Every year it amazes me how Christmas just kind of sneaks up on me. The decorations begin appearing in the store in October. It seems ridiculous to be thinking Christmas as the trees are at the peak of their fall glory. At Christmas time, the trees are bare of their leaves. The empty branches stretch heavenward as nests that were built and hidden among summer foliage are now exposed. Yet, it seems, I go to bed one night in October and wake up two weeks into December. And I hit panic mode. There is much to be done to prepare for the Christmas season. Yes, Christmas is no longer just a day; it is a season that is filled with its own wonders, beauty, joy, and stress. This Christmas, in particular, is finding my stressometer (yes, I just made that word up) to be at its highest point ever.
First and foremost, I am finding this year to be extra stressful because of health challenges that have seemed to increase over the last several weeks. There was a time when I stared down a Christmas to-do list with the fierce competitive spirit that had been part of me for as long as I can remember. While that spirit still remains, what hasn’t stuck around is the ability needed to tackle it and win. Instead, I face my yearly seasonal to-do list and instantly get overwhelmed. How will I ever get 12 kinds of cookies baked? How will I find the energy to shop and wrap and stuff stockings and all the other physical activities involved with Christmas? How will I get a Christmas buffet dinner pulled off as well as a Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve Eve buffet/movie night? Complicating all the regular preparations is the fact that this will be the first year not all the kids will be home at the same time. If I am struggling to find the wherewithal to do these things once, how will I ever manage to do them twice? Ninety percent of the last two days have been spent in bed recovering from the withdrawal of a medication that probably should never have been prescribed in the first place. As if the limitations that have come with my disease aren’t enough, the prescription given made things so much worse that I was rendered to one who has been dependent on her husband to do most everything. That leaves me feeling not only ill-equipped to pull off a Christmas that has become to be expected in our home, but also has left me feeling very much like a burden to my husband.
Second, as if the Christmas preparations aren’t stressful enough, there are many changes taking place during and soon after the holiday season. Change, even good change, can be stressful. That stress is magnified when lived through the lens of MS. A change in physical location is planned for my husband and me just two months after the holiday season. We will be downsizing from a no longer needed five bedroom house to a three bedroom townhome. We will be leaving the community we have lived in for the last twelve years. While I can’t say we are leaving behind bunches of relationships, we are leaving a few that, when I think about it, make my heart sorrowful. We say that thirty-five miles isn’t that far, but we all know that in reality, it takes a conscience effort on both parts to keep a friendship going when two people live three minutes apart. Thirty-five miles is a long distance when families are as busy as this world demand they be. Couple the sadness of leaving with the stress of knowing what needs to be done in order to move and that stressometer is once again off the charts. Soon after the move takes place, we have a wedding to pull off (out of state) and the birth of our first grandson—both wonderful events to look forward to, yet stressful when one is already overwhelmed.
Before MS became a part of my life, I may have found myself a tad bit overwhelmed yet ready to tackle the challenge. Adrenaline would kick in and the “let’s get this stuff done” attitude would have prevailed. But now…well, now, that attitude is still there but the adrenaline is not. My energy is consumed in one or two tasks. The last few weeks have found dizziness to be my new best friend…dizziness to the point that driving has been difficult, dangerous, or impossible. The last few days have been the most difficult of all. I have cried to God so many times. My tears are always right there, ready to embarrass me as they give away my true feelings.
Through these difficult times, though, I have also experienced some wonderful love and care from people—especially from people in my church family. Prayers, text messages, e-mails, and Facebook messages asking me how I am, do I need anything, encouragement, offers of help—all have meant so much to me. They have caused me to not only love my church family so much but have also caused me to love God even more and to continually thank Him for leading us to this group of people who have come around us so lovingly. Every Sunday, even as my tears fall, someone stops us to pray for us, to ask us what we need, to make sure we are taken care of. I do not feel blessed to have been given this disease, but I certainly feel blessed to have been given the love shown by so many in our church.
Christmas this year may not look like it has in the past. Medical bills have accumulated and need to be paid. There may not be twelve kinds of cookies to choose from (although I will give every last ounce of energy I have to make sure each one’s favorite is present). There may not be piles of presents under the tree. But, there will be a meal to be shared together—even if at different times. There will be thankfulness in my heart for the new baby who will be snuggled this spring and the new daughter who will join our family as our son gets married. There will be thankfulness for the two new furry members who joined our family this year—they do not replace my Molly but they bring me such joy as they love me unconditionally. There will be thankfulness for the husband who goes out of his way to take care of me, the same husband who three years ago almost was no longer part of my life. God knew I would need this man and I am forever thankful for the saving work God did in our marriage. Yes, I will most likely feel guilty that there won’t be lots of presents to open or lots of goodies to munch, but I pray that God will soothe the hurt and guilt my heart will most likely feel because of those things . I know I must also do my part by staying close to Him through this season and trust Him that for whatever reason, He has chosen this for me so it must be good.