Christmas. It’s a time of giving. It’s a time of remembering just how much has been given to us. A time for peace on earth, silent nights and joy to the world. It’s also a time for shopping sprees and Christmas parties. For cookies and candy canes and bright lights and noisy toys. Peace and chaos. Joy filled silent wonder and sugar induced tantrum hysteria. Not only is it the most wonderful time of the year, it is the most contradictory time of year. It is also a great metaphor for our current stage of life.
There are moments in our family of four when both girls are quietly playing and my husband and I can cuddle on the couch for a bit and watch the lights on our tiny Christmas tree (placed high on a shelf out of reach of busy hands). There are also times when we are making a craft together or looking at a book and my heart feels like a Norman Rockwell painting. But these are few and far between. More often than not, I am chasing after the toddler who has grabbed a sticker off the floor and is making a mad dash to her room so she can eat it before I get to her or trying to calm my three year old down because I accidently gave her the pink fork (green is apparantly the only acceptible color for eating utensils).
Peace and chaos. Joy and tears. A little circus with Christmas spirit! When we first found out we were expecting, we chose a circus theme for the nursery as a cheeky acknowledgement to what our life would become. Little did we know just how much of a circus our household would actually come to resemble. We have a three year old who could earn an academy award for her skills in the dramatic arts. And now we have a toddler who I believe is actually a cross between a monkey and a feral cat.
My time is now spent handling meltdowns like a lion tamer, being entertained by a clown and a monkey (and making sure they don’t burn down the big top), cleaning up after each act, and managing the entire show as the ringmaster. And I can’t forget to feed those hungry performers.
While things may be wild, and our days are far from peaceful, we have finally settled into a chaotic routine of sorts. And we laugh a lot! I am finding out that chaos can be fun and peace looks quite a bit different than I originally thought. But it has taken a while to reach that point, and there are still many days when I feel like joining a real circus. The initial days of transitioning to a family of four were very difficult for all of us, even traumatic at some points.
After the we went through with our oldest’s birth and early days, we were looking forward to an easier newborn experience. The actual delivery and hospital stay exceeded those expectations and we were even able to take our bundle of joy home a day early. But as days went by, it became clear that our bundle of joy was more like a sack full of rabid squirrels. She was wiggly and uncooperative and fussy. And then the screaming started. We had entered the nightmare of colic and would camp out there for five very long, very loud months. My soul was desperate for one thing and one thing only; peace.
I prayed for it. I cried for it. I demanded it. And during one moment of particular desperation, while I was walking around the house with a screaming, arching infant, I received a verse of Scripture. It was whispered to my soul. “Peace I leave you. My peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives.” (John 14:27) There is something about the power of God’s Word that becomes something almost tangible at times. In that moment, I did feel peace, even though my baby continued to cry no matter what I did.
Time after time, this verse came back to me during moments of chaos and desperation. I’ll be honest. There were many times that I was tempted to throw those words back at God and tell Him I wanted the kind of peace that comes with a quiet and calm household. There was even a time when I cried in anger and told God that I was a better mother than Him because if I had the power to heal my baby’s discomfort I would do it in a heartbeat. But, through it all, God, in His mercy, showed me a deeper peace. A greater peace.
For five months we dealt with the desperation of having a baby with colic and reflux. Those were some of the longest and darkest days of my life. My heart hurt after we had tried EVERYTHING and realized we would simply have to wait it out. Every time she would burp and scream. Every time she would arch her back and cry. Every time she grew hoarse from a combination of screaming and acid buildup in her esophagus. This verse played in my head and touched my heart on repeat.
And at five months, things started to get better. The screaming turned to crying and then the crying turned to fussing and things grew much more bearable. And then she got mobile and we quickly realized that our days of quiet calm and order were over for the foreseeable future. Our screaming, colicky baby is now a very happy, VERY busy toddler. She is our wild child and fills our days with the kind of chaos that can only come from a baby who wants to do everything her big sister does…and more.
I have often referred to her as a feral cat and now she more reminds me of a baby orangutan, complete with the red hair! If there is trouble to make or mischief to be had, she will find it. I am constantly running from one crash to the next. And her older sister has decided to get in on the fun so now I am double teamed with messes and “incidents”. Now we have twice the laundry (sometimes more than that depending on just what kind of trouble they get into), twice the meltdowns, and twice the trouble. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I finally got around to looking up my verse in it’s full context and what I found brought an entirely new perspective to my idea of peace. You see, Jesus’ words in John 14 are given to His disciples just hours before His arrest, trial and crucifixion. Jesus offers His closest friends peace just moments before they are launched into the most traumatic and chaotic experience of their lives. He knew what was coming. He knew how much the coming hours would lack peace. On the contrary, the battle for every human soul ever in existence would be taking place in the ultimate War against the evil one. If anything screams chaotic desperation, it’s war. And this war was aimed directly at peace, peace between God and mankind.
I’m sure the disciples wondered what Jesus meant when He spoke peace to them in the Upper Room. Just as I did during those dark moments of motherhood. But Jesus added to these words later on when He said, “I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We aren’t promised a life free of trouble, or free from trouble causing children. We aren’t promised quiet, easy babies (they are called unicorn babies for a reason!). We aren’t promised an exciting and fulfilling career. We aren’t promised a life on our terms. As a matter of fact, we are guaranteed trials and disappointments. But we are promised victory. Victory over a fearful spirit. Victory over an anxious heart. Victory over death itself. Jesus has the authority to grant us peace because He defeated the very thing that brings chaos; death. Through Jesus, we have hope. And it is because of this hope that we can live in peace. Even in the midst of double, epic meltdowns!
*All photographs taken by S&A Photography