A few passages out of 2 Timothy have helped my approach to the holidays this year.
It’s Christmas time. Time for building memories, exchanging gifts, being thankful and sharing a lot of love. It’s also time for complete chaos. Shopping, baking, parties, and traffic top the list. This is not to mention cold weather, coughs, runny noses, and energetic kids with cabin fever.
I knew this full well as December approached, so I planned to be on my game. I prayed a lot for focus — remembering why we are celebrating in the first place! I also prayed persistently throughout the long winter days, thanking God for my blessings and asking for patience, love, wisdom, and the right perspective. I strove to rely on God’s Spirit for strength, for according to 2 Timothy 1:7 he “gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” Furthermore, I read my Bible every day, knowing that scripture makes us “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
Often it worked! Earlier this week I was assigned with purchasing supplies and making Christmas cookies for a children’s party. I took my 11-month-old and two-year-old to Wal-Mart during the week before Christmas. Yikes. I couldn’t find all of the supplies, then my toddler had to go potty in one of the dirtier public bathrooms I encountered. I took a deep breath and thanked God that James had one of his first successful public potty experiences. When I got home I burnt the cookies…I planned to go out again to buy more supplies after the boys’ naps, but ended up not having time. Fortunately my mother-in-law came over and brought what I needed. I finished the cookies and wrapped a gift just in time for us to leave for another child’s birthday party. The day ended in exhaustion with a disastrous kitchen, but I felt triumphant. With my little prayers and God-centered pep talks throughout the day, I had managed to keep my cool.
A couple of days later, I don’t know what happened. It wasn’t even a particularly bad or chaotic day except that my baby Jonathan was teething and was a little fussier than normal. I was tired, but that’s not unusual. Yet I felt like I was constantly at my breaking point. I snapped at the boys repeatedly. Granted, some firm scolding was warranted when James kept trying to run away from my while I was trying to get him clean and dressed after using the potty. But I was not disciplining him out of love; I was barking at him out of anger and frustration. I tried to use my tools — I read my Bible in the morning and prayed constantly! But for some reason I couldn’t shake my bad mood. Ifinally started to relax after the kids went to bed, but I definitely didn’t feel the same sense of triumph.
So what caused the differences between my state of mind between successful day number one and failed day number two? I have no idea. Hormones, perhaps (I can always blame those!). I often wish that I could discover the secret to being the perfect mother and wife, but I don’t think I ever will.
But I’m not ending this story in defeat. 2 Timothy 2:1 says to “be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ.” Having a good day or a bad day has little to do with my own efforts but much more to do with God’s grace. Even if at any given moment I am the worst of sinners, I can admit my mistake and move on to my next moment with a clean slate. I might have to deal with the consequences of my bad attitudes and decisions, but I do not have to bear the weight of my guilt. Jesus came to earth to do that. Now that’s something worth celebrating this Christmas.