Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas, Honestly

Sally, who is a dear, encouraging friend, commented on my last post about how my Christmas has been "relaxed and wonderful." By her remark, she unknowingly pushed me to write this post that I've been mulling over for quite a few days: the other side of my Christmas, so to speak.

But first, a quick run-down of our celebration, and then a few pictures...

Christmas Eve - we went to a candlelight service at our church, came home, let the older boys open one gift each, then finally settled them down for their "camp-out" that I've already mentioned

Christmas Day - my parents came up the hill, Jeff read the last chapter of Jotham's Journey (this book was a huge hit this year; we'll definitely get one of the other books in this series for next year's Advent season), we opened gifts, then got busy preparing for our guests...we broke with tradition and had an Italian feast...our friend Kevin, the painter, joined us for lunch, as did Misty & family...eight kids in the house made for a lively, joyous, loud celebration and quite a full house...I wouldn't have wanted it any other way

Misty came with her camera and blessed us by emailing us last night with a few pictures that she took; I was thrilled! :)

Josiah looks so grown-up to me...

David waiting for lunch...if Tobin's classic pose is left thumb in mouth, right hand at bellybutton, David's classic pose is left thumb in mouth, right hand holding the cuff of his left sleeve...he used to do this as a young toddler, and it takes me back in time to see him still doing it...this boy loves to feel things, and soft materials are very appealing to him...

I adore this picture of Tobin...boys in sweaters are the cutest things...

Shav thought napping in his cradle was for the birds...with all these people around, surely someone could hold him, right?...well, yes, of course, someone could...even though you can't tell, Shav is being held by Chris, Misty's husband, in this picture...Shav got passed around a lot, but no one seemed to mind...

Shav also was entertained by watching all the other, Houston, the second child of Chris and Misty, gets big grins from Shav...

And my favorite picture of all... :)
Thank you, Misty, for these; they are treasures!!

Now, back to Sally's comment... In my blog, I try to paint a fairly honest picture of life in the Fisher household. I don't want to be guilty of sugar-coating everything and pretending like everything is always great and our boys get along so well all the time and I never have huge piles of laundry or rampant dust bunnies under the couches and I'm always so sweet and patient and grateful for my current life situation. But neither do I want to focus on the negative things in life and allow this blog to turn into an emotional landfill--just a place to dump the mental garbage that accumulates as I go through my days. Finding the balance is tough, and I've admitted that before. In each day, there are joys and hardships; and what I choose to focus on is what determines the overall flavor of that day in particular and my life in general. Philippians 4:8 often comes to mind when I try to figure out how to approach the blog.

Nine days ago, I revealed in a post that I was going through a time of deep thoughts and difficult decisions; and as I continued in that mode, I chose to keep the blog light: posting about the snow, a recipe, some videos, pictures of the boys, a story I found on someone else's site, etc. Nothing too heavy, nothing too raw. I needed to do that at the time; but on this night, I can write more freely about what has been going on behind the scenes.

This has been a very difficult Christmas for me, and tears have often been close to the surface. Three factors--grief, stress, and fatigue--have combined to form a very ugly trio that has been hounding me incessantly for the past week and a half--actually, a little longer. The fatigue is easy to understand: with Shav's recent inability to sleep through the night, and with extra time pressures on me having to do with Christmas obligations, I haven't been getting a whole lot of sleep. Staying up until midnight or 1:00 AM every night, only to be awakened an hour or two later by a baby in need of soothing, doesn't do much to make a woman feel well-rested! So fatigue was a factor.

Stress was also high, as it is for so many people during this season of the year. Even though I consciously tried to simplify my activities and reduce the expectations I placed upon myself, I still managed to place myself in a position of attempting to juggle more balls than I successfully could. Besides regular household and family obligations (which often feel like more than enough to keep in the air at one time), there were two additional things that I felt very stressed by. One is silly: it was wrapping the gifts for the boys. Even though I knew better, I ended up procrastinating in that area; and by Christmas Eve I had not wrapped ANY of our gifts for the boys. So while the boys were having a calm, bright, joyful, memory-making time in the living room, I was sequestered in my room, pulling gifts out of my closet, figuring out what was for who, stuffing them in gift bags (more than ever, I LOVE gift bags! they saved me so much time), covering them with tissue paper, and labeling them--all the while, knowing that in less than 12 hours, the gifts would be opened and no one would care how the wrapping looked. It actually only took an hour and half to wrap everything, but still--that wasn't exactly how I wanted to spend my time from 11:00 PM on Christmas Eve until 12:30 AM on Christmas Day. Oh well, you do what you have to. In any case, in the days leading up to Christmas, I felt this pressure on me, knowing that in the abyss of my closet were gifts that would need to be brought out and wrapped to contribute to the joy of my boys on Christmas.

The other thing that added stress to my life--and this is undoubtedly more important than wrapping gifts--was planning our church's Christmas Eve service. I still remember volunteering during a Worship Committee meeting...sure, I could plan the service! I actually really enjoy doing things like that; I get inspired as ideas for music and stories and ways to weave it together and people to involve start flowing through my mind. But even as I volunteered, I thought, "Davene, what are you doing? Are you sure you should take this on?" I always forget that the hard, time-consuming part is not the initial planning--that is usually a time of fun, energizing brain-storming--but the hard part comes with the myriad of details that need to be attended to, many of them at the last minute. Even the morning of Christmas Eve itself was spent dealing with various tasks for the service: communicating with someone about the PowerPoint that was acting up in strange ways, making sure the candlelighter knew his role, sending an email to someone to let them know that someone else was playing a song in the prelude, checking about who was dimming the lights at a certain point in the service, etc. None of these by itself are huge time-consuming things. Put them together, however, and it all adds up to STRESS.

The third part of this triumvirate that was seeking to rule my mind and destroy my peace was grief. Why grief? Because during this time, Jeff and I came to the very hard decision to leave our church and look for another fellowship. This isn't the proper forum for going into all the details; but in short, it became obvious that our convictions, values, and priorities on a number of issues were significantly different than those of the leadership, and it seemed extremely ineffective to keep pounding square pegs (ourselves) into round holes (the church). I've heard from several people who have left churches in the past, and they say, "It feels like a divorce." Although I thankfully don't know what a divorce feels like from personal experience, I can definitely relate to the sense of tearing and ripping that is happening as we separate and go our own way. It is hard. Very, very hard. We have made beloved friends at our church, we have loved and been loved, we have created beautiful memories, our boys have enjoyed so much their time there, we have dedicated two of our sons there, we have been supported and encouraged in so many ways by various members of the congregation, we have been healed of some scars inflicted by another church situation there, we have learned and grown in areas in which we needed to be spurred on...and we are grateful. But we believe that God is making it very clear that the time has come to move on. But ouch! My heart aches, not only for myself, but for those we are hurting in the process. I hate to inflict pain on others; I hate for others to suffer or be inconvenienced by the decisions we make.

When I think about these three factors--grief, stress, and fatigue--I think that the only one that is big and important is the grief about leaving our church. But during these past weeks, I could see very clearly that these three were ganging up on me, and each one contributed to the others seeming HUGE. By itself, a bit of temporary sleep deprivation shouldn't drive me to tears. Combine it with stress and grief, and it did. By itself, the thought of wrapping Christmas gifts shouldn't feel like a gigantic, insurmountable task. Combine it with fatigue and grief, and it did. By itself, the plans for a Christmas Eve service shouldn't be so daunting. Combine it with the grief of knowing that this would be one of our last times with this congregation and that I would need to stand in the circle at the end of the service, holding my candle, having lit it from the candle of a congregation member to my left and passing it on to someone on my right, looking around at the precious faces of people I truly love, remembering moments of connection with them, and all the while trying to lead some Christmas carols with tears pushing at my eyelids and a huge lump in my throat... No wonder the service felt daunting.

During this time, I coped in several ways:
~ I had a few people who were sounding boards for me.
~ I reminded myself that there was a definite end point for all of this. The stress, in particular, would come to an end once the Christmas Eve service was over, the gifts were wrapped, and night fell on Christmas Day. I knew I could relax then.
~ In my family, we tend to have our big family Christmas on a day other than Christmas itself; and in fact, this year, we won't have that gathering until January 3. That takes a lot of stress off Christmas Day; and it also frees us up to host a variety of other people on that day, something we've done from the time we lived in California through our time in Israel and now here. I really love this part of our Christmas celebration. The combination of guests is always unique, and it brings a different flavor to the day. In recent years, we've only had small gatherings; but in both California and Israel, we hosted some groups that were quite large. I could do a whole post on that, but not tonight...
~ As I was kicking myself for being so stupid as to procrastinate on gift-wrapping and as I was wishing that my Christmas Eve was filled with relaxation and serenity instead of last-minute hustle and bustle, the thought came to my mind that on the first Christmas, Mary worked. I can't imagine how her labor and delivery was, but even if she was blessed with a pain-free delivery, I'm sure she had to work at it. Maybe the whole idea of "silent night...all is calm and bright" is a fallacy. :)
~ And on the blog, I kept it light, thus leading to Sally's impression that my Christmas was "relaxed and wonderful." :)

Looking back, I can firmly say that there have been some very wonderful aspects of this Christmas; but much of it has not been easy. I hope to grow from this...but I also hope to never have another Christmas quite like this one!! :)


bekahcubed said...

Oh, Davene, it does sound like you have been having a tough last few weeks--I can't imagine the difficulty of having to make the decisions you are about the church.

Please know that I am praying for you and Jeff and the boys as you search for a new church--and praying that the relationships you built in this fellowship would continue even as you seek a new fellowship.

Mike and Katie said...

Leaving a church fellowship is always the hardest part about moving for my husband's job. At the beginning of this last move, we attended large churches where we could just blend into the background while we grieved.

It is a process.

Sally said...

Wow! Thanks for being honest. Being a mommy changes so much--you are the one who puts all the sweat into making things special and memorable for your children. I want to blog about our Christmas, but I don't know if it will be tonight. Also, thanks for the reminder about Phil. 4:8. I needed that.

Oh, oh, the part about seeking a new church fellowship. We did that right a the same time that Paul was born, and I was leaving my circle of friends/co-workers at RMH for good, and it was Christmas also. Definitely hard, very hard. I feel for you, but I trust God will faithfully lead you where He needs you--both for service and to feed you. I will be praying for you all in this.

I also hope that Shav re-starts sleeping through the night. I have to say, I was SO IMPRESSED when he started sleeping so much at night so early. Mine usually started sleeping 7-8 hours at night around 4 mo. old--when I started them on solids--and didn't stretch out to too much more than that until they hit 1 year old. Then, they started sleeping 11 hours at night (and I felt like I had won the lottery!).

Thanks for keeping up a wonderful blog. I hope you all have a healthy and more relaxed rest of the year. (We won't come visit to help with the first one, since we're still sick.)

Polly said...

Bless you, Davene! You did have a lot on your plate, both in terms of your schedule *and* emotionally. Many things are wonderful when small children are in the house, but not many are relaxed, I think! :) Your church change sounds like it has been wrenching. Hang in there. You amaze me with all the stuff you do--wow, the Christmas service...!!!!I love to plan, too, but the little details are really what make things so draining and crazy! Here's to a fresh New Year--and maybe Shav will start sleeping through the night again!!

Stacey said...

My pastor just said something yesterday that hits home, "Growth doesn't happen in a comfort zone"! Stretching and growing is uncomfortable and sometimes very painful. I thank God for directing your foot steps. I am so inspired by you for listening to HIS will for your lives. I also know He is the one in control all the time. He Loves us so much and wants what is best for us. and I know that where ever you end up GOD has some one for you to bless!!!
I am praying for you Sister that this transition although painful might be eased by the ONE who knows you best and cares for you more than anyone else ever could! I pray peace upon you and your husband.

Love in Christ,

Home Instead said...

I'll be praying for wisdom for you both as you seek God's will. I almost always have that feeling that I'm a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole. It is exhausting to say the very least. God bless you.

Patti said...

I think the wrenching pain that is accompanying your difficult decision to leave your fellowship is evidence that you have truly been an integral part of a Body--amputation IS excruciating, but sadly, sometimes necessary. I will pray for steady wisdom for you and Jeff as you seek new community.

I wrapped in one late night session as well. It's one of my least favorite activities because I am simply not good at it. I wrapped some rain boots for Harper and actually laughed aloud at how lumpy and horrible the wrap job looked. The kids didn't seem to mind at all.