follow the starThe wind  was howling,the snow swirled past the window. There was  little cash for Christmas gifts. And I was stressed and disappointed with the holiday in general.  Our (half) of a duplex was for sale, and the stress of trying to keep it clean ( & ready to “show”) with two little ones was making me (and everyone around me) crazy and miserable.

At my local MOPS group that week- we had made these cool ornaments with just cinnamon and applesauce. It sounded like the solution to both my cranky-ness with my kids.. (we needed to have some fun together) and my minimal budget for Christmas gifts. I bundled everyone one up against the cold and headed out to buy bulk cinnamon and applesauce.

We arrived home, cold, tired and hungry. Everyone needed a nap. (Mommy included) This was not to be, I was on a mission. We were going to make ornaments and have fun together, or, (quite possibly) die trying.

I turned on the “Johnny Mathis Christmas album” .. put our matching aprons on and showed my 6 and 3 year old sons how to mix the applesauce and cinnamon into dough.

It had started so innocently, and smoothly. The boys helped measure and mix like pro’s.

Right about the time I started feeling like a scene from a Christmas movie…I noticed rust colored clouds of cinnamon floating through the kitchen and into the living room. They settled into the mauve (don;t judge me- this was the 80’s)  carpet to create an insoluble, but holiday scented,  mess. Shouts of “Be careful!,” and ” Don’t get cinnamon on the carpet!” soon drowned out poor Johnny.  Chunks of cinnamon scented concrete were becoming “one” with the kitchen floor.

The pressure of making ornaments “fit to give” spread through me like a virus. I was soon- re-rolling the dough to make it smoother and took all the non-Christmas cookie cutters away so that we wouldn’t be making dinosaurs for Great Grandma’s tree. My oldest totally lost interest, and went to watch PBS. The youngest, continued on.

When we were finished and still breathing, I called it a win. Ornaments were drying in the oven, (to speed things up a bit.. I tend to do things a bit last minute;) The house, while dirty and freshly stained, smelled wonderful.

That’s when, I noticed strawberry colored patches popping up all over my youngest. His face, arms and hands were puffy and raw looking. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought: “Great. No money… no gifts… the house is a mess and now the “baby” is sick!” I got scared. I called my husband home from work.

I was pretty convinced I had killed the kid. NOT GOOD.

A quick trip to the urgent care center revealed a reaction to the cinnamon. A little bath in colloidal oatmeal and frequent slathering with hydrocortisone calmed the rash, but not my heart.

That night I cried myself to sleep, the tears and sobs were also prayers, worded and otherwise. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like an idiot and a failure. I couldn’t even just have a fun afternoon with my guys. I was sure I had ruined Christmas.

In the morning, I grabbed my coffee, and my Bible, while it was still quiet and the moonlight shown on the snow. I opened it to Luke. I read the Christmas story. I thought about Mary… so young… I wondered if she felt she was ready to be a mother. I wondered if she felt awful for not having things all ready for her child’s birth. They couldn’t even find a room to birth in. They ended up in a stable. Smelly animals surrounded them, hay poked her in the back, she didn’t even have a “proper” layette.  I wondered how she felt.

But- there she was- the mother of The Christ Child. I flipped to the Easter story– and re-read that, too…the two stories were one. A light switch flipped on for me. The baby’s birth that I was trying so hard to honor, celebrate and share, perfectly. Had led to the Savior that I needed, yet again, so desperately. Much more desperately than sidewalks and bigwheels.

Somehow- everything shuffled back into place. My priorities, lined up again. By the time the boys woke up, I was ready. We continued through the rest of our holiday with joy and rest. No more worrying over the gifts, we could do what we could do. That was all. No more worrying about creating perfect “Christmas memories” with the boys… we decided to just let them happen.

Every year- (my oldest two now 24 and 21,) retell the story of the ornaments, and forced fun. Every year, we laugh. Sure- I still get caught up in the hustle bustle and pressure to create a Martha Stewart Christmas scene….but then- inevitably, I get a whiff of cinnamon. And I remember. The baby in a manger- who grew to be savior…. and get back to the heart of Christmas…. till the next time, I need to be reminded.

“Dear Lord- I know that Christmas isn’t about packages and bows and gifts and decorations… but, I get sidetracked so fast, I barely know it’s happening till it’s nearly too late. Please God- help me to remember, help me to follow the star and be reminded of of the sacrifices you made- leaving heaven at God’s right hand.. to be born in amnager and die on a cross, so that the world could have peace, love and forgiveness. I love you Lord- and thank you, – oh- and lord- thnx that we can laugh at that Cinnamony Christmas.. and learn from it..amen…”

Oh— wondering about the title? I always remember too late that I WANT to force bulbs for my Christmas centerpiece one year…married nearly 20 years and have never remembered in time to actually do it;)

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(re-post form Laced with Grace 2007)