Ten years ago tonight I was nine months pregnant. I was sore and miserable, waddling and tired. It was my first Christmas to not be at my parents' house and the house seemed so empty with only Dowlan and I (and my belly).
It was the only year of all twelve I attended my church in Austin that I was there for candlelight service. As I stood there, holding my candle and trying to get enough air into my body to sing, I had a thought: at least I don't have to go anywhere on a donkey.
Ever ridden a donkey? It's almost exactly nothing like riding a horse. Their backs aren't wide and flat--they poke up in the middle like the roof of a house with a bony ridge that is unforgiving on your nethers with every jostle. As they gift their weight with every step, you get shifted too.
At nine months pregnant, my nethers and I could barely handle a car ride across town. I can only imagine what it would have been like to go with no road, no gps, no tilting seat, no hotel reserved, no Sonic drink and no idea why God chose your unmarried teenaged self to give birth to the savior of the world.
Tonight I sang at the front of a different church in a different city. It's been seven years since I was last nine months pregnant. My husband and friend dealt with overstimulated boy, hardcore cool girl and grumpy girl from the pews while I tried to not cough into the microphone. As we sang the words, "Baby Jesus, don't cry," I heard all the sweet babies in the audience crying and their mamas shushing and calming them.
I wanted to reassure them that baby Jesus made a whole heap of racket in that stinky, drafty barn and that their baby was just fine. Just like I wanted someone to reassure me that my baby boy was just fine as he shouted out his own (unique) answers in the children's sermon and then, with gusto, circumnavigated the children singing their songs.
I'm pretty sure that if anyone at our church has ever wondered, "Hm, now I wonder why Gretchen looks tired all the time?" that they now have their answer. Because the truth is that I am exhausted. Preparing for Christmas and surgery and travel in the same week is whelming and, on top of that, we stepped up the gift schedule by a day and I simply was not finished with the quilt I was making Dixie. After staying up quite late last night finishing and late tonight Santa-ing, I still have to pack my self for the hospital and my children for trips to see all the grandmas this week. And I am tired and sore and exhausted.
No donkey. I don't have to go anywhere on a donkey.