Christmas Apnea

What do tonsils and Advent have to do with one another?


Seemingly nothing, at first glance. The two have coincided in my life this year, as my daughter is having hers removed today, December 18.

At age twelve, we’ve only recently discovered that her oversized tonsils are obstructing her sleep. Dangling like two red ornaments into her airway, those tonsils cause her breathing to stop about every three minutes throughout the night; her brain arouses her to shift into a position that will enable respiration again. The result: she’s chronically tired and cranky, is often sick, has trouble focusing and remembering, and probably isn’t growing as well as she should. Our hope is that by removing the obstructions, she will — perhaps for the first time in her life (!) — experience the rest she needs to be healthy mentally, physically and emotionally.

I confess, adding minor surgery to our family calendar just seven days before Christmas did initially cause me some internal anguish due to the impact on my agenda. But when your daughter isn’t breathing, not much else is important by comparison. The way I live in December bears an uncanny resemblance to my daughter’s life every-day.

I scurry about my longer-than-usual-thanks-to-Christmas list of tasks as though I’m a contestant on Minute to Win It. I find myself crabby from burning my Advent candles at both ends — wrapping gifts in the dark morning hours and up late after school holiday activities. As a result, I get sick almost every December with a hacking cough — this year included. Worst of all, I grow no closer to Jesus through these labors. Perhaps these are obstructions blocking my spiritual airway, impediments to breathing deeply of the life-giving truth of Jesus’ coming?

Do I have Christmas apnea?

We were all born with tonsils, but not all tonsils are measured in bowling-ball equivalencies, nor do they cause sleep apnea in all people. The same could be said of our varied approaches to Christmas preparations and celebrations: Santa or no Santa. Cards shipped directly from Tiny Prints to recipients or painstakingly handwritten. Parties, musical performances, cookie exchanges, post office trips and menu-planning. Not one of those is a universal cause of the frustration, fatigue or guilt that many of us feel each December. But one or two (or a combination) of those may, in fact, be the cause for a particular individual. Since the cause isn’t universal, a tradition-ectomy can’t be universally prescribed.  

In quiet moments before the Throne, shall we individually evaluate each of our traditions and commitments with a single test: are they bringing life and joy to our Advent experience or blocking our airway and impeding our growth in Him? We may need to do this annually, weekly, daily, or even moment-by-moment. Being willing to make difficult (or unpopular) changes that will yield health and growth in our spiritual lives at Christmas and year-round is the only way we’ll experience

…rest instead of weariness…
…peace instead of guilt…
…joy instead of crankiness.

Because our focus will be on Him.

What change will you make this year?
What tradition do you have that helps you keep your focus on Christ?
Share your ideas with us below!

Please share!
    • Ellen Landreth

      Santa and I have found the normal Christmas has been turned inside out. We spend the month making our visits to homes, churches, businesses, restaurants, retirement homes, schools, preschools, and lighting up the lives of others. We have found such satisfaction in this that we totally ignore the regular Christmas activities like buying gifts. Besides, there is really no time. And then our favorite time of all is Christmas Day when we do volunteer visits to the ill. Oh my goodness, I never knew Christmas day could be so wonderful. Because my Santa wears a cross he has many opportunities to witness. People are coming to him in tears telling him of the plight others are in. He will often pray with the people. And he continually reminds children to think of others instead of their own wish lists. I guess what I am saying is that by giving joy to others we receive more joy than we thought possible. I wish I would have found a way to do this when my kids were young–taking the focus off themselves and put it on lighting up others lives by sharing Jesus’ love with them.

      • Jeannette Duwe

        Ellen – I loved your testimony here on Kirsten’s blog. Such encouragement! It pricks this momma’s heart in an area that I too, struggle to teach with my children. May your Christmas season be filled with extra joy this year! I have to ask – do you limit your santa visits to December? Or do you find other creative times during the year to spread Christmas joy, too? Enjoy your Christmas!!

    • Jeannette Duwe

      Kirsten – as is so often the case, your blog this week is spot on. Thinking of you and your sweet li’l one and praying for simple surgery and a quick recovery! Love you!!

    • Susan Cates

      After I had MAJOR meltdown last night that left several family members in tears, Bill and I decided that this was the last year of the craziness. We have a week off between Christmas and New Year and our one and only goal is to evaluate everything we did for Christmas this year. If we wait until next year, we may have forgotten what worked and what didn’t. So just as I purge decorations that I won’t use next year BEFORE I pack them into the attic, we are going to purge the “traditions” that we don’t want to use next year.

      Thanks for always staying real with your posts. It helps to know that I’m not alone in this battle. Prayers for a safe surgery for your dear daughter. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    • Chris

      I have to admit: after reading the title and short tease for your blog post today, I hesitated before clicking on the link, wondering if you could pull off the analogy. Of course you did! I totally got the imagery of a blocked literal airway and figurative spiritual airway. Better yet, your post put into words what I’ve been struggling with the past two weeks when I’ve stressed over not having cards to send out AT ALL and giving spiced nuts to neighbors instead of delivering homemade cookies! We’re going to keep our tradition of reading an advent book every night at dinner and try to prioritize the other things we do during this season. Thank you for the needed reminder! Merry, merry Christmas!

    • Susan Stilwell

      Hi Kirsten, I’m finally catching up. I loved your post on Christmas cards. I skipped them last Christmas because of Steve’s surgery. Interesting — my Sarah had her tonsils out 2 Christmases ago, at the ripe age of 19. You’re wise to get them out sooner :)

      Praying your daughter has a quick recovery and y’all have a wonderful Christmas!