Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Christmas

My favorite hour,
of my favorite day
during my favorite month.
December 24th, 11:00pm-12:00am
Here I sit.
Here is what I am thinking...

For this hour each year, I feel as close to holiness and perfection as is possible. I do not personally feel that holiness or perfection, but I feel it in the worlds around me. The Natural world. The Spiritual world. The two worlds in which I live, are the closest they can come to merging as one. For this hour, every year, each moment is filled with expectation and warmth. The commercial part is finished. The shopping is done. There are sometimes, still tasks to be done (though I do all I can to be finished before 11 o'clock each year), but for the most part, this is the sacred opportunity to stop, sit, listen and look at the sparkle and glow of what is going on around me..and take in the magic, the wonder, the promise and the hope that holds the worlds in stillness and silence. This is when I feel my peace. This is when I feel stirred.

I pulled it all together this year.
The Works

I am pleased
and satisfied
and filled

And that would have been enough.
This Christmas already stood out as a victory compared to the one last year.
This Christmas had already shaped up to be one of my personal (adult) bests.

There is more.
There is always more.

I changed.

And I didn't see it coming.
You'd think, after having the same hope
Praying the same prayer.
Believing for the same miracle...
For at least ten years,
I'd have been more expectant.
More prepared.
More alert and ready.

I have needed a circumstantial mountain moved in my life
A mountain with a steep emotional incline.
A sorrow-capped mountain I've been trying to scale for years.
Today, GOD moved it.
Not because of my faith.
Not because of my efforts.
Simply because of His goodness.

And truth be told, not a single circumstance was affected.
Nothing, in plain sight, shifted.
Nothing is any different today, than yesterday.
Except for me.
God changed me.
God opened my eyes.
Changed my heart.
And moved the mountain in ME
that was blocking my vision of Him.
He shifted my focus. My direction. My course.
He has changed me.
And the mountain is behind me.
Over to the side somewhere.
No longer looming ahead of me,
Casting a shadow over everything else in my path.

I am as surprised at His moving me,
as I am shocked that I didn't see it coming.
How could I pray for so long,
ask for freedom,
believe He could rescue me...
and then stand amazed when He actually did it?
Did I pray with so little faith, that I didn't look for His answer?
Did I lose hope so quickly that I prayed only words to Him, without confidence that He could hear me?

At once I feel sadness that I didn't see Him moving.
Then I feel embarrassment that I was so short-sighted in my expectations of His faithfulness.

Then I feel comfort
and relief
and peace
and love
and warmth
that He has delivered me, because of Himself.
Because of who He is.
Because of His character
and His nature
and His love.

Much like He sent Himself...
in the flesh
a man among men,
a baby in the midst of His children
To a people who had been told He would come and deliver,
To those who had trusted and prayed for His coming.
To a waiting, expectant, needy people...
Who didn't see Him coming.
Who had no room for them in their homes or inns when He arrived.

Jesus made me a shepherd today.
He blew open the sky,
while I was tending my flock,
consumed with the hustle and bustle of family, marriage and work.
I was given Good News.
I was told to not be afraid.
I was blessed again, with a Savior.
God is with me.
He has come.
And that has changed everything.
That has changed me.
He has changed me.



Merry Christmas.
Merry, merry Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Christmas Heart

This is the Christmas I have been waiting on.
I have been waiting for four years...for Christmas 2009.
I'm taking a risk here to post a private essay I wrote last year.
It was never meant to be read by blog friends, or non-blog friends.
It was written to help me get my heart "out."
I wrote a lot last year, to set my heart free.
I wrote and wrote and wrote.
And my heart was indeed, set free.

But then I did some stepping back.
And put my heart back into my chest.
To keep it safe.
I felt too exposed.
I think I let a little too much out in my writing, and it scared me.
I felt a need to reel it back in this summer,
When I started feeling too vulnerable, about all I'd opened up.

That's really why I started this blog.
To practice opening up a little more.
Not to write drivel about my closet.
I started blogging in an attempt to be true to myself.

To put aside some of the masks I wear.
To live as the real woman I am.

I am real.
I am fragile.
I am tough as nails and strong...sometimes.
But have a fragile core.
I am up, and positive and cheery...quite often.
But I struggle with (and consistently lose to) depression.
I am happy and loving and warm.
But I am needy.
And sad.
And difficult.
And weepy.
And blue.
All rolled into one package.

The following is where I was last year, at this time.
I am not in the same exact place going into this Christmas Season.
I will post my 2008 essay today,
and work on one for 2009 later this week.

I wanted to write today,
but didn't feel like posting something shallow and entertaining.
So here's my big leap into vulnerability.
This is more ME than anything else I've ever let wander out of my heart and walk around,
for most of you.
For some, this will be no surprise. You've loved all of me, for the longest time.
For others, I hope you'll still love me after all this.

December 16, 2008

I have been having a half-hearted Christmas season.
There is so much in that statement, I hadn't been paying attention to or understanding,
until recently.
I have been listening to I Celebrate the Day. I've been listening to it and loving it. But, on Thursday night, I listened to it and fell apart.
I had listened to it before and felt warm and grateful and appreciative.
Thursday night, I listened to it and felt sorrow, disappointment and failure. Then I found healing and hope—all from one song.

Here are the parts that cut me in two:
…here is where You're finding me—in the exact same place as New Year’s Eve...
…So this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years…
…You have come to meet me here…
…You were born that I might really live…

With those lines, I begin my Christmas Essay.

The Season of Christmas changed for me in November of 2006 and I haven't celebrated it “properly,” with my whole heart, since.
Christmas 2006, 2007 and now 2008 have been spent without any depth of joy.
I have held back for three years.
I have tried to celebrate.
I have gone through the motions, but Christmas has not touched my heart in the way I want.
Here is a portrait of those Christmases...

December 26, 2006. Mike and Tucker left Atlanta for Mike's new job in Orlando. U-haul packed with the presents we had opened the day before. Re-boxed and sealed to be put in tiny closets in the rooms of a barren apartment. One little, dinky tree with a handful of ornaments was in a plastic garbage bag at the street with the rest of our trash to be picked up and carried away. The entire month of December had been spent packing, planning and saying goodbye. The next day, I packed up the girls and what was left of the things we were carrying to Orlando. My December 26th was spent cleaning. There were no Christmas decorations to take down, because none had gone up. The kids’ trees had stayed in their boxes. The keepsakes from my childhood, my mother’s holiday things that had been passed on to me and my books…all left in containers in the basement. There was no Christmas season in ’06. I did little things to make a memory or two with the children, but it was fly-by-night and secondary to the move. This made my heart sad, but I knew such sacrifices are part of marriage and I'd be able to make up for it the next year.

December 2007. Fast forward, 11 months. Our house didn't sell. We made plans to spend Christmas back in Georgia. In our furnished house. I didn't do anything Christmasy to the Orlando apartment. We spent every weekend at a different Disney park, checking out the Christmas shows and decorations. Celebrated with a full-out, plastic, commercially and tourist-driven month. All of my shopping was finished by the first week in December. I wrapped and packed every present and loaded them into moving boxes to ship to our house in Georgia, to be opened on Christmas morning. Had nothing to do for the rest of the month. No baking. No crafting. No shopping. Nothing. Bored out of my mind and dying to get back to Georgia.

I walked into my house on December 23rd. And opened my eyes to a spectacular sight. My brother had taken days to decorate my home. It was beautiful. Gorgeous. Perfect. It really was magical. Magical…and strange. My house didn't feel like my house. My books were in the wrong places. My furniture had been rearranged. Tatum and Tucker’s trees had been switched. It looked so wonderful, but it wasn't My Christmas House. Great times in the house for those two weeks, though. So great, that we all cried during the drive back to Orlando. Of course we had to take everything down and pack it away before leaving (OK, Mike had to do that. I never take down Christmas decorations. It’s one of the things Mike has always done for me because he knows how blue I get). 2007, A Condensed Christmas. Void of traditions. But again, I held out for the next year and pushed away the disappointment and sadness, knowing I'd be able to give a better Christmas to myself and my family in 2008.

I moved back into the Georgia house with the children on January 31, 2008, because the house hadn't sold and maintaining two residences was becoming a financial nightmare. Less than four weeks after we drove away at Christmas. Mike stayed in Orlando for work, and moved in with a relative for several months. All six of us were on board with this decision. It is good and difficult for all of us. The commute is tough on Mike. The single-parenting is tough for me. We all miss Mike. And his misses us. This is what we've chosen for this time. We make it work.

Fast forward to Christmas Season 2008. Now.

Boxes were opened, Thanksgiving weekend.
Trees have been put together and decorated.
Wreaths are hung, items are displayed and my house is mine again.
It just doesn't feel right.
There are still gaps missing in the season.
I have been doing more “getting by” and cutting corners.
Leaving out important traditions or putting things on hold,
because so much of it has come to rest on me.
Christmas is MY favorite time of the year.
Christmas is mine to create and nurture in my home and in the life of my family.
This has been a source of joy and excitement for my entire life, but I am out of energy.
I am distracted by all the other tasks and cares of my family and their needs.

So...this season has been filled with emotion, but I feel like it has been lacking in heart. It goes back to the lyrics of that song:

…here is where You're finding me—in the exact same place as New Year’s Eve...

I just don't think I've moved very far Christmas-wise, from where I was this time last year,
or the year before.
It’s almost like I've been stuck in that same place I was when I tied the garbage bag closed around the tree in 2006 and left it on the street.
I think I left my heart sealed up with it.
I lost Christmas that year, not to the hustle and bustle of shopping and materialism that happens to a lot of people—
but in not even stopping once to consider it.
To ponder it.
To connect with Jesus—at all.
And then in 2007, Christmas was more of what someone put together for me, rather than what I discovered and celebrated on my own, with my Savior.
I boxed up Christmas and sent it to my house to be unwrapped on the morning of the 25th,
But never opened up my heart for it to get inside me.

…So this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years…

Honestly, until this song, I couldn't put my finger on what was making this season so less significant than I wanted.
I thought it was blues about missing my mother (and it is).
Christmas 2006 and 2007 (certainly factors).
Mike being away this year (undoubtedly, the biggest influence).

But the reality is,
The Truth that is unchangeable,
The anchor to which I should be staking my faith, my hope and joy
Is that…

…He has come to meet ME here…

As obvious as it should be, I had forgotten this.
I have been trying to muster the energy,
to pull myself up by my boot straps
and throw myself into Christmas.
I've been trying to get myself to a better place.
A place, where I feel Christmas.
A place, where I feel like I'm doing it right,
so I can go to Him;
walk over to the manger and take a look inside,
ready to witness the baby.
Prepared and “ready” to look at Him and take Him in.

But He has come to meet me…….…here.
He has come to meet me here,
where I sit, feeling my heart is still somewhere in a box and everything is just too much work.
He has come to meet me here,
when I feel like I am dong a crappy job at giving my children the traditions I want to pass on.
He has come to meet me here,
to let me know, that MY Christmas season, during this very specific season in my life,
can be wrapped up in His arms and He can and will sustain me.
His arms are not little, chubby things with sweet, tiny hands and dimples for knuckles.
His arms are strong.
His arms are capable.
His hands formed me.
Created me.

I think my Christmas Heart this year
is desperate for the grown-up,
sacrificed and risen Jesus.
The Savior.
For me this season, what I have needed to remember is that the baby was born…

…that I might really live…

I've been needing Easter this Christmas.

I have not found the baby Jesus, to be very alluring.

I think I've been contemplating the baby in the manger and feeling like He can't help me very much.

I have been feeling (though this is hard to admit),
that the baby in the manger is just one more thing;
one more person;
one more child to attend to, care about and pour out more of myself for.
One more “responsibility” added to my plate.
Feeling like the Christmas season has to be “done” and done correctly
with traditions and outings and activities and celebrations and so much memory-making.
I have beaten myself up over this, for weeks.
I have been riddled with guilt that I am not “performing” Christmas well this year.
That I am not passing on enough tradition to my children.
That I'm not giving them enough memories.
That I am not giving them a “full” Christmas Season.

But here’s the thing.
Here is the thing I have just been struck with--and finally accepted:
I just can't do it this year.
I couldn't do it last year.
I couldn't do it the year before.

I just can't seem to make it all the way over to that manger to bow down and adore Him.

I need Jesus to meet me exactly where I am, and stop working so hard to get to that manger and look at Him as a baby.

It’s the lesson of Grace and Salvation vs. works and self-righteousness all over again,
but this time, the message is wrapped in swaddling clothes...and has nail-pierced hands--all at once.

This Christmas, I need the cross.
I need the empty tomb.
I know, deep down, that in the grand scheme of things--
This is a better thing for my children to witness in my life
than hand-making Christmas gifts
or hearing me read them a different Christmas book every night
or decorating every nook and cranny of our home.

It is not what I want.
I want to be the Christmas Queen.
I want to be the mother whose house is filled with the scents of Christmas.
With surprises around every corner, with treats and traditions every day of the month.
I have been this before. This is what I want.
But as of last week, I realize it is not what I need.
It is not even what my family needs.
They need me, tired, but turning to Jesus.
Half-hearted, but trusting Jesus for more.
Broken and weary, but knowing that truly I am not alone.
I am never alone, because He came to meet me, here.

So, now,
Now I know what I am celebrating.
I am celebrating the day. I am celebrating the day He came to meet me here, where I really am.
I'm not celebrating the baby, but the Savior.
I need Him in my life, every day, of every year.
I find myself more aware of my need for Him than I have in so long.
The need has obviously been there, but I have not been in tune with it.
I have not listened to my heart—and His Spirit calling me.
Not calling me to come to Him, but to open my eyes and my heart and see that--
He is already here.
He has come to meet me. Truly He has come to meet me, this Christmas.

So…I celebrate the day that You were born to die so I could one day pray for You to save my life…

Merry, Merry Christmas!