time of it finding a good church for our family. It doesn't help that Texan Papa works on Sunday mornings, so I am forced to take all 4 kidlings to church by myself. And, Baby Sally is not really at the best age for church. I could take her to the nursery, but what to do with the other 3 kids left in the pew? I don't really know anyone well enough to ask them, right in the middle of the church service, Hey can you just squeeze over here and babysit my kids for the next 45 minutes? KTHANKS. I have had a real disconnect lately with the Lord. I usually do not write about my faith life, but basically it is my foundation, my safety net, my inner peace. And I think that is why I have been so all-over-the-map lately, namely because I have lost my footing on that foundation. I am going to try better in 2009 to read MORE of the bible and LESS of blogs. This disconnect came to a head at Christmas. For the past 3 years, our little family actually had a wonderful tradition going. We lived in rural IL and our pattern for Christmas was: Christmas eve dinner, then 7pm Christmas Eve service, then come home and get our bible and walk over to the barn next door, where we would read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20. Then we'd come home and open ONE gift, then go to bed. This year, we've moved to a suburb in Texas. No barns 'round here. So, no Christmas tradition. I mean, we didn't even read the Christmas story just sitting on the couch or anything! Sadly, I wondered where was Jesus in our household? He wasn't in the gifts. He wasn't in the meal. He wasn't even in the cheery dispositions. He was just.... absent. And it was noticeable to me. This whole Christmas season I have felt very empty, very unfulfilled, like I've lost something. I feel almost like a member of our family has gone away. So, I am starting to come around again though. I have begun to get a renewed spirit of anticipation, anxiously awaiting His return. Or, I guess since I know He has been here the whole time, maybe I am realizing that the one who has been absent is actually me.

And so, on to wave #3: My parents came in town Tuesday. They wanted to see all of us for the holidays. They are on their way to their snowbird nest in Florida, and decided to swing by, 12 hours out of their way, to visit their baby girl and her family. It has been a bittersweet visit. I have thoroughly enjoyed having them here, but every time I see them I am reminded of the inevitable: my parents have grown very old. My mom and dad are 75 and 73, respectively. They are both showing their ages through declining health issues. My mom had a cataract removed from her right eye about 4 years ago and has suffered a lot of complications because of it. Only now, after 4 years of therapy and recovery, can she partially see out of that eye. Her left eye also has a cataract but she refuses to get it operated on, for fear (and real possibility) that it may also get injured, rendering her completely without sight. My father has become an old man. He can only stand for short periods of time and walks with a slight shuffle. His smile is as warm and welcoming as ever, but his eyes reveal a tiredness that longs for relief. In 2000, he had a 6-bypass on his heart. I didn't even know that was possible! He has had surgeries on his back and also had his ribs sawn open to remove cysts in his lungs. The best way I can describe his presence, is broken. My memories of him are of a strong man who was never afraid of a day of hard work. Now, it's hard work for him to just climb into the minivan. I love talking with them and spending time with them, but every visit just seems to shake me to my inner core. They are aging, more so every time I see them. Which only can mean one thing: I am aging too. And, all this forces me to face my parents mortality as well as my own. I can not imagine a life without my mother. It is beyond my comprehension right now. I feel like, as a young child she spent more time tending to my father and the house than she did tending to us kids. As a teen, I hated her wisdom and her rules that kept me safe. As a young adult, I resented her attempts to guide me on a path that would be safe and prosperous. But now as an adult, mother, and wife, I feel like I haven't gotten to know her enough. I feel like we've just only recently reconnected. I want more time. I know I have it, but every time I talk to her I wonder, How much time does she have? 3 years? 10 years? 20 years? Her own mother died when she was 56 (her mother being 86). If I make it to 56 and my mother is still alive, she will be 94. I don't realistically expect that, but I would be so grateful if I could enjoy her for another 20 years.

On a less somber note, but with a twinge of bitterness: my parents are classically short-visitors. They arrived Tuesday morning, and are leaving Wednesday morning. I don't get it! This is the first time I've seen my dad since April (my mom since August) and they can only stay for ONE DAY?!?!? They always say, "We gotta get movin'!" Moving where? To the early bird special? Whatever. On the one hand, I know they've always been like this. On the other hand, I want to scream at them! In 2008, I think I spent a total of maybe 5 days in the presence of my dad. What's so flippin important in Florida that he has to skip out after seeing his daughter, son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren for one day?

Also, I think one reason I don't want them to leave is that them leaving means back to life as usual - chores, childcare, running errands, playing referee to sibling rivalry, telling my children "no" twice as often as I tell them "yes", etc.

I am truly hoping that 2009 shows itself as one filled with more peace, comfort, and joy. I know I could sure use it.

And, to all of you bloggers who've actually made it this far to the bottom of this pathetically long and whiny post, thank you for you. Why do you all follow my crazy ramblings? I am still amazed that what I say is of any interest or enjoyment to anyone else besides myself. But, knowing that you do read for whatever reason, gives me so much happiness. Writing a blog is so very therapeutic for me, if I can say that without sounding trite. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is because I know you are listening. Our society is all about talk talk talk talk talk. Interrupting is no longer considered rude. Everyone has something to say, and they've got a right to say it! I think listening is almost becoming a lost art. How many people do you know that are good listeners? People who sit quietly while you talk without offering advice or asking questions or making judgments? I know very few and cannot count myself as one. But reading your comments mean the world to me. Even if it's just "Thanks. Great post!" I get such a high from it. So, thanks for reading and I look forward to getting to know everyone much better in 2009. I can't make any promises of posts that are exceptionally edgy or funny or insightful. But, they will certainly be me.

16 comments:

Jamie said...

I'm sorry that your holiday season has been a little bit of a roller coaster. I hope that 2009 is a great year for you and your family!

Happy New Year!

Femin Susan said...

Hi......
Your blog is really interesting... Keep posting.... Wishing you " A Happy New Year''

Text Imps said...

For some of us, reading is just as therapeutic as writing. Thank YOU for writing. (Cuz heaven knows I couldn't afford a doctor with a real degree hanging on her wall)

vanna said...

Here's to finding you again in 2009! I love your ramblings and i am a very good listener!!
May every path you take in 2009 lead you to a place where all your wishes and dreams come true!!

Cindy said...

Hoping 2009 is what you need. Happy New year-don't stop blogging!

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

i really hope you can find a church home soon--it makes such a difference!
It's normal to blue after Christmas--I always do. Call it holiday hang-over.
Regardless--you are a great person, made in the image of God and He has great things for you. Hold tight--'09 will be fine :)

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Sometimes the holidays are just dang hard. And only visiting ONE day? I do understand that frustration. My dad & step mom keep saying they don't have the money to come visit us, but they have the money to go to Glacier national park for 2 weeks.. mmmkay....

Big hugs, and hopes for a fabulous 2009!!

Carrie Thompson said...

Gretchen,

I hear you and I am praying for you and I loved your post because it was just a big ol' picture of you and how you really feel! I love getting to know the real person! I am sorry about church, I do feel your pain there being at a new church and I remember distinctly having Emily at Baby Sally's age and "leaving" church cuz she wouldnt stay in the nursery and sitting on a toilet in the bathroom crying! I also know that the season passed -no matter how hard the season is while you are in the season!!! KNOW that it will pass.

You can do something about some of your problems. I will help in anyway I can! I will read the Bible through in a year with you! or converse about teh Scripture you read that day! I am sure we can sharpen each other!!!!

The realization of your parents and the pain that causes---Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of my mom and dad (who are still relatively young) and see them getting older and it scares me too! I think we all come to that place in life when we KNOW our parents wont be around and that is scary. We are all there with you in that fear and the only thing I can say is do what you can do. Spend the "day" you have with them in the fullest. Try to go see them if possible, call every day, take pictures adn video when you are together. Just love them now, even if they only stay one day!

I am listening. I read every post and I see you when I read it! I am not there everyday but I want you to stop saying you have no friends in Texas cuz you have ME! I know it is not the same but hey!!

luv
your fellow texas

jori-o said...

I think a lot of us are feeling similar to you--a little disconnected from what we want to feel. So be assured, you are NOT alone there! The spiritual side of life is SO vital and yet SOOO easy to neglect!

And I just love your style, woman! You've got such a sassy, REAL way with words. I really admire your writing!

Have a happy, wonderful 2009!

Sarah said...

I bet you would enjoy a church that has a large cry room with mirror in the back of the sanctuary ~ it would make it easy for your kiddos to be with you w/o having to take baby out.

I hope you find what you're looking for in a church in 2008!

Jen said...

You are too much girlfriend! I love you, really do and I am so glad to have you as a friend. I can't wait to see what 2009 brings, heck it can't be any worse than the shock of triplets (yes that really came in 2006 but still it was a shock). So heres to what every life gives us and we can get through it b/c we have each other. ;)

Mrs. S said...

Thank you for always being so honest! I feel like you probably feel a weight off of you for even having "posted it out loud"...I hope that you are able to find your spiritual way..it definetly makes all the difference in the world. This year has forced me to look at myself spiritually and I do not know what I would have done without that strength! I hope 2009 is kind to you and brings you all the happiness you deserve!!

Happy New Year!

The Nice One said...

I'm sorry your struggling.

You know...some years just suck. We all go through such changes at times. I'm certainly hoping that you have a way better 2009 than you did a 2008.

Anna See said...

I'm with you on more Bible, fewer Blogs. I need to get this in better balance, too. And now I work, AT A CHURCH, so my Sunday mornings seem more about work than worship. Ugh. I knew that could happen, but was hoping it wouldn't happen. Love you blog!

Janelle said...

I TOTALLY understand about trying to find a church. My hubby works every Sunday, too, and I've had the same problems. I have visited several churches, but none make me actually feel welcome. I guess I was spoiled in Arkansas when we helped start and build a church. I will probably never find that closeness again, but I'll keep looking...it just isn't easy!!

Bridgett said...

Ok, I'm confused--do I have you confused with someone else (seriously, no sarcasm intended)? I thought TXPapa was a minister. Is he not attached to a specific church? Did I miss that?

I LOVE the idea of reading the story in an actual barn...we wouldn't have that opportunity here, either, not even a garage or a shed, but what a great experience that would be.

Church hunting is so hard, though, to go back to the crux of this. Mike and I floated from parish to parish for two years, registered with the one we're at now but didn't really commit to attending for a long time, I considered joining another denomination for a while--it is so hard to find a good community and find a place in it. Ugh.