I heard a great sermon this weekend about expecting the unexpected. You’ve probably heard me wax poetic about the Clark Griswold-esque expectations we often put on the holidays, but this sermon really brought it home to me. My main takeaway from it is that, instead of being disappointed when the 12-foot tree doesn’t fit in our house and the Christmas turkey implodes (which is disappointing, don’t get me wrong), we should also embrace the idea that great things can come, at any time, when we aren’t expecting them. The pastor’s illustration came in a disappointing moment at Disney when his girls were too tired to really enjoy meeting Elsa and Anna. Seriously? Who wouldn’t love meeting Elsa and Anna? His kids. Instead, when they found other princesses and a gorgeous rainbow in the sky later in the day, he had photographic proof that sometimes the magic happens when we least expect it. So, in the spirit of sharing my holiday hilarity, here are a few things that met or didn’t meet my expectations.
I made a turkey for Thanksgiving. It was my first ever turkey because, let’s face it, I’ve been sitting at the kids’ table my whole life, and then I’ve gotten a pass from the older generation because I have little kids…lots of them! The turkey was delicious, much easier than I thought it would be (thank you, Butterball!), and no one contracted Ebola. Win.
Also on Thanksgiving, we made sock packets for the homeless, which included lots of toiletries, granola bars, and warm socks…in a sock! This was a Pinterest idea. While I thought the magic of giving would light up my kitchen, the reality was more of bored kids who used the socks as Hunger Games weapons to throttle each other because they were hungry and waiting for lunch. Then, the socks sat around the house for two weeks because I didn’t really know any homeless people and didn’t have a previous plan. BUT…I knew that Café Soul Food operated on Tuesdays in my town, so I just drove over there on a Tuesday. And you know what? I gave them to the guys who were smoking outside. And they couldn’t have been happier about them. I left it to them to distribute as they saw fit. Not exactly how I had it in my head, but better!
After Thanksgiving, my mom and stepdad gave Jeff and me the best present: TIME. We got to go Christmas shopping at a mall in Little Rock (WITHOUT THE KIDS!!!), where I found this little jewel in Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Because everyone’s bed should say, “I love hunting” and “I love Jesus” simultaneously. We didn’t know if we would get another chance to shop together since Jeff is so busy at work, so we were feeling some pressure to get it all done quickly. And then came the Hunting Halo.
I love ordering online, don’t you? This wallet came to our house last year…for my kids. Yes, Sarah’s and Tate’s names were on the package, and when I discovered what it was…well, thank you, Amazon. Our best guess is that…it wasn’t from my mother. Shocker, right? And Amazon must’ve shipped it to us erroneously, unless someone really thought that Tate has a real future in Samuel L. Jackson impersonations. I’m starting a new tradition this year that the wallet will show up in some package for Jeff on Christmas morning each year. It is already hidden, so he’d better watch out…we don’t want any F-bombs on Christmas morning unless they come from the wallet. (I may have to amend this tradition when Tate learns to read. That could go horribly wrong.)
We are celebrating year two of Tate’s ironic costumes for his school’s Christmas pageant. On the left is his costume from last year, an angel, which never ceases to make me laugh. Ever. Tate as an angel is like George Costanza as Romeo…it doesn’t work, but it’s pretty funny. This year, Tate has donned the donkey costume, and don’t for a second believe that I haven’t noticed this hilariousness. After the pageant, where he sang front and center, knew a few words, and did a few motions, I was so proud that I couldn’t wait to get up and…may as well go for it…”kiss my ass.”
A crazy cast and I put on The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at our church this past weekend. At first, I wanted something for myself, a few minutes every other Saturday to remind myself that I am still a human being with a personality rather than a mom, slaving away for my kids, husband, and home each day. Of course, the play became much more to me. I made new friends from church (really wonderful friends!), was a part of something really good, settled into our church much better than ever, and hoped that our audience enjoyed it as much as we did. The reviews have been positive! In the final scene of the play, the Bradley family leaves the church after a surprisingly successful Christmas pageant. My character tells her son to leave the ham that the wild, crazy Herdmans left for Baby Jesus. Quoting Leroy Herdman who has just learned the meaning of Christmas, my character says, “It’s a present. You don’t take back a present.” In the last performance, a few unscripted tears made it nearly impossible for me to get the last line out. My “play husband” John said it best: “When you seek to be a blessing to others, you actually end up receiving an equally great blessing.” Well said, sir. The play is a present that I won’t be giving back, thanks!
This holiday season is different for me. Two years ago at this time, I would have been frantically grading about forty 10-page research papers to hand back at the end of the semester. Holiday shopping? Forget it. Even if I had enough time, I was pregnant, had two little kids, and was exhausted.
Christmas of 2013 saw us less busy, in a new state, trying to figure out what an Arkansas Christmas looked like. Where would we put our decorations and our tree? We didn’t know very many people yet, but on Christmas night, we got to go next door to our wonderful neighbors to celebrate not only Christmas but Tracy’s birthday (worst birthday in the world, right?). And it was perfect.
This Christmas, I see people I know at Target and the grocery store. I’m volunteering at the kids’ schools, I have just wrapped the Bad M-Effer wallet, and I helped our Sunday School class deliver food last night to needy people for Christmas. I didn’t know what to expect when we moved here…in fact, I was terrified. But it has exceeded my expectations.
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