12.04.2015

repeat the sounding joy




There's a line from O Holy Night that goes "A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn," and it has been running through my head the past few weeks. It feels like my anthem lately. We are so weary, but there is still hope and joy. Our tree is janky and could desperately use a few more strands of lights. Some of it is full and bright and cheerful, and some is dark and full of gaping holes. It perfectly resembles life right now. I have a tendency to throw in the towel the second something goes wrong. It's one of my least favorite qualities about myself, and it's something I've really been working on lately. I jolted awake yesterday morning and panicked when I saw how bright it was. James forgot to set his alarm and was late for work, and Gracie's babbles in the next room had failed to wake us. I woke up feeling like I was coming down with a cold and had to cancel plans, the toilet wasn't working, and James texted to say he had to work late tonight even though he was supposed to have the night off. It was dreary and cold outside which perfectly matched my mood. But later on, Gracie was playing on the floor, I was drinking some coffee, and I looked around the room at the Christmas lights and decorations and thought about how silly it is to let little things get to me when things could be so much worse. Devon emailed me later that afternoon and mentioned in passing that things can always get worse, and it was just the encouragement I needed to not dwell on small inconveniences. Especially when there's a sugarplum with a ponytail shaking her kitty cat rattle next to me.

We dedicated Gracie at church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We saw the year's first snow flurries as we pulled into the church's parking lot and as we walked inside, and it felt like God reminding us that He's with us. I kissed her on the cheek as we walked inside and told her it was snowing, and there was no moment more perfect to experience her first snowflakes. We stood at the front of the church and held her as the pastor prayed with us and the other families standing next to us. It was such a sweet moment, and I was sweating the entire time standing in front of so many people while trying not to fidget with my sweater.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents, and spent the evening in the living room watching Christmas movies while my mom worked on Gracie's stocking. Last Thanksgiving, I stood in my parent's kitchen as my mom told me my baby will be old enough to eat a little pumpkin pie next Thanksgiving. This year, James held Gracie will my mom gave her her first taste of pie, and she loved it. She ate every bite that was offered, even after putting away James' mashed potatoes and beans. She  started clapping her hands for the first time on Thanksgiving, which made me laugh because I have the same reaction to pie. She sat on the couch between James and me and clapped with us, and it was like everything bad that has ever happened just melted away.

As much as I love and adore Christmas and all the ensuing decorations, I'll let you in on a little secret: sometimes I'm tempted not to decorate, because as I put things up, I can't help but think that I have to take them down in only a few short weeks. I know I would deeply regret it if I didn't put out the wooden sleigh my dad made and the sparkly trees, so I do it anyway and bask in it as much as I can. I told myself I wanted to keep the decorations minimal this year, but every day I find myself putting out more and more, and before I knew it, there was garland strung between my grandmother's teacups hanging from the dining room shelves. I cannot be stopped. Every morning I lift up the top of the record player and put the old Bing Crosby Christmas record on as I make breakfast and Gracie plays. We light a peppermint candle and turn on the lights of the ceramic Christmas tree. I sing her Christmas carols instead of hymns before bed, and I hold her and let her touch the ornaments on the tree after she wakes up in the morning. She won't remember this Christmas or even care about the presents under the tree for her, but I'm excited enough for the both of us.

16 comments:

  1. This is just lovely! Gracie is extremely blessed to have you as her momma :)

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  2. This comment is going to make me sound like an extremely sentimental schmuck. I accept it. I know it, and I don't care.

    First of all, I would like to take a minute to marvel at the fact that you picked out not one, but TWO, of my absolute favorite lyrical lines to use in this post. First, the title, which is obviously a line from "Joy to the World". Alone, the song is not one of my favorites, but it always makes me think of that sweet moment in "The Family Stone" when Sarah Jessica Parker is humming the song to herself and sings that line, and Luke Wilson's character repeats it again- as a slow paced statement. "Repeat the sounding joy." It's just such a moment (within a movie I already love so much), that makes you stop and think about all the joy to be found in the world, even amidst all the sorrow.

    Second, that line from "Oh, Holy Night"! While I was reading it, I caught myself actually nodding along...because those specific words have always jumped out at me, too*. It's such a punch-you-in-the-gut senetence. I can't imagine another line in the English cannon holding more weight or inspiring more hope. Listening to that line today, it has even more resonance, as the current state of the world at large is about as "weary" as it gets. And I love that word (weary), in itself, because it perfectly encapsulates what the modern person often feels. We are not necessarily afraid. Less than often angry. But, we are more consistently weary about many of the ways that our world is changing, and not for the better. Anyway, I'm going to digress before I get too deep in the weeds of philosophy, here. All I meant to say is that these words are important, and should be thought about rather than just listened to.


    *Note: This is probably the only version of this song I have listened to in years, because in my opinion, no one else touches this rendition by Nat King Cole. His voice is pure and beautiful, and the arrangement is simple and understated, so that the words are emphasized over the normal gravitas that usually steals this song in performance. Listen, if you haven't already! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkKIXY3wRGw

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    1. I love you and everything you said, Kate. Every year, the lyrics of O Holy Night get me more and more. It fits the world today so perfectly that it's scary. I've been chewing on them every day lately. Those Christmas hymns we've sung all our lives are so powerful when you start really thinking about the words. They've been helping me keep my head in the right place.

      I'm listening to Nat as I type this, and I love it. I've been listening to his rendition for years as well. He's so quintessential Christmas, and his voice has always been so comforting to me. UGH. So good.

      Now please go start your own blog. The blog world needs you.

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    2. KATE. I agree, the blog world DOES need you. WHAT A POST!

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  3. If I don't have my own, can I borrow your baby next year? All this sounds so lovely.

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  4. Michelle, it really is only you, and I'm not lying about this for one second, that makes me want to be a SAHM. Seriously. And I have A LOT of friends who are, but none of them make me feel that twinge for motherhood like you do. Even when you talk about how it can be hard, I still think, "Hm. I think I want to do that one day." And I think that speaks volumes of what a great mom you are and how much I admire you.

    Now will you come decorate my house? I can seem to find the will to climb the ladder to the attic. Mainly because I still can't walk after Monday's leg workout.

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  5. "O Holy Night" is one of my top 3 Christmas hymns. Taking down Christmas decorations is so sad for me, too. The house always felt bare as soon as it was tree-less.
    I just love her face in that photo with her sitting by the tree!

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  6. Okay so I stayed up late to read this post (my baby is sleeping) and I love it but I am too tired to form coherent sentences and need to reread it tomorrow while nursing. I think that sentence was actually coherent. I win the internet.

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  7. Oh Holy Night is my favorite Christmas song.I keep reading that line over and over on your post and it makes me want to cry, in a good way because it's so hopeful! And also because I'm a little (a lot) sleep deprived right now ;) over the past 5 years or so Inreally started to fall in love with hymns. I grew up with them but then contemporary Christian set in and they seemed to disappear. I've loved getting to know them again and realizing just how meaningful they are, and the same goes for the old Christmas songs!

    What a precious memory of Gracie seeing her first snow flakes. Having a baby truly makes everything so magical, especially this time of year. I've been setting Ben's boppy pillow in front of the tree and playing Christmas music during our play times :) and its ok, I think that about Christmas decorating too. I kept saying I was only going to do the tree this year but little by little it started accumulating. It's still not as much as usual but a lot more than I intended. And who cares if they remember, we sure will <3

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    1. I grew up with hymns too, but I never loved them until recently. I started listening to them a lot when I was pregnant, and they hit me in a whole new way.

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  8. Your kid is the most perfectly chubby baby that is currently in existence. I just can't stand it sometimes, she's so adorable. I am happy to help stoke your baby fever if you want ;).

    I so get what you mean about sometimes so much in life keeps going wrong, and you think that you can't take it anymore. And then some magical thing happens that suddenly puts all of the bad in perspective, and you gain the strength to continue forward. I think the holidays are always like that: hardships that are liberally sprinkled with these pockets of joy that shine so brightly we regain our footing. And I just know that in a year or two, Gracie is going to love Christmas just as much as you do.

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  9. I love your love of Christmas. The story of her dedication is beautiful. How special for all of you! I love how your brought attention to that line from O Holy Night. I will think of it often too.

    p.s. tried to get the Leah Remini book at the Library today, but it was reserved by 106 people! Now I want to read it even more.

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  10. i'm here with you. girl, i want to ba humbug some days. i want to be less than full of any merriment and just be normal because this season has been touched by hurt and disappointment. it's been good and magical and everything a dream could fathom, but it's also hurt. and there's something so debastating to think nothing in life is sacred. it's hard to think of all the things we do only to have them undone. somehow we're just running in an invisible hamster wheel. oh the anger and frustration.

    but i've come to learn this: my soul is worth the work. even if it's going to be under-appreciated and come undone, i deserve the chance. so i put up the (proverbial) tree and cover it in glittery things. i smile that i made the effort and didn't let the end fate of it all ruin the beginning efforts. (maybe i need to apply this to more things in life).

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