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Finding the spirit of Christmas amid chaos
"The Magic of Children at Christmas," edited by Alicia Walters, contains childhood Christmas memories from 20 women. - photo by Alicia Walters
As December rolls around too quickly for busy mothers and fathers, the Christmas spirit can at times seem far off. As I reflect on loved ones who have passed on who I will not be able to wish a Merry Christmas, my heart feels a yearning for Christmases past. I find myself wanting to prepare the Christmas desserts I once shared with them and sing the songs we used to sing together.

Then my heart is heavier as I think of the expectations of my children and the emptiness of my wallet and all the preparations that must be made the cooking and cleaning to be done, the errands, the wrapping and rearranging the ornaments for the hundredth time after my children have done their best to disassemble the tree. At this time, I am not feeling the Christmas spirit I used to feel as a child.

In the larger picture, the world is torn apart. Political and cultural clashes ring out an overwhelming clatter and I want to hold my children close and protect them with all that I am. Im trying in the small way I can to make their Christmas memorable.

I took my children to a Christmas tree lot to see the seasonal reindeer Dasher and Dancer that have made their annual visit to town. We spent the afternoon at the mall; then, as we were leaving one store, the security alarm went off. I could feel my face turn red because I knew that my young son had snitched something. I pulled out my purse, the diaper bag, the pretzels my kids half ate, four bottles, a few random toys, a pile of napkins, four winter coats, two blankets, and at the bottom of all that a brand new Thomas the Train toy with the sticker on it.

"Oh, my son stuck this in here." I handed the toy back to the clerk and left with my disappointed son who is too young to understand money.

I pulled our stroller over to a mall bench and began the process of suiting up my four young children to go out into the cold to get back in our car. Between my fussy kids who are ready for dinner and a tired mom who doesnt feel like wrestling four wildebeests to get their coats on, it seemed like a great accomplishment to get everyone ready to go home.

Once there, I put away all the coats and hats, fed them dinner and put on a Christmas cartoon while I tried to get some wrapping done. There is a law of the universe that says that any mother who tries to accomplish anything will be met with opposition at every turn. Fair warning, if you have an aversion to nails on a chalkboard, paper cuts or people who chew ice, you may not want to read further.

As I tried hurriedly to wrap some Christmas presents, I got tape stuck to the inside of my mouth (dont ask) and pulled it off along with the top layer of skin. I did not feel the Christmas spirit then. Nor did I feel the Christmas spirit when one of my babies fell face first into the entertainment center, knocking the TV down and splitting the screen in two. Nor did I feel the Christmas spirit when the Christmas tree scented candle I ordered slipped out of my hands and shattered to pieces on the floor or when I felt my bare foot get a splinter of glass stuck in it.

I also don't feel the Christmas spirit about every 2.4 seconds when one of my children decides to wail and sob that one of my other children has taken his Beanie Boo, or that the Tooth Fairy didn't remember to bring her coins. Nor when hearing the constant sound of the metal spring door stoppers going "GA-BOI-ING!" as the babies entertain themselves, which is actually more pleasant than hearing one of the babies hit their head on the floor.

Such events have driven me to looking up the toxicity level of the poinsettia (for myself) but it turns out it has been grossly exaggerated, so at least the poinsettia is safe.

On the other hand, while the Christmas spirit I may feel is different than when I was a child, it is perhaps more full of hope than ever before hope that I will indeed see my loved ones again, hope that my children will one day know how much I love them, hope that as they see me dashing to and fro with piles of Christmas cards and bowls of cookie dough, they will get a taste of the joy that serving others brings.

Above all, regardless of what failings I may have as a mother or the constant ways our world is failing children, Jesus doesn't fail them, for it is he who said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 19:14).

Truly the Christmas spirit is never far from me because I feel it whenever I look into the guileless eyes of my children and remember who sent them to me.