Do your best with what you’ve got. That is a frequent theme in our house. I’d tell you to ask my kids for proof, but the frequency with which I need to repeat this theme means it probably hasn’t sunk in with them yet. Regardless, it is a mantra that adequately answers so many complaints and it helps me to keep my own complaints in check as well.
We are halfway through the season of Advent and I’ve decided to do it differently this year. I’m doing my best with what I’ve got.
I love all the advent calendar ideas filled with family activities, community events and random acts of kindness. I love that you’re all posting pictures of your bliss on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. The sharing of ideas, the encouragement, the joy…bless you all! It is a beautiful way to teach your children about the true meaning of Christmas and to celebrate with joyful anticipation the coming of our Saviour.
But Lord help us, that particular advent model does not work for us. I’ve tried and we suck at it. I need to do my best with what I’ve got.
What I’ve got is four children with very different needs. One of them is still part of the demographic to whom we as Christians aim to minister throughout the year and especially at Christmas time. He is broken and lost and angry. What he needs is safe outlets for physical activity, a network of parent-approved peers and authority figures that spend time with him, and an open invitation to join the rest of the family in festive activities whenever he’s ready. What he does not need is mandatory participation in and contribution to acts of service and generosity and precious togetherness every single day for a month.
That doesn’t mean he gets a free pass to skip out on anything and everything that’s service-oriented or religious. It does mean the other kids can make shortbread cookies in peace while he’s at basketball practice and that counts as celebrating Advent.
I’m doing my best with what I’ve got.
I’ve also got a husband who isn’t festive and jolly. He is a generous, hard-working, God-honouring man. He is a man of faith, integrity and commitment. He is handy, smart, funny and pretty darn handsome, too. He’s a lot of great things. But festive? No. He’d rather stick a fork in his eye than watch “White Christmas” and his idea of gift-wrapping is taking the receipt out of the plastic bag before he hands it to you.
That doesn’t mean he begrudges Advent activities. He will eagerly pitch in and help with the Salvation Army food hampers, and he is willing to foot the bill for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes – as long as he doesn’t have to do the shopping. That counts as celebrating Advent.
I want my family to be mindful of those who have less – and to respond with love and kindness and generosity. I want my family to keep the focus of Christmas on the birth of God’s Son instead of the rampant materialism. It would be delightful if we could express those desires by going caroling together in 6-part harmony and having our family portrait taken beside a life-size nativity scene that we built together out of upcycled beer cans which we could then sell and buy goats for a starving village in Africa.
But we can’t. That would turn “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” into “Oh Holy Nightmare on Elm Street”.
We will do our best with what we’ve got. Next year, what we’ve got may be different and we’ll get to find a new best. For now, I will enjoy your Facebook pictures of your annual family glass-blowing workshop to make one-of-a-kind ornaments for homeless people. But we will stay home and watch “Elf” and be grateful for the snippets of peace, love, and joy that come our way. That counts as celebrating Advent.