Why So Crazy?

My frenzied thoughts at the end of a long day resonated with many of you (and thank YOU right back, because me making you not feel crazy makes me not feel crazy). But one reader made a comment (here and over at Jen Fulwiler’s blog) that really got me thinking.

Said SWP:

Why not wait until Advent is over before putting up the tree? Relax. Enter into the time of waiting and preparation. Be at peace. The tree can wait. you have most of January to enjoy your tree. The Pope keeps his tree up until the feast of the Presentation, Feb.2, so what’s the rush?

and also:

Testosterhome posted a similar note of exasperation about how busy busy busy she is and can’t get into Advent. I don’t understand- four candles- how hard is that? Pray before bedtime.

Since he called me out publicly (in response to my public musings, to be sure), I thought I would consider his comments.

First off, the tree: the tree is no big deal to me. Growing up, we bought and decorated our tree on Gaudete Sunday (Pink Sunday as we call it). So I don’t have a standard of day-after-Thanksgiving tree decorating. I didn’t put that pressure on myself. Instagram did.

Kidding aside, my point with the tree was just how I was running all these Christmas-y errands and it wasn’t beginning to feel anything like Christmas. That’s okay, because it isn’t Christmas — it’s Advent. I understand the difference.

Is it really just four candles? I suppose it could be. Yes, in a perfect (calm, peaceful, Christ-centered, ignore-the-needs-of-my-family world) my day could indeed consist of quiet duty-of-the-moment interactions, rounded out by the lighting of the candle and a nice quiet prayer time in the evening.

The tricky part is that I’m not Fr. Tim in the Mitford Series (as much as I have envied his quiet evenings from time-to-time). Nor am I a consecrated sister. Those are beautiful, inspiring, Christ-centered lives that really can and do make prayer a central all-encompassing part of the day.

But while I am indeed called to the same level and depths of spirituality as a priest or religious — not to make us all feel stressed, but Jesus does want our YES as much as he wants theirs — we are called to go that deep with the Lord, but we are also presented certain challenges that our unique vocations offer.

Family life is not always conducive to quiet pray in the evening, it’s not about the simple act of lighting a few candles. Family life in Advent means so very much more than that, try as I might to simplify this season.

This time of year I so desperately want the pace to slow down. I want to calmly sit and ponder the coming of the Christ-child, to meditate on the depths of God’s love for me as he became human, to think about the journey and saga of a baby being born to save the world.

In the meantime, there are children. And a husband. And Christmas to prepare for, and I have to tell you here that Christmas does not just magically happen. Even people taking the most simple approach, with minimal gifts under the tree (our hope and aim this season) — well, minimal times six children equals plenty of errands to run.

And even if we took Christmas completely out of the picture right now, even if Advent really were just four candles waiting to be lit, the rest of life still speeds by. Yesterday, for example, I worked in Henry’s kindergarten class for one hour. Minimal. Then popped by the middle school to check on something over there. Minimal. Then went home and tended to my sick (going on three days) high school student. That afternoon, I took four children to the doctor to make sure the cough had not turned to bronchitis, that the earache was not an infection. From there we went straight to a basketball game, and then we were off to Mass for the Vigil of the Holy Day.

None of this was Christmas related.

But throw into a day like that even a minimal To Do list (order a few gifts online, think about dinner, spend some time in prayer) and you have had a very full (wonderful, exhausting) day that is unavoidable.

It’s just not that easy my friend. We can talk about keeping it simple (that was going to be my mantra this Advent: Keep It Simple, Sister. K.I.S.S.). And try as I might, even the most simple Advent is still making me tired. Just a little.


  1. I hear you. I haven’t felt “into” Advent much this year either. I really want to. I feel like yelling, “Do-over! I need a do-over!” Yes, we have the Christmas season following the Advent season, and I’m pretty sure I will be able to enjoy that season more. I just want the days of Advent to help me prepare peacefully for that season and not be a frenzy of extra activities with family, friends, church, and shopping (on top of the rest of life, which doesn’t stop just because it’s Advent!). I’m certain a lot of us feel that way, and I thank you for being honest about it!

  2. It’s always easier for someone to pipe in from the combox than to actually focus on their own preparation this time of year, isn’t it?

    We’re having a crazy Advent, too, and almost none of it is Christmas related. We’re moving overseas with two little children, and someone pointed out to me last week how ‘lucky we were’ to be doing just what Mary did during this season with all our packing, traveling, and caring for little people while trying to make it all happen. I felt both humbled and comforted by her point: Advent doesn’t always have the luxury of being simple and comfortable. The first one sure wasn’t, if Mary’s back felt anything like mine did by month nine of pregnancy.

  3. My husband and I are empty-nesters and still can’t find the time to stop and enjoy the moment…Our children, our grandchildren, extended family, neighbors, friends, each have different expectations of us and though our life is about our responsibilities to ourselves it would be no life without the “others”. I think Busy = Blessed.

  4. I don’t know SWP at all, but maybe the comment wasn’t quite meant the way it came across. But like everyone else, you have a right to defend your good reputation (richly deserved). Perhaps it would be nice if SWP were to comment here and gently and kindly clarify what was meant. When suggestions from a safe distance are made, and people referenced, one needs to tread with great caution. Especially if they’re to a mother of six and sick children. It wasn’t as if you created your own issues.
    Plain, short text can be so ambiguous. I even clarified one of my own comments on the ‘Advent Resolutions’ post. It read differently, even to me, on a different day. Let’s hope this can be rounded of with ‘look how these christians love one another’ (Tertullian).
    Things sound really tough for you. You’re very generous to keep posting at all. Keep you chin up, think of what your parents were saying surveying their small ‘nation’!

  5. Natasha Mazerolle says:

    Your writings make me desperately wish I lived in Georgia so we could chat over tea. I so get your world because I too live in a male-dominated household (six kids, 2 months-8 years, four of whom are boys). We, like you, are trying in the midst of all this craziness to give our kids something meaningful in our faith, so that Jesus is a real part of their lives (not just some guy we check in with at the end of the day and on Sundays. And you’re so right – life in these circumstances is anything but simple. And yet, as I reflect on my life lately I realize that this is my greatest blessing…that doing the right thing, loving my children and treating them with dignity even when life moves at breakneck speed takes hard work, but leads to a deeper and more pure love. Reading this post made me think that the simple I long for is not in my daily routine, but in my heart. And that maybe all this chaos actually helps me to get there…who has time to complicate things with overthinking when you’re busy tending to all the things a typical day brings? When I do try to overdue, overplan, that’s when it starts to get to me. This season can (and should) be a simple one for me and my family regardless of all the crazy errands, parties, social commitments, and everything else it brings because I can’t control any of that. But, thankfully, I can control my heart. Thank you for helping me to stumble upon an Advent resolution, for I know that as I am writing these words the Lord is intending them first for me – keel your heart simple (sister!)

    Thanks for all your writings, you are a true inspiration to me. And who knows, maybe someday we will sit down for tea together 😉

  6. It’s true that life with a large family and lots of stuff going on (most of which we have no control over) is tough! If only it were about just 4 candles! I did read that comment and I thought it was very simplistic. One point you make that I totally agree with is that even a SIMPLE Christmas for 6 kids is not simple at all. It takes a lot of work and time.

    I feel like we are having a good Advent here–we have an Advent wreath that we light at dinner every night, we say our morning prayers together (we home school right now) and we put the tree up, but didn’t decorate it yet. I took the older kids to a middle school youth group event that focused on Advent and I thought that was very nice for them to see that it’s not just us doing these things (or at least thinking about them).

    But it is still hard to just prepare–everywhere around us we are being bombarded with Christmas…..I think that is what makes it hard. Our culture does not want to PREPARE–it wants to CELEBRATE. And then come 12/26–it’s all over! Drives me nuts!

  7. Diane from Boston says:

    Keep on doing what you’re doing, my dear! The merry-go-round of life goes on, Advent or no Advent. You may not be able to plan in advance for quiet, prayerful time, but the opportunity will present itself sooner or later, and you’ll appreciate it all the more.

    You’re a wonderful wife, mom, and person, and never forget it!

  8. We normally wait until Gaudete Sunday to put up our tree. However, that’s right before finals for our two oldest. Our oldest, especially, won’t have much fun decorating if she’s stressed out about tests. It may well wait until the afternoon of the 21st to happen. Then everyone can relax and enjoy. For now we have the advent wreath, electric candles in the windows, and a snowman tablecloth on the table. We also pulled out the flannel sheets for the kids this weekend and the Santa bathmat.

  9. So glad you responded to that comment. Same over here! Not simple at all. Four boys with sports, laundry, cooking, groceries – all every day stuff that gets “in the way” of a simple Advent. It’s not possible in this season to slow down and reflect. I can talk all I want about turning down an invitation or staying at home in the evenings, but we can’t stop the school events or the basketball games or the wrestling matches or the swim meets. So, AMEN sister!!

  10. Just read a great thought provoking post from Elizabeth Foss today. She wrote. “I’m not Martha Stewart. I’m an Innkeeper.”

  11. I am way overdue to leave a comment as I love reading your blog and always want to comment, but can’t seem to find the time (fits nicely with this post’s theme, no?!). I have loved your posts about Advent because it *is* nice to realize I am not the only one feeling harried and desperately trying to get down to the wonder and waiting of Advent in the flurry of all the other necessary parts of our vocation. With two boys who have birthdays Christmas week (Dec. 21 & 24), we are by now used to a little craziness, but this year we are due with Boy #3 in just a few weeks. Between the usual birthday and Christmas preparations, we are trying to get somewhat ready for this new arrival. Among other things, this means that the entire contents of our attic (Christmas decorations and the multitudes of baby clothes/gear) are now sitting in boxes throughout the house. And that I’m filling any “free” time I have doing things like, oh, finally getting around to my second son’s baby book, because heaven knows if I haven’t done it before this baby comes, it will never be! So, I’m struggling to find the prayer and peace time, too. On a spiritual level, I love that I get a third Advent spent the way Mary spent hers… waiting on a new baby boy… but on a practical level, it is a lot of work and hurry. Thanks so much for reminding me that I’m not the only one who struggles with this balance of spiritual and practical, especially during this special season!

  12. Couldn’t agree more that even a simple Christmas for my 4 kids is a lot of preparation. I think if you’re doing Advent ‘correctly’ you’re not only praying and lighting candles but also going to mass and volunteering your time. In the last week we’ve packed SVDP food baskets, bought gifts for the Catholic Charities party, led the vigil for Immacolate Conception and hiked it over to southern Illinois for choral performaces at the Shrine of Our Lady of Snows. Nothing commerical, all religious and I am exhausted already .

    I hit a new low last night as I was screaming at my kids about the Advent calendar itself. I usually have a daily reminder about a saint or church trivia. Last night was “who is Emil Frei?” Kids had a hard time figuring it out and I as a result was yelling at them about how they were googling Emil Frei. (if you’re curious- he deisgned most of the stained glass in our local churches in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. Just google him. I won’t yell at you if you mess it up)