Christmas all the Time

There is a part of the Christmas story, often overlooked, that speaks directly to the heart of a mother. I know, I know, it’s not Christmas, and even if it were the most wonderful time of the year, the Christmas story as found in the Gospel of Luke is about God sending his son into the world, not motherhood. Just hear me out.

After there was no room in the inn, after the stable birth, after the shepherds appeared to worship baby Jesus, we read in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

This is motherhood in full force – a statement that moms of any age, faith, and walks of life can relate to. Because isn’t that what we all do? We treasure, we ponder, and we replay those savored moments in our own hearts and minds again and again.

Let me tell you a little about my daughter. She is 13 months old, bright, spunky, and sweet as can be. She is a delight, and fits into our family in a way only God could have designed.

She is also the worst sleeper known to man.

(That may be a slight exaggeration, but over a year of sleep deprivation gives one license to be dramatic.)

Nap time is often a battle of the wills, and the very beginnings of sleeping through the night did not start until 11 months of age, and even then it was an inconsistent luxury.

Currently, at just over a year old, she allows us to get close to a full night’s rest nearly every night. This is due in no small part to a carefully crafted schedule of strict wake-up times, oddly specific nap lengths, and the willingness to continue rocking her to sleep. It turns out some of the research and organizational skills you learn in the professional world are directly applicable to motherhood.

Enter our ill-fated attempted to transition from two naps to one.

Things spiraled very quickly, but it’s not my fault really; Ellie gave us all the signs she was ready. She started skipping naps, happily stayed up for long stretches of time, took longer to put down, and fit in the correct age range. Everything I read about her behavior pointed to dropping that first nap. So down to one nap we went, and I excitedly began to plan everything I would do with our free mornings and my long afternoon stretch of alone time.

I thought of play dates, trips to the zoo, and story time at the library down the street, the afternoon coffee I could enjoy on the couch by myself, more time to write and focus on volunteer activities… my naive illusions were soon shattered by what I will forever call “the week with no sleep.”

As it turns out, she was tricking us. Despite all the signs she, in fact, was not ready to drop that morning nap and the consequence was a little girl who was so overtired she almost completely stopped sleeping at night.

I should have known because Ellie rarely does anything by the book. It’s usually something I love about her, but this particular week it caused me to whisper things like “you will not defeat me, I will win” in the dark of night. Not my finest mothering hour, to be sure.

In one of those sleepless moments rocking with Ellie I happened to glance over to her dresser at one of her Christmas presents, a board book that tells about the night Jesus was born from the perspective of different people and animals in the manger.

It may not be Christmas time, but she asks to read the book quite a bit, so I have it mostly memorized by this point. I thought about my favorite page, the one from Mary’s point of view. The one that always makes me tear up when I read it, because through simple language it reminds me of the depths of my love for Ellie. “I am Mary, the mother mild, how I love my tiny child.”

Why is it that when we tell the Christmas story the concept of motherhood is never talked about, aside from how Jesus came into the world? He was born of a virgin, and that’s it, Mary’s motherhood seemingly stops there. Except it doesn’t.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Through all the craziness of life, when we feel like we can’t keep going, in all the moments that feel inconvenient like giving birth in an animal stall and being immediately visited by strange men would have been, this verse speaks wisdom into our motherhood journey.

My mama heart finds memories to store forever, even in the difficult times.

I will never forget how Ellie’s face always looks like a newborn’s when she finally falls asleep, even as my arms can barely contain her tall, one year old body.

In her whiny and cranky moments, she runs to me for comfort and trusts me to provide for her needs.

It doesn’t matter how tired she gets, that girl loves a good dining room dance party and smiles at my dorky mom moves.

I know Ellie well enough to tell that the move to one nap clearly wasn’t working, and I was able to make the changes necessary to welcome sleep back into our lives. It fills me with awe and confidence in my God-given ability as a mom, and that is something you bet I will ponder often in the years to come.

Even now as I sit on my kitchen floor, stealing a few minutes with my laptop in an attempt to get these words onto a page before they leave my thoughts, I hear my daughter playing. She has switched the setting on her toy from English to Spanish and is babbling with delight at the new songs it sings. It’s a seemingly insignificant moment, but it makes my heart soar.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Ellie may not have slept that week, but in my exhaustion I gained perspective.

Motherhood gives us little gifts to remember always. It’s Christmas all year long.

Editors Note: I wrote this piece over a month ago, but the sentiment still holds true. Ellie is now 14 months old and officially on a one nap a day schedule! True to form, she did it in her own timing.