... And... with the first red envelope in my mailbox this morning, my favorite season of the year is here.
It's Christmas card season.
There's been this trend lately of people just not doing Christmas cards.
I get it. I do. Christmas cards can be expensive, time consuming, and with everyone and their grandmother on social media, it seems a lot easier to put up a Facebook picture and be done with the whole thing.
But I just can't help myself. I love Christmas cards.
When infertility is an issue, family gatherings and holiday parties can be minefields.
The questions. There are always questions.
When will you two have a little one?
You look so nice holding a baby... when can we expect one from you?
Don't you want kids?
Honestly, they almost always mean well, but knowing that doesn't help in the moment.
Good intentions don't keep me from, say, choking on that sip of sparkling cider, my face turning as red as those holiday napkins, and then hurrying to hide in the bathroom to cry. Not that I've done that. <ahem.>
The truth is, as well-meaning as they may be, the majority of the people asking those baby-related questions just don't understand.
They can't. They haven't been there.
It can be so tempting to just grin and bear it, put on a mask and hide my true feelings. Sometimes it's a bit of survival, too.
But when I'm not really being myself, really being transparent, I'm also not letting anyone else in.
It's different when it's with my sister, though.
My sister and I are very much alike, and she's kind of my go-to person when it comes to dealing with some of the holiday family drama. We are similar enough that she really understands a lot of the struggles I'm dealing with, because she's been there.
That kind of empathy is important- it creates a special relationship. We can be transparent with one another, because she gets it.
And so I missed it.
Yep. I didn't put up a blessings post on the most thankful week of the year, and I've been totally slacking on the blessings posts this month...
But you know? It's just the season I'm in right now.
We all have seasons. For me, this season is about intentionally finding the blessings even in hard things... and maybe that means fully living them first. The daily quiet gratitude I'm fighting for... maybe it needs to be deeper, even more personal.
And that's okay.
Gravel crunched under the tires as we pulled into the small parking lot. I don't even know that you could really even call it a parking lot-- it was more like a little dirt patch right by the road.
The church was adorable- like something off a Christmas card-- traditional white clapboard, the quaint steeple pointed to the sky. It looked like it had been transplanted, amidst all the close-together houses and long-neglected businesses. Everything around it needed paint, and the crisp whiteness of the church looked out of place.
I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from this tiny little church in this tiny little town.
Don't get me wrong- it's not like rural Iowa is bustling- but what kind of congregation could come out of a one-horse, run down village like this?
Our honeymoon was months in the making.
We had shiny, slick paper brochures and Pinterest boards. We had circled must-see spots on crinkly, weathered maps. We knew just what we wanted to see, and when, and how long we wanted to stay there.
Finally, the day of our departure arrived. Trevor and I packed the car with our sleeping bags and tent and clothing, filled it with clothes and food and our big plans.
And you know? Lots of things happened that were... unexpected. Surprises, if you will.
The rental car broke down outside of Salt Lake City and we had to switch vehicles- which meant a trip into the city we hadn't planned and a delay that wasn't part of our schedule. We'd expected to camp at the Grand Canyon, but a snowstorm made that impossible and we had to find a hotel at the last minute. We'd allotted too much time for some places, and not enough time for other places.
In spite of all of our planning, surprises still popped up.
Can you believe that we're only one short week away? I can't. It came up quickly this year.
One of my favorite things about Advent, though, is the books. Yes, I might overdo it with Advent devotionals, so I've limited myself to just one a year. And this year it seems especially tough.
That's the nice way to say it.
But I've also been called stingy, a cheapsake, a scrooge.
I may have avoided buying groceries before winter break in college and spent two days eating brownie mix and milk.
I just might mend my husband's shorts over and over until I'm putting patches on top of patches.
I know how to stretch a penny, how to feed a bunch of people with one box of Hamburger Helper, how to comb through thrift store racks for specific items.
I'm kind of proud of it, actually.
And I don't think that there's anything inherently wrong about being cautious with our family's budget. Being intentional about how we spend our money has allowed us to go on vacations and make some pretty awesome memories.
But it can definitely go too far.