Tis the season for…well, you’ll see.

An Atheist and a Catholic


Brittany on priorities:

Holidays, especially this one spent living with my gracious family, put me in mind of priorities, and how different values can cause conflict. My husband and I are both neglectful housekeepers. Or maybe good-enough housekeepers. We cleaned a doctor’s office for a while, and once you’ve been paid to clean, you kind of resent doing it for free.

On the other side, my parents, my mom in particular, keeps a gorgeous house. If it weren’t for the three of us, my parents could put the house on the market tomorrow or have a magazine shoot for an article on decked-out kitchens, or fabulous master suites, or making your house feel like a five star resort. It’s decked out in gold and silver for Christmas and the house is amazingly beautiful.

And it’s like this all the time. It’s easy to take it for granted as a visitor, but keeping a house at this level of perfection all the time is a full-time job.

But I already have a full-time job. Well, more like three part-time jobs, plus blogging and freelancing. So there’s conflict.

I feel like education and charity are more important than housekeeping, so I bristle at the high expectations. When I finally get five minutes, I want to read on my phone, not pick up after my son.

You might even be agreeing with me right now, and thinking my mom should loosen up, but she’s actually performing charity when she welcomes me into this spotless museum of a home and she’s teaching my son about hard work and thoughtfulness by teaching him to clean up after himself.

So while she has my son out shopping with her to give me a break, I took a minute before I wrote this to help her. I put her laundry in the dryer, and picked up my son’s shoes, and took out the trash (and remembered to put in a new trash bag!), and took her yappy furbag for a walk. Because her priorities aren’t any less valuable than mine, even if I don’t share them.

Sarah, in reply:

The discussion of priorities reminds me that, this time of year, I find myself at odds. With myself. With others. With myself.

Honestly, I don’t care about the presents. And I wish I didn’t have to worry about them. I wish our Christmas gatherings could be about time together and not about stuff. Part of that is because if I can’t find the perfect gift, I’d rather just give you a hug. It’s all or nothin’. You get a boring gift card or this great thing I was inspired to get you.

But…I have these kids who lovvvve presents. And I have all these generous family members who lovvvvve giving them gifts.

And…maybe it’s not about me. (Ya think?)

Just last night, wedged between about a thousand deadlines and projects, my husband came home with our tree. And when our house filled with the smell of pine and the soundtrack of delighted children, I realized something.

This season is a reminder to me. As we prepare for Christmas through Advent, I journey down a well-worn path toward a baby. He’s a baby I’ve never held, but who I’ve seen.

I’ve seen him in the text from a dear friend who offered to take my son so that I could crank out work like a crazy woman. I’ve felt him in the smiles of an uncle who shared his birthday meal with my family. I’ve heard him in the laughter of the people around me who are plotting their surprises and what giving is best done how and when and what.

This Advent, I’ve watched a family pull together once again. I’ve dug in myself, without even thinking and despite the crazy schedule I’ve been keeping lately.

Am I ready for Christmas? Nope. I never am. The presents may be purchased and wrapped and ready. The house may be decorated and the tree may be lit and dinner may be planned. And I can only hope that, in a few more days, I’m more open to the beauty I’ve been given and the season of joy that awaits me on Christmas Day.

Read all the posts in the An Atheist and a Catholic series here.