I'm trying to raise kids who grow up to be kind, courageous, capable adults.
Usually that just makes me look at myself and laugh, or cry, because I am still working on that right in my own heart too.
This year, for Sam and Vava at least, I've been trying to keep my own voice out of their heads, and encourage them to think and plan ahead for themselves. So while my instinct is to pack their lunch bags all tidily into their backpacks, I've been trying to pull back and ask them, "do you have everything you need to take today?" And that gets those little brains in gear and they start to remember their lunch bags, their reading reports, their library books.
This morning I was helping Vava with her ponytail when I asked Sam, "do you have everything you need for the day?"
"Yes," he. replied, stuffing his snowpants into his back pack.
"Stop and think about it -"
"I already put them in!"
"Did you put your lunch bag in your backpack?"
"Uh - yes ..." he giggled, with that look of glee that sparks out only when he thinks he's pulling the wool over my eyes.
"I can see it on the counter," I called over my shoulder, chasing Pascal down the hall, wrestling him into his snowsuit.
"I mean the invisible one!" he hooted, winning.
"It's time to pack the visible one now," I ordered, helping Kachi into his socks.
And then one more time, just to be sure, as we were on our way to the bus stop. "Did you pack your visible lunch?"
But he's six and I should have checked the counter to be sure -
Because of course you know what I found when I got home.
So after a quick breakfast, I packed the kids back up into their snowsuits (the littles, and Vava too, because she was home sick today), and we made the trek to school to deliver Sam's lunch.
It wasn't a happy walk. The kids were cranky. We only had two stroller seats, so Pascal rode while Vava and Kachi took turns dawdling and complaining about the other person hogging the ride. It took an hour and a half and it felt like three times that.
My perspective was nose-to-road, get-this-done, should-have-worn-a-warmer-jacket, move-those-boots-and-puhlease-stop-whining.
But if I'd just taken a step back, I would have seen something beautiful.
The kids weren't blaming Sam. They were hoping to catch a glimpse of him, barely an hour after hugging him goodbye at the bus stop.
Instead of being cooped up inside, we were getting fresh air and exercise.
Most of the houses we passed had Christmas decorations up.
There isn't any snow right now, so we weren't fighting with ruts or ice on the sidewalks.
Objectively, I should have enjoyed myself.
But there I was, clomping along with boots and heart too heavy and dull.
I am unfailingly dumb.
I am so ready to plan and coach my kids along the paths they should walk, but I, too, forget to pack the things I need for the day.
Oh, I remember the visible ones for the most part.
But the invisible ones?
Eyes to see all the things Jesus holds out, to trade for my weariness.
And I stagger along with my empty backpack and my teeth grinding down in a get-this-over grimace.
I forget to lift my heart, to see the lights and gold and gladness. Days can roll by, weeks, of nothing more than to-do-lists and endless laundry.
But Christmas - Christmas is this annual reminder that the Holy Story matters everyday if it matters at all. The gospel floods in with its story of glory and faith and no room in the inn and it brings the Good Gift, time and again, to fill up an empty manger and an empty backpack and an empty heart.
So tomorrow I will do it all again. The lunches, the backpacks, the snowsuits, the bus stop -
and tomorrow I will stop, and I will fill up my own soul first.
I will open up those pages and I will sit with the King who was born in a manger until my eyes are ready to catch the glory in the ordinary.
And then I will run downstairs and kiss those faces and pack those lunches and walk those kids off to school.
With full backpacks.
And eyes wide open to all the good gifts.
Wishing you eyes to enjoy an ordinary, glorious, Merry Christmas, dear friends.