It was 2013, and I was sick.
Not the kind of sick where you get better, but the kind of sick where you wonder how long you have left on this earth, and you go to bed wondering if you’ll wake up in the morning.
Sometimes, the pain and depression is so bad you just pray that God will take you Home.
Now, I’ve come a long way from that dark place in the last few years, but this story is about me, right there in the thick of it.
As Christmas approached, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be my last Christmas.
I began to think about what I would want my children to remember if I died.
I wanted them to have happy memories.
So, I was determined to make some happy memories while I still had time.
We’ll make cookies.
I don’t know why but that seemed like a good idea at the time.
So I set aside a day, took pain killers, and cleaned the kitchen as best I could in preparation for our wonderful day of happily baking cookies.
I loved baking cookies with my mom, so obviously this would be fun for an 8 year old and 11 year old boys, right?
I dragged the boys away from cartoons and legos to come help me with baking.
“Come on. It will be fun! You love sugar cookies!”
To which my 11 year old retorted, “I like eating them not making them.”
I sat them down with dough and cookie cutters while I made the frosting.
Next thing I knew, I turned around and there was flour in the air and on the kids.
All I could think of was how much everything hurt already and how hard it was going to be to clean flour out of everything.
“Boys, please stop. Just cut out your shapes and put them on the cookie sheet. Ask if you need help.”
But within minutes they were arguing about something imaginary. They’d made up a game earlier in the day and proceeded to argue about the rules of said imaginary game.
I decided it was best to move my frosting making to the table where I could better supervise.
I had no sooner moved my things to the table than they began pushing and shoving the table, causing way too much milk to be added to my frosting and forcing me to start all over.
The afternoon continued like this.
I’m not sure at what point I hit critical mass. I went from defcon 5 to defcon 1 almost without realizing it.
I was fine one second, and the next I was screaming.
I was not yelling or hollering.
I was screaming like a crazy banshee!
“STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!!!”
That’s all it took, and the 8 year old dissolved into tears.
But I wasn’t done yet.
“I’M TRYING TO MAKE HAPPY CHRISTMAS MEMORIES!!!!!!!!!!”
I don’t think I can emphasize enough that I was screaming like a crazy person at my two sweet boys.
“GET OUT! LEAVE! GO WATCH SOMETHING ON TV AND LEAVE ME ALONE! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! NOW!!!!”
And I proceeded to fall apart into a blubbery mess of tears and frosting-covered hands.
Have you ever tried to wipe away tears when you’re hands are covered with frosting? Yeah….
There I sat in a room full of unbaked cookies, crying children in the next room, and my own feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness my only company.
And the thought that haunted me: if you die tomorrow this will be their last memory of you.
So much for happy Christmas memories.
My 11 year old cautiously approach the kitchen.
“Mama? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
I held up my hand for him to stop. I wasn’t sure if the screaming banshee had returned to her cave yet and thought it best if I were alone for a while.
I wiped away more tears.
“I just need to be by myself for a while. I’ll come in there and talk to you in a minute.“
It was then that it occurred to me: this wasn’t about the cookies or the boys acting, well, like boys.
It was about my fears, my anxieties, my uncertainties.
This was about me.
This was about me feeling inadequate.
So cried for a while longer, and I prayed a bit.
I sat alone in the kitchen and made cookies by myself while the boys made a mess of the living room.
At least if they wouldn’t have happy memories of baking cookies with mom, they’d have have happy memories of eating cookies from mom.
That had to be good enough.
When I had calmed down enough –and I was sure the banshee had retreated to her isolated cave, I went into the living room and apologized for yelling and being angry when they were just being kids.
My oldest really thought it was their fault, and it took some convincing for him to believe that it was not.
I hugged and kissed them each and told them I loved them.
Then later I presented them with warm sugar cookies, the same recipe that’s been in our family for generations.
I’m learning to control my frustrations better, mostly. Sort of. Let’s be honest here: it’s a work in progress, but I rarely lose complete control like that .
My children don’t seem horribly scarred by the Christmas cookie incident. They helped me bake some cookies today and seemed to have a good time.
And, when I start to freak out that everything’s not going as planned in the kitchen, one of boys will declare in a falsetto voice, “I’m trying to make happy Christmas memories!!”
And we have a good, hearty laugh.
And I remember where I was.
And how far God has brought me.
And I remember that people –especially these little, or not so little, people that God has put in my care are way important than any schedule or goal or to do list.
All I have to do to give them happy memories is be kind and loving.
So, if I can’t be kind and loving, burn the tree and toss the cookie dough and forget the gifts.
Let’s have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if dinner is too stressful rather than ruin my testimony to my children.
Let’s skip Christmas altogether if it’s too stressful rather than ruin my testimony to my children.
All that really matters are the souls in my care.
I might die tomorrow or I could die when I’m 80. But either way, I want to go to sleep tonight with a clear conscience.
So the next time you feel like yelling, declare in a falsetto voice, “I’m trying to make happy Christmas memories!” and see if you laugh as hard as we do.