wife. mother. teacher. recovering scaredy cat
They were scattered all over my kitchen counter, mocking me and my failed attempts to capture the Christmas spirit. These old fashioned tin cookie cutters with their wooden painted handles were once my grandmothers. My aunt had given them to me after she passed away. My daughter was just a toddler at the time, but my Aunt Linda thought that I might like to use them for Christmas baking when she was a little bit older.
Oh, how right she was. I don’t think that I have ever received a more meaningful keepsake.
I have so many fond memories of watching my daughter pull them out of the old red pot where they are kept. The look of excitement on her face is priceless as she carefully selects her favorites; the old fashioned Santa Claus, a gingerbread man, the turtle dove. My son is always next in line, dipping his hand in to fish out the primitive hatchet. And no Christmas cookie sheet in our home would be complete without the silhouette of a camel or lion carved by our boy.
Knowing that my grandmother once held the same utensils that my children are using makes me feel rooted in tradition and the love of family. Baking with Nana Miller’s cookie cutters is always a hallmark of our Christmas season that has brought me so much joy.
Until this year.
I guess I should preface this story by saying that I was feeling incredibly behind with all things Christmas this past week. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get ahead of the game. Exhausted, I collapsed into bed every night without a single vision of a dancing sugar plum. No teacher gift was made by my loving hands. My house was in disarray, and aside from a few packages that arrived from Amazon, not an ounce of Christmas shopping had been done. Everything about Christmas felt like a great big to do list instead of a festive season of joy, and I was crying all the way.
Determined to reclaim it, the hubs and I decided to divide and conquer yesterday. He would brave the crowded stores like the chivalrous man that he is. I would get things caught up around the house and we would eventually meet back together and manage to enjoy the beloved tradition of Christmas baking. Surely, the cookies would bring back a sense of Christmas accomplishment to this household and we could then move forward with great tidings of comfort and joy.
After cranking out a few chores and errands, I picked my daughter up from a friend’s house around noon. Completely sleep deprived, I knew that my beloved tween was most likely going to endure some sort of emotional breakdown if she didn’t have a chance to recharge.
Despite this well known fact and because I was all about making some happy memories if it killed me, I held tightly to my vision for the afternoon. We were moving right along with things at first; talking about her night and the fun that she had on the last day of school. And then, just as I began to take the cookie ingredients from the pantry, it happened.
I won’t get into the gory details as I’m sure you have your own stories from the trenches of raising pre-teen girls, but given my spirit of frenzy and her lack of rational thought, let’s just say that the conversation ended with me sending the sweet cherub to her room for some quiet time. And I was beginning to wonder if I needed the same.
So much for the smell of cookie nostalgia wafting through my hallways.
And as I heard her footsteps trudge up the stairs, my eyes filled with tears of frustration. I had spent the last two weeks chasing down Christmas like a boss. I was doing everything in my power to make jolly happen up in this place and with every effort of striving, it was getting farther and farther away from me.
"Let’s just skip the eggnog and caroling,” I grudgingly grumbled as I stared at the cookie cutters, “This just isn't my year to do Christmas."
Then, like the first snowflakes of winter that fall, the memories of my grandmother began to gently return to me one by one. Her entire life was about the Christmas season but it never pointed to any one tradition, no matter how sweet. Instead, it pointed to a baby who came over two thousand years ago to save the world. She lived a humble life of gratitude because of this and it was because of her example that I came to believe the story of the baby as well.
And despite what I already believed to be true, there I was, feeling like the joy of Christmas depended on me.
I miss the entire meaning of the Christmas season when I forget to celebrate what has already been done, and instead believe the lie that none of it can be ushered in without my hard work.
We eventually did manage to get those cookies baked. After a big hug and some laughter through tears, we decided to try again. And the grace of that moment was yet another reminder that the only work of Christmas that really matters is the work that takes place in my heart by a God who loves me.
This holiday season might just go down in the books as one of the all time, most ill prepared Yuletides that we have ever had. But I can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that despite what does or doesn't get accomplished, Christmas has already come; without ribbons, without tags, without boxes, without bags, without anything that I could have done or ever could do to make it happen.
And because of this I can find my rest in the midst of a busy season and can sleep in heavenly peace.