We had a lovely (Gregorian calendar) Christmas this year, which I'll describe a little bit in a minute. Just yesterday I was still feeling great about the way things were going, despite some hardships. However, it feels like today we hit a wall and everything is going downhill. Sophia was awake from about 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. or so. Pulling an all-nighter for some fun or productive reason is one thing, but it's another thing to be held prisoner by a tiny, laughing creature. Yep, she was laughing and head-butting me. I threw in the towel and summoned Andrei, who needed to be up at 6:30 for work...ugh.
Amidst multiple messes this morning, I was counting down the minutes until Sophia's naptime so I could take a hot shower and wash away all the frustrations of the holiday prep that had never really been dealt with. Alas, there is no hot water. So I'm blogging instead and finally having my first cup of tea!
I remember another year when Christmas went really well and I thought we were pros, only to have New Year's be kind of a stress-fest. What went wrong? I guess I just don't have enough stamina for that many holidays right in a row. Maybe I will figure it out eventually.
Dear Future Self, if you're reading this, it's normal (or typical for you, at least) to feel cranky and tired after the Christmas euphoria/adrenaline wears off. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones. Everyone's stretched thin this time of year. Maybe you've been holding on to some feelings and not surrendering them to the Lord? Maybe it's time for some quiet.
So, back to the fun stuff. Advent and Christmas were just so peaceful and beautiful this year. As I mentioned in my last post, David was able to participate more, which made it more enjoyable for me.
December 22-24 we were at a church retreat at a seminary in a wooded area. It was a beautiful setting and there was a PERFECT amount of snow. We even did some sledding! The sky was a soft pink/orange color as it got dark. Church members decorated the facility with a Scandinavian "Hygge" theme that would put Pinterest to shame. I'm always so impressed by my Russian friends' artistic abilities. With a limited budget, they're able to create masterpieces from recycled or borrowed materials. A tree branch adorned with simple paper cut-outs...glass bottles fashioned into candle holders...ideas you might find on the Internet, yet put together with amazing creativity. Then there were lots of handmade gifts, such as knitted mini-sweater ornaments, gingerbread cookies, jars of homemade jam, etc. I can go on and on about it, since I didn't bring anything but myself!
I will say that many of those who helped put the event together came down with colds. So their hard work was no small sacrifice!
Of course it is hard to find moments for reflection during all the festivities. It wasn't really a prayer and meditation type of retreat. I was glad to grab some fellowship when I had the opportunity, and friends helped with the kids when Andrei was busy. Our kids didn't really sleep while at the retreat, staying awake until 2 or 3 a.m., and Sophia had a fever the second night. I didn't really feel tired at the time, but I guess the consequences are starting to make themselves known.
Because of Sophia not feeling well, we came home from the church retreat and canceled Christmas Eve with my in-laws, which was a bummer. They came to our apartment while we were gone and restocked our fridge and left a few treats.
We (Andrei) had an interesting talk with the taxi driver who took us home from the retreat. Incidentally, this driver had all the carseats and seatbelts set up properly, which is always a huge plus in my book! He was a nice guy. Described himself as an atheist, a Putin-supporter, and satisfied with living in Russia. I had to wonder if he pays the proper taxes for his "successful business." That is not to say that only those with large salaries are content to live in Russia. There are many wonderful aspects of life here. It is just interesting to have a window into a culture's mentality. Is contentment with one's homeland born out of patriotism, financial security, cultural tradition, nostalgia, faith, gratitude...? Are we thankful for the privilege of our own situation, or simply glad to NOT be in someone else's shoes? I mean that in a personal way but also within the context of political propaganda.
Back to the celebration...on Christmas morning we lit the Advent wreath and opened some stocking gifts before Andrei left for work. Does your family do presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? I guess families often split up the holiday with different sides of the family. However, it also seems to depend on the country. In Russia many holidays are celebrated with a night vigil, including Christmas, New Year's, and Easter. So you wake up the next morning and you've already done the feast and the gift-giving. Hmmm...different from American culture, I think! But of course many Western traditions have spread to Russia, too.
As always, I'm enjoying going through social media and seeing everyone's pictures of how they celebrated.
I have some fun ideas for goals for 2018. I'll address those soon!