There have been rumblings around the water cooler of my small world, and the rumbles are saying this, over and over again:
We are tired. We are weary. December is wearing us thin and our knuckles are beginning to dry and crack, souls soon to follow. For some of us, it’s the endless sales and deals of a crazy consumerist Christmas. For others, it’s grieving the loss of another place setting at the dinner table. For others still, it’s the rush of dinners and parties and expectations, celebrations designed to dazzle but leave us feeling frenzied. For a few more, it’s the anticipation of family drama and dredged memories that leave our shoulders tense, lips biting, waiting for the blow.
Ken and I decided early on in our marriage that we would fight – hard – to protect December. We’d keep it quiet, with loads of silent nights and midnight clears and peace-on-Earths. We’re pretty good at jam-packing things into the far corners of our calendar, so we promised ourselves that December would be a month of less. Of slow. Of subtraction. If a year is a week, December would be our much-awaited Sabbath.
And for the most part, we’ve been semi-successful. We decided not to send holiday cards this year, one less check mark on the list. We decorated the tree, watched the movies, practiced being weak-strong and began to define what Christmas means for our family. We’re releasing the rest, one year at a time.
And on the outside, it’s working. The calendar is sort of wide open, and I’ve been playing with Bee a lot, and we’ve been wearing our slippers and baking candied pecans.
But then, I’ll yell, just like that. And the sweet, maple syrup roasted pecans turn sour.
My skin is just so, so thin in the winter. I often wonder if it’s not the lack of sun that gets me, but instead, the thinning of my skin. The outside world just permeates me to the core and slips inside – it always has. I need that extra layer of skin to keep from taking on the stress of others and using it to fuel my own.
Yesterday, I watched a mother slap her child in the candy aisle of Target, and it stung me to the core. It seeped into my cracked knuckles and stayed there, and I felt it.
Less than two hours later, I heard another mother scream in anger that her child was never getting another present again because he was horrible, horrible! And it seeped in, and I felt it.
I know these mothers; I am these mothers. I know (or I think I know, rather) that they’re upset about something else, something different, and the reaction is just right there – just under the surface. That their skin is a little thin these days, this month, and they’re really just working hard to put one foot in front of another all of the other months, and December feels a little like the finish line, but the kind where you’re loaded with extra gifts to wrap and weird appetizers to create and – when you’re really just trying to run a good race – it puts quite a bit of extra luggage on your back.
I read a passage this morning, from Matthew: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28)
It seeped into my cracked knuckles and stayed there, and I felt it.
Come to me. Learn from me, he says. I am gentle. I am humble. You will find rest.
In December, few are gentle. Few are humble. We’re all kind of just running around with tinsel on our feet and to do lists in our head. And it’s pretty hard to find rest in our inbox, or in the aisles of Targets, or even while baking those candied pecans I so love to love.
And so, this month, this day, I will seek to learn. I will seek gentleness and humility and I will seek rest.
And it will seep into my cracked knuckles and stay there, and I will feel it.