He’s swiveling in my office chair at my desk next to me, and it makes a chirping sound as he rotates like a baby chick waiting to be fed. Even if he weren’t in my peripheral view, I could feel his eyes boring into my temple.
I type a few more words. He clears his throat. I hold up one finger to silence him before I lose my thought, the words of the sentence I was trying to capture. But before my hand returns to the keyboard, it’s gone. I stare at the blinking cursor. Nothing. I have a post due in a few hours, it’s already 7pm, and I have nothing.
“What,” I bark in a ragged voice, shrill and stripped of kindness. I look at him, and I can almost see his body shrink back. I am mean. I am a mean mom, who yells at her eager nine-year-old during Advent.
We returned from visiting family in Idaho for Thanksgiving and upon arriving home the following week, we unpacked the car and brought in the bags along with whatever sickness we had managed to pick up on the road. By Monday, Nehemiah was throwing up, Kaia had a fever and cough, and Judah was congested and achy. I soothed them and kept them hydrated. I made soup and brought more tissues. I rubbed his back while he threw up. They crawled in bed with me, and we watched Dr. Who together. I was a good mom.
We had planned to go cut down our tree but traipsing through the forest with a bunch of deliriously sick children didn’t sound ideal; it sounded impossible.
The giant Rubbermaid container of decorations I insisted Josh get down from the attic sits tauntingly in the corner. But Nehemiah still managed to pry the lid open and retrieve the advent calendar I sewed years ago, where I jotted down little family activities to place in the pockets.
Some years, depending on my health, I was ambitious, and we built a snowman-atee, went sledding, made gingerbread houses from scratch with melted Jolly Rancher stained glass windows, and did a Christmas scavenger hunt in our home. Other years, when my health was flimsier, I filled the notes with simpler activities — read a Christmas book, hot chocolate and stories by the fire, play a board game, make a fort in the living room (mostly so I could lie down and still satisfy the kids).
It didn’t matter what was in the pocket, the promise of it was too much to resist for him this year, and he pleaded with me to fill them. I went simple, as simple as I could muster, because then I got sick.
The religious fervor with which I washed my hands and the oils I diffused in rooms and the wiping down of our shared surfaces did nothing to dissuade the army of germs waiting to march in and colonize my lungs.
I had spent the week focused on slowing down and being present for them, and I was behind on every single thing on my to-do list. I still have to help with their homework, answer emails, make phone calls, and write words that editors expect to be turned in on deadline — basically be a functioning adult.
When it went to my lungs, as sickness often does, my asthma got even worse than the bad it’s already been. I was clammy and feverish and up all night coughing. Yesterday, on a day when I was supposed to record a podcast talking about my upcoming book, I had to cancel because my voice was going and I was coughing so much I knew a recording would be impossible. I was frustrated and anxious and my lack of sleep wasn’t helping. Insomnia does a number on my moods and with my bipolar disorder, sleep is something I try to regulate as best I can. But my exhausted body refused to listen to my zealous mind.
“I just wanted to see if you thought you’d be done soon and we could do our advent activity?” he whispers, his eyes still earnest and optimistic.
He is the picture of anticipation, of hope. I am the picture of weariness. He waits, as only an impatient and enthusiastic child could, still spinning side to side in my chair. He has reason to believe, even with all of my flaws and imperfections, he has precedence. He has the memories and the promises.
Isn’t this the Advent activity? We are weary, we are sick, we try to keep up and slow down at the same time, and sometimes we get glimpses of a glory to come and we hold on to the coming King. We have a promise of the here and not yet. We remember what it is to have faith like a child — to count the days, to keep our eyes fixed on the prize, or in my son’s case, mom’s face.
We wait on the Lord in this season of Advent because many of us are worn down to the bone and we know our need for a Savior, but we cannot help be afflicted by hope. Some of us just need the reminders.
In this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and in this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome,
Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edges of our fingertips.
I soften. “I just need to think of something to write, and then we’ll all cuddle and watch a Christmas movie together.”
His face cracks into a smile, the gap between his two front teeth melting away my irritation. “You could write about me,” he says, “about how I’m awesome.”
I smile. “Yes, I guess I could,” I say and turn back to typing.
We wait on the Lord in this season of Advent. We know our need for a Savior, and we cannot help but be afflicted by hope. -@AliaJoyH: Click To Tweet