So This is Christmas…

I heard this quote not long ago and it stuck with me…

At Christmas, we like to see things in their proper place.  We unwrap the oldest legends and the ancient truths.  We like our angels unchanged and our rituals familiar.  We like the right faces around the table, the right carols sung, the promise that this is how it is and will always be.  Because that is Christmas.  The one still-point in a world ever turning.*

It’s true.  We need to know we can count on certain things no matter what.  It’s a touchstone of sorts, this holiday.  A way to connect to the past and to the future all at once.  A way to hold tight to what we do know even if what we don’t know looms ever too close.  The fluff and stuff can be more than a little distracting, but the truth remains. We all need a little Christmas.

I find myself, this Christmas more than ever before, ridiculously pensive.  Can’t quite put my finger on it.  Though none of our Christmases have looked the same and some we flung tradition so far into the wind it came back unrecognizable, this one is all new.

Perhaps, it is because my kids are older.  Perhaps, it is because we’ve moved and not one thing feels familiar.  Perhaps, it is because the tree is half its usual size to fit into the new living room.

We opened our boxes of Christmas paraphernalia — at least the ones we could locate — and knew not where to put one darn thing except the star on top of the tree.  It was fun to make new plans, and gosh, it looks gorgeous, but somehow the days since have left me a bit wobbly somewhere deep.  Before you lose any sleep over it, I’m fine.  I’m just needing to plant my feet a bit.  Christmas has to be re-born for me, for us, this year.  You know when you’re reading a really great book and all of a sudden in the middle somewhere, the author gives you a blank page out of nowhere and you turn it to find the words, Part II?  All of a sudden, your characters are a bit older and have lived a chunk of their life without your knowing.  That’s what this feels like for me.  Part II. Not bad.  Just a new jumping-off point.

Somehow, without familiarity  around me, I feel rootless.  And it makes me think about the millions of folks feeling this way, and so much worse this time of year.  How about those who may have places to spend Christmas, but there’s really nothing comfortable or joyful about it?  What about people far from their homes left wishing?  Maybe there are kids in a house that isn’t a home at all and Christmas just pokes at that realization even harder.  Some folks, through no choice of their own are left picking up other people’s messy pieces this Christmas and they’re left to face things in a whole new way.

It’s not all tinsel and snowflakes.

It deserves to be said that even for some who seem to have everything in place, this holiday can leave some sadness.  Sometimes the kind upon which a finger cannot quite be placed.  It’s all the hype, the expectation, that leaves holes and sometimes makes folks just go through the motions.

So.  Strip it down.  Undress all of the dollars and wrapping paper and ornaments we throw as a culture toward a day on the calendar and what is left?

Naked Christmas.  What does that look like?

There’s the exquisitely simple and beautiful truth that supposedly started this whole thing.  Frankly, I find it hard to wrap it all up and assign it to one day in December — the hope and light of my Jesus humbly arriving for me– for you.  Once upon a time, a light pointed the way in the darkness.  It’s too big and too grand of a concept for me to allow it to join hands with Santa and some flying northern deer.  I really find that it’s more of the fabric of who I am than to drum it up for an upcoming Thursday.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the reminder, I just think it’s lost is some serious shuffle.

There’s this need we all have to belong, to know and be known.

And I’m pretty sure that the absence of that belonging is not only highlighted this time of year, but there is a million-watt searchlight beaming in on that issue right about now for a lot of folks.  I like that I’m more aware of it than ever.  I think it deserves to be faced, head-on.  And it can’t be fixed with a free canned good or a few coins in a bucket near some jingling bells or even a plate filled with ham (such nice things by the way).  I just mean that the hurt going on around us isn’t that simply fixed.

I kind of feel like this place I’m in is a good and needed reminder to look out for maybe even just one heart this year that feels a bit lonely — a bit off — and reach out for it.

To throw some love instead of some tinsel in that direction.

To be light in the darkness because that’s exactly what we were given.

To grab a hand in the dark and find the way to a manger…

star

 

 

*quoted from Call the Midwife 🙂

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You! Yes, you!

Today, I write with a heart filled with wonder at the soft, curvy, emotion-rich beauty that I see around me in the women I admire and call my friends.

This week, I have helped my oldest daughter prepare to move a few weeks before our big move, and part of our mission was for her to have a chance to hug the necks of the women we love.

As I spend moments with each of them and look at the faces of the ones who literally changed my every idea of what a woman should be, I am in awe.

At this moment in my life, I know examples of beauty that leave me in tears even as I write.  I don’t have words enough for the way they have proven to me how love embodies a human heart.  How God can change and reshape and use women to bind up, to help each other heal, to fill the gaps.  But I will try.  I owe them at least the effort.  Especially this week, when we are given a day to celebrate womanhood.

On Mother’s Day we hold high the position of a mother, but ever since the day that I was put in charge of ordering the number of carnations to hand out in church on this holiday, I find myself quite aware that mother or not, this heart I see, the heart of a woman, deserves recognition.  The unique strengths that women carry in our very fibers is where the beauty begins.  Even those not yet fully grown have a beauty that is precious and vital.

I would imagine that our Creator knew that though the man he made was capable of many great things, he would lack–there was a void.  So He reached into the part of Who He is that nurtures and pours out kindness and softness and added it into the mix for round two of human-making.

(Men, don’t you worry.  Father’s Day is not too far off and I might be inspired to write about how great round one was as well.)

Today, I hold high those who, with dignity and femininity, have risen to meet their life challengesapple blossom head-on.  Who have made the choice to love with abandon and have settled into what a woman was created to be with grace and humility and joy.  Who make those around them better just for the very presence in this world.  Who build up even if they came from a torn-down place.

I take my metaphorical hat off to each of you…

You, the woman awake all night praying for your children.

You, the single mom making every single end meet even when you don’t want to or feel like you have one single thing left to give.

You, the mom holding the sticky hands juggling several children in Meijer on your birthday.

You whose own mother did not show you love, yet you allowed a legacy of love to begin in and through you as you loved your babies.

You, the woman working all day and then coming home to make a home for those you love.

You, the mom who would give a limb for a half hour nap because you give until the tank is dry.

You, the woman holding everyone up emotionally when no one sees how much you could use a little holding yourself.

You, the woman taking care of the needs of folks who once took care of you–elderly parents and grandparents.

You who listens well to the hurts and words of those you love, somehow smiling with tears a heartbeat away–barely hanging on.

You the woman who would give anything to be a mom and the time isn’t just right quite yet–or maybe ever.

You, the woman who took in children of someone who had no business birthing a child, yet you love them, become their family, create for them a home, and make them your own.

You, the new mom who pours out every single bit of herself physically and emotionally–stretched to the very limits–and still selflessly gives and gives, day and night, into this new and precious little human.

You, whose children have grown and you find yourself in a brand new place in life;  yet, you choose to live a life of purpose and joy and come alongside those you love to build up and encourage.

You, the younger woman who is in the midst of finding who she is.  Who stands quietly strong in her convictions, poised and ready to rise to the unique challenge of womanhood.  

You, the mom who finds a way to feed hungry bellies from a few ingredients in the pantry, perhaps feeling a little hungrier yourself.

You, who teaches her children at your own cost of time and plans because it is simply what you were called to do…

You, the woman who holds the hands of a friend in tears and hears her heart and weeps with her and covers her in your prayers.

To you who has an inkling of hope that her efforts and sacrifice have import that is both eternal and exponential.  Be assured.  It is. They are.  You–you are the safe and soft place to fall for those you love.  You are the steady that keeps lives around you in forward and fluid motion.  You are strong and graceful, capable and a precious expression of the heart of God.

And well worth celebrating.