Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Ebb and Flow of Happiness

Like any sane person, "Christmas" (really, Advent through Christmas Day) has been my favorite time of year since my life began. In my family, just like Thanksgiving, it's celebrated with food, but also decorating and shopping and decorating and getting more time with my huge, messy, constantly feuding family. I love that unlike a lot of other holidays, Christmas has maintained its traditions, even if those who celebrate it don't know the meaning behind them: it's hard to buy trees to display in your house with colored lights at any other time; at no other time in the year do we give gifts to everyone we know (thank Goodness); and people go to church.

Midnight Mass at St. VdP Church in Kansas City, MO; can my church look like this, please?

In years past, Christmas was the happiest time of the year. I looked forward to every single bit of it: the baking and eating of Christmas cookies, fudge, and rice krispy treats, buying the Christmas tree with my Daddy, clandestinely wrapping presents with the door closed in my parent's room, the big parties we would go to or host ourselves, and seeing the Nutcracker at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando. 

Ok, so this is the Nutcrakcer as done in St. Petersburg, but it's the same concept, right?

But this year, this year it's different. At moments when I feel the greatest joy, I start to spontaneously well up with tears. It happened a lot at the in-laws during Thanksgiving: while browsing through a Christmas store where there were lovely decorations or while setting the table with my MIL's beautiful china. I thought I was just homesick, but it happened this week while we were at Christmas party doing a sing-a-long to "Joseph's Song" and last night while I was arranging fresh greens on our bench that serves as a mantle. Something plucked my heart strings and there I was, fighting back the blurring of the lights while my husband blithely watched "A Muppet Christmas Carol." 

I really loved Bettina and Belinda this year more than usual - probably because I am only now realizing how much daughters really do parrot their mothers!

Maybe it's because, as much as I hate to admit it, I have been hoping, ever since we got married, for a big announcement at Christmastime. I have wanted to identify with the Blessed Virgin's anticipation more than ever before, and every month that I realized it wasn't yet to be, I kept thinking "that's ok, because maybe this way I'll get to tell my parents on Christmas and that'll be so exciting!" And as Christmas draws nearer, I realize: I might not be telling my parents this year. My time to be a mother may not be here yet; it may still be a long way off. And although I can go through my day without ever thinking about it, all these Christmas traditions make my longing a bit sharper. My family, though for most of my life fairly non-religious, has always been (in practice if not in preaching) pro-life. I have nine nieces and nephews and each one was hailed with excitement and anticipation. I know that my family is longing to celebrate with me too, that they are eagerly awaiting my news as much as I am - and I want a child as much for my family, my husband, his family, as for myself. 

Isn't this what everyone wants? 

Yet this is the life of the Christian: we are not guaranteed happiness. Happiness, as other emotions, may come and go, often independent of our desires or conscious thoughts. And though I may not feel quite as happy this Christmas season as I would had my desires of the moment been granted, it does not diminish my much more deep-seated joy at the Incarnation. Thank God, my salvation does not depend on my feelings or upon me getting my way: I can be holy and do God's will whether I ever become a mother or not. This Christmas season more than any other, I am grateful for Mary's sacrifice - maybe she wanted a different life for herself, maybe she wanted to marry Joseph and have many (non-Son-of-God) children - but she chose to say yes to God's will, to be theotokos. It reminds me that although my life may not be what I always thought it would, that doesn't meant it will be devoid of the joy of service and love. 

For that I am supremely grateful. 


  1. Oh Marti! My heart heart just cries for you. Three Christmases ago, I was also longing to make an announcement. I longed to be able to tell my family at Christmas that another child would be added, not just to our family, but to the Church. Yes, we had a daughter (whom we LOVE!) but I was "sure" our next child would be a son. I wanted to announce his coming at Christmas.

    We didn't get to. Instead, on Christmas morning my sister-in-law announced she was expecting. I was thrilled. And [very selfishly] heart-broken. At least for a little while.

    But like you said, we may not get our wishes. We may not even get happiness. But true Joy is dependent upon a different Son. For that, I too am eternally grateful!

    Love you Marti!

  2. Praying for God's richest blessings on your life, whatever that looks like in His will. Peace and joy be to you, from a friend of Tom's from high school. ;)

  3. Thank you both for your kind words! It's true that God's plans, whatever they are, will be so much more than I can image. Unfortunately, I have a limited I can't think of what would be better - yet!

  4. I have one child and I still feel the same way. That feeling doesn't even go away!

  5. I'm new to your blog and am really enjoying it! You write beautifully!

    Regarding this post, have you been doing NFP to know your fertile days? I ask because my dr has already identified that I will probably have a bit of trouble conceiving. We just started NFP last Saturday in preparation for our April wedding and the practitioner said that, if you use the Creighton method and have trouble, you should also see a NaPro technology dr. She said that the success rate for someone having trouble on their own is up to 80%! Just wanted to offer some practical advice and hope :). My issue is PCOS, and seeing the NFP practitioner made me feel better than the year of research I've done on my own! Saying prayers for you :).

  6. Hi Stacy! Yes, my husband and I actually use Creighton and I have PCOS as well. As I'm sure you know, conceiving with our condition can be depending on the woman! ) difficult. Thank you for your prayers! I need all that I can get!


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