There are a few things I learned after Jonah started what I like to call the cold cruel world of public schools: 1) That Volunteering is a must.  2) That it’s probably not the best idea to walk fast in a rainy parking lot juggling three kids, a backpack, a four year old’s stuffed animal, and a very full cup of coffee.  3)And that being on time is kind of important.  Pretty much mandatory actually.

So by mid-October I thought I was getting it down pretty good.  I was volunteering weekly in the library or classroom. When walking across the parking lot Jonah was wearing his backpack, Daniel was packing his lion to his side, and Micah was placed strategically on one hip as I held my half filled cup of coffee.  Jonah was always in the classroom before his teacher started teaching, so I thought I was pretty much up for mom of the year.

And then I got the call.

When I heard the principals voice over the phone I immediately thought, “Is Jonah in trouble?” Logic immediately squelched that and my second thought was, “Am I in trouble?” After a few brief pleasantry’s she told me that Jonah had been tardy seventeen times.  Yeah, I’ll repeat it, because you’re not mistaken.  SEVENTEEN TIMES! Five would have been bad.  Ten, pretty much unforgivable.  Outrageously embarrassed, once again I was reminded of another one of these flaw-filled facets that make me.

Growing up, one of my biggest pet peeves about my mom was that she always seemed to be running late.  She was still trying to get her curlers out, changing out of a spit-up covered shirt, and could never seem to find her keys.  I would stand there stomping my converses.  I’d flip my blond locks never offering to help, annoyed that once again we were late. It wasn’t until I was raking up my own tardies in high school that I realized as I was giving her loud selfish sighs, I was rarely ready either.  Of course I never admitted it.   You can’t be holier-than-thou teenage girl if you’re accountable.

So when I got called from the Principal’s office, the only blond locks I could flip at were my own.  I thought I was ahead of the game.  I thought I had prepared for this new phase in our lives.  I met with the staff and researched the school.  I thought I had prepared for the transitional and emotional changes this would have on our lives.  I just hadn’t prepared on the biggest setback being my own.

This setback that seems to be a running theme in my life recently.  As I prepared for Christmas and the days seemed to fly by, I kept grappling for one more minute, asking God to please help things to slow down.  I seemed constantly rushing between drop offs/ bath times/bed times, lucky if my hair was clean and I’d washed off yesterday’s mascara.  But time didn’t slow.  Chris and I’ve never been into the consumer driven Christmas, but we really relish the time preparing with the kids for Christ’s birth.  As we lit the candle for the final week of Advent, I watched the flames dance in the boys excited eyes and wondered; had I held myself back from enjoying this time?  Was I prepared to cherish every moment?

There are things in life we can prepare for: Birthdays, holiday’s,  and anniversary’s.  The things to look forward to during the day to day.  These things that make Monday’s easier, so we aren’t consumed in a world of endless piles of laundry and credit scores.

And there are the things we can’t possibly prepare for…The Good: The great love for a spouse that continues to grow and develop through each passing year.  The all encompassing joy that comes from open mouth baby kisses and a small hand placed tightly in ours.  A friendship forged as adults with siblings and parents, and friends that become our family.

The Bad: The days when loving our spouse has never been harder.  When the plumbings broke again, and everyone really has to go…at the same time.  When you’ve been gossiped about, and only have ten dollars to your name.

And The Ugly: When a family member grows ill.  The end to a friendship.  The agony of an ultrasound without a heartbeat.  The grief that rises up at the most inopportune time when you think of how her eyelashes curled, and how she fit perfectly in your arms.  Like stretch marks fading from purple to pink, perhaps forgotten by the rest of the world, but like all our children, an intricate part of our lives.

These moments where time stops, seconds pass, and all we can do is pray.

I remembered this on Christmas Eve.  I caught Jonah staring earnestly out our big front window.  I had thought that he would only be too eager to go to bed that night, awaiting Santa.  But he continued to stall, squinting his eyes, looking at the sky.  I asked him if he was looking for Santa.  He shook his head no.  I asked if he was waiting for Daddy(who was still at work).  He shook his head no.  “Well, what are you looking for Jonah?” I asked running behind as usual, impatient with myself.

“I’m looking for the Christmas Star.” He replied.  Instantly I remembered being a six year old, staring out the window in Havre Montana looking for the brightest star in the sky, just like my Mom said. The star that shone over where Jesus was born.  A star filled with wonder, signaling the Light of the world.

A Light that came to a Mother, so young, holding her new son born in a cave to house animals.  A mother that took the words of an Angel, the gift of life from the Holy Spirit, and held her son–the Son of God… Did she think about the good her Son would do?  The bad people that would put him in danger?  The ugly that would come on a Friday, as the world turned black and our sins lay etched on a wooden cross?

Or did she just let time stop?  Did she stare at his small chest as it moved up and down with each breath?  Did she close her eyes and nestle him in the nape of her neck as Joseph’s lips brushed them both on the foreheads?  This night when both their worlds changed as they became parents to this baby boy.

A baby who lay under a star, signaling to the world it would never be the same.

A star, I knelt next to my Jonah looking for.  My Jonah, who has only been late to school once since that call from the Principal.  My Jonah, who went to bed a little too late that night.  My Jonah, whose eyes are as blue as his grandmothers, whether she can find her keys or not.  My Jonah, who gave me an unexpected gift this Christmas.

A reminder to let time stop.  To look at the sky searching for what God wants, in awe of what God has done.   In a place where what I’ve prepared for pales in comparison to how much was prepared for me on a Christmas Eve long ago.   Where every good, bad, and ugly thing in my life reminds me to be grateful, have hope, and find grace.  Where on my knees, once again, I realize that in His eyes it doesn’t matter if I’m late.  All that matters is that I came.