Monday, December 23, 2013

Looking for Christmas

"Where are you, Christmas, why can't I find you?" Faith Hill laments on the radio.  As if Christmas were a person.  Christmas IS a person, but I don't think that's what those lyrics mean.

But I understand the sentiment.  I have been so overwhelmed with life that I feel like I'm going through the motions and each thing I do is just another chore to check off.  Go to tree farm, check.  Decorate house, check. Order gifts, check.  Mail gifts, check.  Then came the snow, snow and more snow.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.  When we can't find Christmas, what exactly are we looking for?  The magic of childhood fantasies?  I have wonderful memories of Christmas.  My mother made sure we were happy at Christmas, no matter what else was going on in our family. 

The girls were doing their school work in front of the blazing woodstove and I wanted them to finish so I let them off the hook and went out alone to clear snow once more.  My car had ice all over it, so I started it up to warm it and the radio was on.  Celine Dion was singing "O Holy Night."  I turned the music up very loud and grabbed the shovel and got busy on the driveway.  It was a divine moment.  I found HIM in the unexpected--in the peace of the silent, beautiful snow, in ordinary work.  He took the world by surprise when he came long ago.

Last night the girls had their Christmas program at school.  I got to see all my students perform--singing, dancing, and doing skits, each talent reflecting their personalities.  Such great kids.  I thought about the opportunity the girls have here in this safe environment with other kids that I know well because I spend so much time with them.  How blessed we are to be here, so be doing this.  This is Christmas, gifts to us.

Fred comes home from work joyful.  He still has his tough job.  He still has to be on call for snow and often suffers from sleep deprivation.  But he came home with a gift card for hoagies (his favorite meal) and he'd found an old radio that he wasn't sure worked.  He set it up on the counter and fiddled around with it.  It did work, so he was singing and dancing around the kitchen. I wrapped some gifts for our loved ones and wondered if they will like them, anticipating their faces on Christmas morning.  Santa Clause 2 is on TV.  It's so familiar we can jump in anytime and know what happens next.  In the movie, Santa Claus knows the deepest longings of each person.  We are each a child at heart, aren't we?  The tree lights sparkle tonight and our house is warm.  What more could we ask for?

Saturday we have a long-awaited family night.  We go out to dinner--what a treat!  Again, another gift card.  Fred is much appreciated at work.  We go to Walmart afterwards and I find the perfect gift I'd been searching for--on sale!  We drive around the neighborhood and look at the fantastic light displays and listen to Christmas music in the car.  It's tradition!  We end up in my old neighborhood.  We notice a man walking alone in the dark and realize we know him.  Fred stops the car and I roll down the window.  His wife, my old friend, has cancer.  She is on a course of surgery and chemo.  Where are you, Christmas, in this family?  We come home and I go to the computer and see the girl in Colorado, shot by a fellow student, has died.  No Christmas magic for these families.  How can these people walk through the darkness of their lives and find light at the end of the road?

Lord willing, we will have our Christmas in a  couple of days.  Christmas is surely not about the tasks we do or the gifts we buy.  We celebrate our lives, grateful for another year together.  We are thankful to God for loving us so much that he provided hope in this painful, sad world by sending us Jesus.  

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 1)  "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shined...for to us a child is born, to us a son is given..."  (Isaiah 9)  Jesus is God's gift to the world!

Jesus is called Immanuel, "God with us."  He promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."  His last words in Matthew say, "I am with you always, to the end of the age."  Our circumstances don't change the fact that he came.  Christmas happened.  He's here.  He is with us.  That is why we always have hope.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15)  No matter your circumstances.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Crazy Sunday

The snow wasn't supposed to start until afternoon and then it would only be an inch or two, those TV weather people said.  Fred was ushering at church and left early in the morning.  The girls and I planned to go at our regular time, but for some reason we were running a little late.  I'm rarely late!  So I was rushing.  The last thing I did before going out the door was to put in my one contact lens.  I have only one good eye--the one that has a lens implant.  The other needs help.

We backed out of the driveway and I saw that my neighbor had parked his car in the middle of the street and was blocking the whole road.  Frustrated, I had to turn around and then go the other way, still rushing.  I got out on the main road and couldn't figure out why I couldn't see!  My vision was so blurry! Then I realized my contact was not on my eye.  I cannot drive with one eye, so we headed back home.  The girls were disappointed and I was even more frustrated. But I reminded them (and myself) that we just needed to go with the flow.  Things happen for a reason.  Inside the house I searched with a flashlight to try to find my contact lens.  Finally, I saw something shiny on the carpet and reached out to pick up my lens.  Only it wasn't my lens.  It was a piece of glass!  I remembered an ornament had broken yesterday while we were decorating the tree.  So now I sliced up my thumb.  What was going on today?  But good thing it was my thumb and not baby Jordan walking on the broken glass with her bare feet.  If I hadn't lost my lens, I might not have found that glass today.

Fred called from church and said it was snowing heavily.  Not a flake was in sight at our house. I was so glad we stayed home.   My car is not a vehicle you want to be driving on bad roads.  Fred said he was coming home to change clothes and then he had to go back out to plow the parking lot at church.  About the same time, the snow began falling here.  Fred called me several times on the way home and said traffic was very bad.  He called the last time when he was only about a mile away.  I went downstairs to watch for him.  He didn't come, and I started getting worried.  A half hour passed.  His cell phone was going right to voice mail.  Forty-five minutes passed.  No Fred.  I hadn't heard any sirens.  He was close enough that I I think I would have heard something if there had been an accident, right?  I considered putting on boots and walking out to look for him.  But the snow kept falling faster.  Finally, he pulled into the driveway.  He said cars were all over the road and couldn't make it up the hill.  They were all stacked up at the bottom and he couldn't go around.  That would have been us in my little car--stuck--if we'd gone to church this morning.

I heated up Tommy's Soup that I put in the freezer last summer after our bountiful harvest.  It's tradition that we eat it at the first snowfall.  So we all warmed ourselves, bodies and souls, with the hot soup.  All was well in the world.  Then the best news--the evening service would be cancelled, so we would all be home together the rest of the day!  Fred got out his trains to arrange around the Christmas tree.  A fire blazed in the woodstove as the snow fell outside the window. Liana worked on her knitting.  Arielle and I did school work.  We all enjoyed chili for dinner.  It's beginning to look a lot like winter!  The returning seasons, the familiar routines, the traditions we find comfort in--I am grateful for all these little things.  And the big things: we are safe in the storm; we have another Christmas to celebrate; we have peace in our home.  When our plans go awry and anxious thoughts consume us, we're reminded to "cast all our cares on him, for he cares for us."   I'm like a high-strung child, always worrying about something. But I've had high-strung children of my own.  They need to be reassured that their parents are in control and everything will be okay.  My assurance comes from my Father in heaven.  His word is full of his promises.