Hey friend, because it’s that time of year when some of us catch a touch of the stiff-upper lip, I just wanted to check in – are there any ways you might be possibly breaking your own heart in the service or needs of others? Any chance this Christmas season might bring that out of you?
At church, I volunteered in the Babies’ Room during service. It took me a lot to volunteer in the children’s room in the first place, as you miss, almost, the whole service. However, some self-imposed semi-nonsense about helping, and contributing weighed on me, and after a few runs of volunteer schedules, I signed up for the babies, ages 0 to 2.
To be honest, I also hoped this volunteer role might fill a need in myself. Need I spell it out? The B-A-B-Y need. I had my one sweet daughter who was about 9 at this point, so not so small and not so willing to snuggle me for hours at a time, and also, at her dad’s house part of the time.
Maybe holding these big-cheeked babies, interacting with these bendy, chubby-kneed toddlers, might fill that place in me that didn’t get filled up with a pack of children of my own.
It didn’t. I rotated into this slot half a dozen times, and I just sort of made it through.
New Year’s Eve service ended it. That holiday season, Thanksgiving to New Year, burned with loneliness, and struggle for me. Holding all those babies only opened up the achy canyon in my heart.
After church that day, I had lunch at my dad’s house. Within a few minutes of talking about my time at church, I was sobbing.
My father, who can handle a reasonable amount of ugly-cry said, with something close to alarm in his voice, “I don’t think you need to do that job anymore.”
My parents often give good advice, and often I don’t listen.
This time I did.
Those dang babies in the Babies room. They were the end of me.
I changed that role from Babies Room to Hallway Monitor. Now I check those kids in, I chit-chat with their parents, I give high-fives, I go home, and I don’t cry.
Do I hope to be in the Babies room again? Oh, you best believe it. I love babies. Even those angry babies are good (that’s how you know it’s been a minute since I had my own baby; I find those little bawlers AH-dorable).
But not right now.
I wish I could, but not right now. The strength, the will-power, the healing – whatever you might call it – I’m not there yet.
If there are pieces of your holiday season that might break your heart if you’re forced to partake, please let me look you in the eyes, pat your arm, and say, “Not this year. Just don’t this year.”
Because next year? This might be a totally different story. You’re almost sure to be in a somewhat different place, mentally and emotionally.
Yet if, right now, you’re smack dab in the hard, don’t do it.
That child you long for isn’t coming? Maybe skip that children’s choir performance.
That relationship ended? You know what, you do not have to go to that all-couples’ Christmas Eve dinner.
You’ve been forced to move and can’t stomach where you landed? I don’t think that holiday historic home tour, in that privileged neighborhood, with money just oozing out the restored, original windows, is right for you this year, friend.
If my saying, you don’t have to helps, then please: you don’t have to. Just not this year.
Because this is where you are right now. Maybe you were here last year. And it’s possible you could still be here next year.
However. We’ve got this Hope.
And I truly believe, where you are right now? You’re just visiting, not buying property.
At some point, that home tour, that couples’ dinner, those adorable kiddos sounding like a choir of mice by the end of Away in a Manager? You’ll be right there. In. It.
Yet this self torture we put ourselves in on our way to better – that serves no one. There are other ways to show up, and benefit the world besides that way that’s cracking you open.
I haven’t gone back to the Babies Room and it’s been a minute. However, have I held babies at church? YES. Have I taken it upon myself to make silly faces, and distract wee ones during those especially long communions? Guilty.
So hanging with those babies, especially those angry ones, again? It’s only a matter of time.
Tonight, I’m praying for those in that hard space, that you find good rest, nourishing things to eat, sweet people to hug, and all the time you need until you’re ready to try again. It’ll happen.
Until then, sometimes sitting it out is the most heroic action we can take right here, right now, right where we are.