"Calm down. You can just come get a few of my gifts for her and put them under your tree." I sat in our tiny apartment crying on the phone to my mom on Christmas Eve. Staring at our hand-me-down fake Christmas tree and the gifts underneath, it made me go into full freak out mode. I grew up with a TON of presents under the tree. It was absolutely ridiculous (in the best way possible for a kid) the amount of presents each one of us had to open. There were four of us kids in my family, so sometimes the entire room would be stacked waist deep with presents all around us. Every year, there was a loud gasp and usually a squeal (from my oldest brother, of course....kidding Bub! I'm the only girl, so it was me...) as we walked in and were overwhelmed by ALL that Santa left for us.
As teenage parents, Nick and I did the best we could our first year on our own with working two jobs, including overtime every week. But I had such high expectations for Christmas presents that it just wasn't enough for our one-year-old's holiday in my mind. That year, I knew my heart for Christmas was off.
Fast forward a few kids (we are seriously outnumbered now!) and I saw that same spirit in my adorable little angels. It was never enough. Literally, nothing satisfied the Want Monster deep within them. As a parent, I realized how frustrated my parents must have been that they worked so hard for ALL those presents and we always wanted MORE. As a Christian, I realized we were even further from the true character of Christmas as we focused on what presents we received under the tree.
When I first heard of Advent, I thought for sure that it was some old-school "church people" stuff that just wasn't my jam. I'm New Age, and if the cute, trendy hipster girl singing on the church stage didn't do it...neither did I. I was not about to knit all of my presents or do a weird seance type of ceremony every night. No thanks. Strong pass.
Except then I learned more about this season of celebration, and the stuff they did wasn't what struck me. It was the FOCUS that caught my heart. A season of anticipation that transformed the Christmas holiday from what presents we will get each other, to the gift we already received in Jesus. This whole idea was an answered prayer! Who would've thought? We should actually remember the birthday dude as we use Him for eggnog and Christmas parties! My heart had been outta-whack from the beginning. Starting with exhausting my poor parents who never left something uncrossed on our Christmas list (aside from a pony. I'm still waiting on that), to that first Christmas in a tiny apartment, seeing the lack of presents under the tree for my own little one, all the way to the pressure I feel now with my older children who think it's never enough.
The past few years we've managed to get to the true heart of our Christmas season by celebrating Advent. We do simple things together once a week that remind us just why we even celebrate this holiday. This was just what my family, what I, needed to quiet the Want Monster and liven our praise for The Prince of Peace. It never goes perfectly, and I'm still running around like crazy trying to find a stupid Hatchimal (shameless plea: if you have a hook up for one of these - LET ME KNOW!!). But the point is, our FOCUS is Jesus...amidst all the crazy and sometimes the tears and fighting and busy classroom parties, our family says "Jesus, we wait for the greatness of your birth and then we celebrate it, because you are the best present the world could ever receive."
This is Candace. She hates long walks on the beach and would prefer a short drive to get a doughnut. Her creative spirit leaves her husband constantly guessing which room she'll decorate next and her kids requesting elaborate birthday parties. She'll tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it. But don't worry, she'll make you laugh to soften the blow. Her heart longs to share the realness of her life and provide someone else a "me too" in a moment of isolation. Words are her thing; she writes to heal. God grasped a hold of Candace as a teenage mama, and she's been desperate for His love and sensitive to His voice everyday since.