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December 2, 2016

Merry Stinkin’ Christmas!

By Tara Beth Warrick

In my former life, I was a Type A individual. Always on time. Always prepared. If I was not as talented as my competition, I could certainly out work them. In some ways, this drive was very helpful as it got me into college. In other ways, it led me to feel the need to control every situation in my life, instead of relying on my Lord to guide me through. Then I lost a child.

And I would venture to say that I swung to the other end of the spectrum and became a Type B individual, losing the will and the drive to care about almost anything. Including myself. Certainly including my Creator. It mellowed me out a lot and removed the compulsive need to control from my life. But it also took away my need to please my Father.

Then I gained some living children. And they are awesome. And the Lord is using them to keep me just Type A enough to keep the family ship sailing, and just Type B enough to not sweat the small stuff so much. We are now going to call me a Type C person. If there is such a thing… Psych majors, is there a Type C?

My current and former selves enjoy sending a good Christmas card. A real piece of cardstock in the snail mail with a stamp that is now priced high enough that the same amount of money could get me a pack of crackers out of the vending machine. This year, with three kids, three jobs outside the home, three dogs, a bathroom renovation and an infant in tow, my husband and I would not describe ourselves as our best looking selves (which my Type C self is okay with). We decided just to put a picture of the kids on our card this year because let’s be real, the public just wants the babies. In the digital age, constant family photo shoots are a “thing.” (In case you don’t know how to achieve it, this company has provided you some instructions here)

My suppressed Type A Self wanted to get this picture completed early so that I could order my cards, pat myself on the back and feel accomplished. So Saturday morning all three babes had a bath. Magic marker and boogers were scrubbed away and hair was actually fixed with product and heat tools. Clothes were ironed. I was on a roll. We loaded “Ye Olde Suburban” and drove out into the tree farm that my husband’s family owns. Given that we were not at an actual Christmas tree farm with actual Christmas trees, I gave my husband strict instructions to “find something evergreenish” and to get this show on the road. This was going to take twenty minutes max! It was going to be awesome! We considered some options for the “right” spot as this was not the “magic hour” (this is also a thing… Google ‘photography + magic hour’) and parked at a suitable location. We all hopped out of the Burb, shutting our doors behind us, thinking we would get the baby out last. Three car doors shut and CLICK. The car locked itself. The keys were in the car. My phone was in the car. THE BABY WAS IN THE CAR. THE BABY WHO HATES BEING IN HER CAR SEAT UNDER MOST EXCELLENT CIRCUMSTANCES WAS IN THE CAR.

Because my Type B Self has also been suppressed, I would not describe myself as totally calm. But my Type C Self has enough life experience now not to lose my cool. So my Type C Self had a quick planning meeting with my husband of very few words, and we formulated a plan:

  • Husband of Very Few Words would hike out of the farm with the five and three year old children and attempt to locate help. Husband of Very Few Words would be mindful that five and three year old children are wearing new clothing and shalt not prance and frolic through the mud on their journey to obtain help.
  • Type C Self would stand guard by the locked vehicle, should DSS arrive in his absence and charge us with neglect or abandonment
  • Husband of Very Few Words would obtain a ride home to secure spare key to Ye Olde Suburban and return to rescue Miniature Damsel in Distress
  • Type C Self would insist that the photo was indeed still happening because we’ve come this far, we might as well finish the job!

I stood by my vehicle feeling very out of control. My baby was screaming inside my car and I could do nothing to soothe her. I had felt this sense of helplessness before, to a much greater degree during my pregnancies. Control completely stripped from my grasp. A verse I like to keep in my back pocket is 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you.” My Type C Self has learned to examine where the Father might be in times that challenge us, rather than perseverating on what feels out of my control or being bitter about my circumstances. I talked to God outside my car and prayed over my screaming baby. I saw Him in the sunlight that shifted through the trees. I felt Him in the cool of the morning. In fact, I felt so much of the cool, that I started doing squats to stay warm because it was about thirty degrees and I had not dressed for an outdoor adventure. I had dressed for a twenty minute internet-directed photo shoot.

Sometime later, my husband arrived with the spare key and we retrieved the Miniature Damsel in Distress from the vehicle. Everyone was tired, had runny noses from the cold air and red cheeks. No one was quite as “perky” as an hour before. We pressed on, keeping our eye on the proverbial prize. It is a challenging thing- to have an infant look at the camera with wonder in her eyes. It is equally challenging to have a three year old male with Selective Hearing Disorder and Intermittent Loss of Compliance with Behavioral Expectations look at the camera either.

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The five year old is confused. The baby is about to sneeze. The three year old is staring at the ground. Merry Stinkin’ Christmas.

But that is the beauty of Christmas, isn’t it? It started out stinky. With a somewhat scandalous couple, animals that will walk through and lie down in their own fecal matter, and political corruption. It involved taxes and varying sects of society. The first Christmas was a far cry from what we celebrate now. In fact, I think Mary would probably think my whole attempt at a photo shoot was a pretty lame and trivial idea. Try as we might to achieve the Hallmark card, sometimes we wind up with the card made from macaroni noodles and scrap paper. One looks better but one is more meaningful. A baby prince born in a palace would be adorned with the finest of fineries and would certainly draw the interest of an outsider. But our Prince did not come wrapped in a bow. I think one of the best parts of the story is the digging. The digging to find the beauty and the magic in the way God chose to send His son. Perhaps part of our challenge as Christians is to make the macaroni-noodle-stinky-not perfect-Christmas SO exciting that it overwhelms the Hallmark notion entirely. Our icky Christmas is just fine. It IS perfect, because He is Perfect.

So from our Borderline-Child-Endangering Family to yours, we would like to wish you a Merry Stinkin’ Christmas.
Sincerely,
The Warrick Family