Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas ReWrap

74A61655-0EA9-41A3-829C-6C7DAE8A7A39On Christmas Eve of 1974, Mike asked me over to the apartment he and his brother shared. We’d been dating since June of that year. Not long, when I think about it now. I drove to the old house in our home town and climbed the stairs to the third story attic some eager landlord had turned into a makeshift resemblance of a living space. As I remember, It was sparsely furnished, befitting of two young bachelors barely out of high school.

In the living room, a Christmas tree, set in front of a floor to ceiling window, was decorated with not enough lights and dime store ornaments. The only other furnishing was a shabby sofa which we leaned against as we sat on the floor, holding hands.

That evening Mike reached under that old sofa, pulled out a tiny box with a red bow on top and asked me to marry him. He was eighteen. I was nineteen. I’ve never celebrated a Christmas without him since.

Until now.

Year after year, Mike was my Christmas tradition. He was the constant in every season; from setting up the tree, then sitting on the couch to watch the kids and I decorate it, or hiding gifts all over the house and warning me not to peek if I found bags and boxes in strange places, to his impatient waiting for the pie to come out of the oven, so he could harass me endlessly to have a piece before Christmas dinner.

Forty three Christmas seasons have come and gone and now, so has he, and I have to figure out how to rewrap Christmas in a different package, one that doesn’t continuously assault me with loss, emptiness and tears.

I don’t know how to do Christmas without my husband. I don’t even know where to start. I do know that Christmas will never be the same again.

One certainty of this season is a confidence in Who it has always been about. I know the Jesus we are celebrating. While everything feels disheveled, broken and uncertain; in the middle of my sorrow, my hope is in The One the prophet Isaiah foretold and Jesus himself proclaimed to be:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18-21.

No other Christmas season has it ever been as clear as in this one, and never have I been more thankful for Emmanuel who came for me. Emmanuel who is with me. I SO qualify to receive His promise of hope and redemption and He does not disappoint. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving.

In whatever difficult, impossible, unbearable, crushing situation you’re facing this Christmas, you qualify too.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Merry Messy Christmas!

img_0047Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not at our house. Jack Frost rarely nips at our nose (nor do we ever dream of a white Christmas), since we live in Florida. A few Yuletide carols may be sung by a choir at our Christmas service, but since Trinity is a non-traditional, contemporary church, even that’s debatable.

We will have a turkey this year, but no mistletoe and no tiny tots hanging around with their eyes all aglow. Just a Jon who gets up when he feels like it and takes five hours to open ten gifts.

According to this picture perfect Christmas song, our chances for a Merry Christmas are poor indeed. We score about one and a half out of five.

Are you feeling it right now because your Christmas isn’t Hollywood perfect? Cheer up, the first one wasn’t any better:

An unwed, teenage mother.
No baby shower, but plenty of rumors.
A disgraced marriage.
An annoying, inconvenient, tax-registering trip.
A baby born in a barn (with no nurse, diapers or cradle).
Scruffy shepherds as newborn visitors.
A jealous king sending out spies and assassins.
An emergency escape by night to another country.

The truth of Christmas is that God willingly jumped over-His-head-deep into the chaos of earth’s struggles. The First Christmas was so…human. It was scandalous. It was messy. It was so earthly, many passed right on by. And because His arrival seemed nondescript to most, people missed its significance. And still do.img_0048

If it’s not “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you and a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas depiction is not happening where you are; happiness disregards you, money is tight, relationships stressed, someone deeply loved is gone and greatly missed, or possibly your only Christmas wish this year is for yourself or a sick loved one to heal, there’s no need to collapse in despair. No need to feel alone. No need to be paralyzed with fear.

Real life doesn’t stop for Christmas.

BUT!

Christmas came to invade every detail of our messy human existence and inundate whatever is occurring in our personal universe at the moment.

God came to us as one of us and He understands. He will walk with us through it all if we let Him. Stop, surrender and make room for Him this Season.

And have yourself a Very Merry Messy Christmas now!

“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!”

 
Home For the Holidays – painting by Norman Rockwell, 1950
Christmas Cottage – painting by Thomas Kinkade, 1990                                                                         “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley, 1739

Jon’s Grownup Christmas List

jonJon doesn’t ask for anything for Christmas. He might circle a movie or toy in a Christmas sale flyer he finds hanging around the house occasionally, but if you ask him what he wants you won’t get an answer.

Here’s a list of some gifts Jon received for Christmas this year:

Two Tom and Jerry cartoon DVDs

Two large print, word-find books

A pink spiral notebook with a heart on the front (yeah, he likes pink)

A McDonald’s gift certificate

A Wendy’s gift certificate

A dollar store gift certificate

$20 worth of one dollar bills

A box of Goldfish Crackers

Two superhero puzzles

A bar of money soap (a hint to take a shower Jon, please)

A plastic toy grabbing tool thing

Play money in a cash drawer

A plastic police badge

An orange plastic police vest

Our Christmases with Jon aren’t typical and are probably best described as slow, quiet and even a bit boring. But, with the passing of each year,  I appreciate more and more, the gift he is to us; all the ways he keep me grounded, continuously reminding me of what really matters.

Especially at Christmas.

Sometimes I’m struck by the simplicity of his life.

Sometimes I’m envious of it.

Sometimes I’m sad for the classic milestones he will never experience.

Most of the time I don’t think about it at all.

I just love him for who he is as he slowly opens, inspects, then carefully packs all his presents into a gift bag and carries them off to his room, adding them to the collection of items I’ll need to clear off the floor next time I vacuum.

You may not have a Jon, but I pray you have something, someone or a moment in this season to insert a slow down and reflection, on the most important treasures of life; a God who proved in the very event of Christmas, He accepts you with a love undeserved. And the people in your life, who stick around for the long haul, willingly to jump, head first if necessary, into every joy and sorrow.

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to all!

Oh No! Home Alone!

homealonemomJon’s all time favorite movie is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Following close behind is “Home Alone”.

Our first adventure with “Home Alone” started in the mid-nineties when we rented a copy, sometime during Jon’s early teen years.  After watching the movie, with its many theft prevention traps, Jon took it upon himself to become our personal security system. We lived in a three story house in New Hampshire at the time and Mike had finished the basement as a playroom for the kids. In the back corner of the basement was a door we rarely used and it opened to stairs leading back up to ground level and into the garage.

I went to the basement to throw in a load of laundry one day and realized I needed to go out to the garage for something. Rather than go back upstairs and out the door off the kitchen, I opened the basement door and experienced a brief moment of horror as I watched the kid’s blue plastic snow sled, loaded with paint cans, come hurdling toward me. I screamed and slammed the door shut just in time to hear the thump, crash, bang of full and half-full gallon cans pile up against it on the other side.

Jon had placed the sled at the top of the stairs, lined it with the paint cans he’d found stored on shelves in the garage and tied the sled’s rope to the basement door knob. Although a great idea if an intruder was already in the basement, it wasn’t about to keep one out. But It was genius and imaginative really, with no thought of consequence to the people he lives with, which has always been one of Jon’s great deficits.

We went though a phase of trepidation and alertness, following this “Home Alone” viewing. We would find small toys lining the stairways, door knobs drenched in cooking oil, dish soap or shampoo, marbles and jacks on the floor in front of or behind closed doors, a half dozen eggs lined up on the garage door bracing; when the door went up eggs dropped to the floor or on the car. It was unnerving

We let Jon watch the movie again when he was in his late twenties thinking he may have matured enough to distinguish its fantasy from reality. The booby traps reappeared immediately.

The other night Jon’s caregiver told me Jon was reciting “Home Alone” movie lines to her. When I came out to the kitchen the following morning, all the Christmas balls had been removed from the mini-tree adorning the corner of the breakfast nook and were lined up under the window. There’s shampoo or something slippery coating his bathroom doorknob again, a curtain rod blocking the entrance to his room like a swinging railroad crossing gate on one end and dresser drawers blocking the door to his room on the other end.

Jon is not allowed to watch “Home Alone”. We don’t keep it in the house, but I’m thinking he’s found segments of it on YouTube and this is not good news. While the movie may be a classic family Christmas comedy, it’s off limits in our universe.

If you like us even a little bit, please don’t give him a copy for Christmas. And if you stop by, be vigilant. You could very well be Jon’s next “Home Alone” victim.

Are You Ready For Christmas?

wreathAs the calendar counts down to Christmas Day, I’m asked this question everywhere I go, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

The nuance of this question is understood in American culture to mean: is the wreath hung, the tree decorated, the lights and garland strung? Is the gift list shopped and wrapped, are the cards mailed and the cookies baked. Has every pageant, program and party been attended and have fixings been purchased and prepared for the holiday feast?

Have I made my list, checked it twice and run myself ragged until I’m not nice? Am I so weary when Christmas comes, all goodwill fades and I am undone?

If Christmas is only about the doing, I might as well cross it off the calendar. If all the external tradition and trappings, of the picture perfect Christmas were removed, could my heart still find joy in the season?

There were many who were not ready for Christmas when it first arrived.

It was a busy time. Caesar had called for a tax census and people were suddenly traveling to their place of birth, juggling finances for the trip and tax, waiting in long lines to register and complaining about the latest greed and ineptitude of the government.

Except for a group of Wise Men and a few Shepherds, most folks were inconvenienced, impatient and unprepared.

The Religious Leaders weren’t ready.

King Herod wasn’t ready.nativity

The Inn Keeper wasn’t ready.

The Town of Bethlehem and its many visitors weren’t ready.

An entire population of people missed a momentous event going on in their own backyard.

The Christ of Christmas had come, but there was so much to do and no time to notice.

Jesus came and Emmanuel, God With Us, is still here.

Do I recognize Him? Have I taken time to notice?

Those who understand the real meaning of Christmas should be ready everyday, any moment, all the time.

I’m ready for Christmas.

Are you?

John 1:10-14 “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What’s Wrong With My Christmas?

Here it is two weeks before the big day and I’ve managed to hang a wreath on the front door.

That’s it.

Mike and David brought the tree down from the shelf in the garage after Thanksgiving and it stayed on the front room floor in the storage bag for over a week.

It’s been upright in the usual family room spot for four days now, with lights attached but only because they are built into the tree, certainly not because I put them there.

Christmas cards were just ordered two days ago. I hope they come in time.

I’ve done very little shopping and honestly I’m just not feeling it this year – all the external trappings of the Christmas Season.

When our boys were young there was an air of excitement as Christmas approached. I reveled in the cooking, shopping, trimmings, secrets and anticipation.

And I was a perfectionist.

I tried to teach the kids how to decorate the tree so it looked balanced. You know, all the holes filled in between branches and ornaments symmetrically displayed all the way around.

I think about that now and hope I didn’t take all the fun out of it.

Packages were wrapped in matching paper with homemade bows and hand designed gift tags.

Christmas dinner was a Thanksgiving repeat – huge and amazing.

Mike’s self appointed job has always been to put up the tree, make sure the lights work, then sit on the sofa and watch the kids and I embellish it.

He stopped helping me hang ornaments after our first Christmas together, as I came behind him and moved every ornament he put on, to a different place.

Now, I think I’d be thrilled if he and Jon hung all the decorations on the same side of the tree while I sat and watched.

When I ask Jon, my perpetually moody, thirty-plus-year-old-teenager if he’d like to help, he looks at me like I have three eyes in the middle of my forehead and walks away. (He will, however, be very interested in opening the gifts underneath this undecorated tree. :) )

David and Clara won’t be here for Christmas. They’re going to be with her family this year (as they should), so no incentive there.

Someone please tell me I’m not turning into a Grinch or maybe Scrooge!

The good news, in my tale of Christmas woe, is the Jesus of Christmas is dearer to me than ever.

We have come to the end of another year and my heart is decorated with blessings, warmth and the joy of His overwhelming love.

Life is not perfect. There are struggles, frustrations and annoyances, but Jesus has been and will continue to be my faithful friend and gentle shepherd.

As we celebrate this season of His Earth arrival, my heart grows two sizes larger at the thought of a Savior who came for me.

To rescue. To strengthen. To comfort. To cleanse. To change. To love.  ME.

So whether the halls are decked or not, that’s enough to make even this Grinch, want to celebrate!

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means‘God with us’).”

 

A Merry Imperfect Christmas to All!

This past week the decorating of our Christmas tree was (finally) completed, shopping was almost finished, packages were mailed out to family in far away places, we attended several fun Christmas parties and I miraculously got Jonathan out the door in time to participate in his Christmas gathering with the Joyful Noise group that meets on Tuesday afternoons.

Also in the past week, our refrigerator quit working, the kitchen sink plugged up (plumber required), my sewing machine broke in the middle of a Christmas sewing project I was working on and I haven’t sent out a single Christmas card because I always make our cards and my printer isn’t working.

Christmas is coming and stuff still happens. These are minor and trivial irritations compared to what others are facing this season so I will choose to be calm and thankful while we repair or replace our material goods and mourn with and pray for those who have losses they can never replace.

Let’s keep our expectations for the “perfect” Christmas in proper perspective this season. I’m doing myself a small favor for the next week. For a few moments every night I’m going to turn on the tree lights and some Christmas music, take a few deep breaths and relax with a cup of tea and my feet up. And while I’m sitting there, I will be thanking the Lord for all that is good and right in my life, all that I am blessed with and by, but most of all, for sending the Light Of The World to give me salvation, hope and peace whenever I reach out to receive it. 

Won’t you join me?

John 1:9-12 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God