Friday, November 21, 2014

to my friends who are new wives and new moms this holiday season

If you're celebrating a "first" this holiday season, your first holiday as a wife or as a mom, this blog post is for you.

I come from a family that is all about Christmas and traditions. Not in an over-the-top way, but growing up we really looked forward to the holidays. I knew that my mom was going to put up beautiful decorations that made our house feel like, well, a Christmas card. I knew that on Christmas Eve we ate homemade clam chowder, sang Christmas hymns and opened our present-laden stockings. My parents found a wonderful way to make the holidays about Jesus and family, and it felt magical. Some of my favorite childhood memories are wrapped up inside this holiday.

My first Christmas as a wife?
We ate lunch meat ham served on top ramen noodles.
Talk about some major holiday disappointment. Let me back up a little.

Brian and I were 21 and we'd been married for just over 8 weeks. We'd recently moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to be on staff with a missions organization, and were preparing to go overseas for a few months - so we were not rolling in the dough. We lived in a dorm room, complete with termites and lime green carpet, and I don't really need to say that it was definitely NOT cozy winer weather; a balmy 78 degrees was pretty average for a December day in Hawaii. My only Christmas decorations were from a box that my mom so lovingly shipped to me, including a "make your own stockings kit," which we never got around to (sorry Mom!) - so I had a row of knitted mittens hung on our wall, and not much else in the way of Christmas cheer.

Newlywed babies in Hawaii

Brian and I woke up on Christmas morning and exchanged presents. He opened a new flashlight, and I opened an odd, ill-fitting dress (think mustard yellow, pink-tie-dye, eyelets, and a bow, all in one dress - he's a much better gift giver now!). We spent time with friends during the day and Skyped with our families. Then, when it was time for Christmas dinner, we headed to our kitchen where all we had left was lunch meat ham and top ramen. So my sweet husband, the caretaker and provider that he is, heated up that ham on a frying pan and served it to me over some salty top ramen.

Can you guess how much I cried that day?
This was not the sparkly, cinammon-scented, newlywed Christmas I had imagined. I didn't bake Christmas cookies while wearing a sexy Mrs. Claus apron (still haven't done that, for the record). There was no Christmas ham, unless you count the lunch meat. There was no tree. I felt like I had failed as a wife and ruined our family's future holidays, with no cutesy traditions or magical stories to tell to our someday children. I was not my mom, and this was not Christmas.

You know what?
We laugh so hard now as we retell that story. God has written some unique, and honestly funny, chapters of our family's story.
Since that first Christmas, we've spent holiday seasons in our parents homes, in cozy dorm rooms and apartments, and one Christmas in Guatemala - complete with a tiny Christmas tree we packed in our suitcase and watching our Guatemalan friends light off gigantic, slightly terrifying fireworks.
Our first Christmas as parents consisted of flying home to Washington with a 2-week-old Nicholas.
I was recovering from a c-section and was wonderfully postpartum chubby and lethargic. Christmas Day I had a cold and took a nice long nap - don't remember what else happened besides trying to fit a tiny Nicholas into his stocking for a photo.  :)
Last year we lived with my mother in law and I didn't even get out our Christmas decorations.

Christmas in Guatemala  |  2-week-old Nicholas
1-year-old Nicholas  |  2-year-old Nicholas

To my friends who are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas as new wives or new moms - it's ok if the day isn't perfect. It probably won't be. If it's poo blowouts in your baby's special Christmas outfit, or opening a very small stack of presents inside of your meagerly-decorated newlywed home, or top ramen and lunch meat for dinner - let yourself enjoy it. This is part of the unique, beautiful, funny story that God is writing for your family.

Let Him write your story.
Let Jesus be present with you, because He is.
Whether your day consists of moments you'd never want to share on Instagram, or if it ends up being totally dreamy - don't despise the small beginnings.
This is a beautiful part of your story, whether it's a hard chapter or a warm and fuzzy one.

You will probably look back one day and laugh.
And if it's not a funny story, but instead a painful one - I bet one day you will remember this time with a humble gratefulness, thanking God for all He taught you and for how faithful He has been through the hard stuff.

Here's to humble holiday beginnings, letting the Lord write our stories, and enjoying the reality and beauty that comes with new babies, new experiences, and the ever-shifting stories God is writing into our lives.

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