The Ghost of this Christmas Past

I sit here on my couch this last day of 2011 still listening to Christmas music and in front of a fully decorated tree. The truth is the tree will stay up for several more days, weeks, or even possibly months. I’m not ready to box everything up and call this holiday season over yet. I am ready for the toys I keep stepping on to be up off my floor and I’m ready for all the holiday snacks to disappear some place other than my mouth, but I’m not ready to say good-bye to the comfort twinkle lights and Bing Crosby bring me.

 

There is something about December that conjures feelings brought on by memories of Christmases past. One of my sweet aunts sent me a card today telling me about her holiday and how it was nice as she visited with her grandson she sees once a year. I know she was glad he came, but I could read the sadness in the lines she penned. These annual “obligatory” Christmas visits weren’t what she wanted for the holidays, and they paled in comparison to the memories brought by the visitor who mingles both great joy and heartache together. Her dearly loved husband passed away years ago and she wrote of how much she missed him. Moving away from the east coast at the age of 19 my memories of him are more like snippets from a child’s scrapbook. I see me shutting his hand in a car door, I see myself hiding in his closet playing a game of hide n’ seek, I see a black-and-white photo of of him and my aunt standing alongside my mom and dad on their wedding day, and most importantly I see them smiling at one another as they took turns telling me about their trip to Ireland. My aunt’s memories run much deeper and I imagine as the holidays approached the ghost of Christmases past presented himself with a bittersweet bow.

 

This year I was visited by a ghost as well. At first I didn’t realize what it was, just a heaviness. I think the fact that there really weren’t any deep-rooted memories with mine made it harder to identify. Then out of a sleep I awoke and realized this Christmas I should have been holding a sweet tiny newborn like the Mary from my nativity scene. How could this be? I was over this right? I dealt with my miscarriage months ago.  I grieved, I had moved on…hadn’t I? There was joy this Christmas, there was laughter, there were thankful hearts, but the tears over what was lost came once more and a grief sat on my heart over what could have been gained.

 

Unlike the classic story, A Christmas Carol, the ghosts that visited my aunt and I this Christmas past were welcome reminders.  Reminders of what God highly regards. For my aunt – a love that lasted years, bringing comfort, provision, friendship, acceptance, and being a married woman myself, I know…forgiveness. An outstanding demonstration of covenant love.  For me, an enduring love for a tiny baby that didn’t love me back, the promise of eventual wholeness, a grand desire to reunite.  Again, a demonstration of covenant love.  That’s what Christmas is, the start of the Covenant being fulfilled.  God coming to meet the law we couldn’t by sending his son, so one day we could be together, finally a family.  In the interim, or at least for a few more weeks, I will sip some hot chocolate to “Winter Wonderland” enjoying my tree and friend a little while longer.

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Christmas Letter 2011

Yuletide Greetings! We hope this Christmas letter finds all of our friends and family well and joyful.

Often, when you are in the throes of parenting, it is difficult not to want to hurry things along or even wish them away altogether. You long to be able to sleep through the night, to discover that if it’s not the kids waking you, it’s your bladder. For diaper days to end and now you are dangling toddlers over toilets in every disgusting restroom in town. For the kids to “get” whatever it is you are trying to teach, but the next subject is even more difficult than the last. Sometimes it’s the little things that you begin wishing away; the three meals a day and not to mention numerous snacks, the independence of little ones that results in half a gallon of spilled milk and cereal all over the floor, or the never-ending mountain of laundry. It can seem a bit much on its own, compound that with jobs and ministry obligations; as a survival mechanism parents often look past today in hopes of a less hectic and frustrating tomorrow.

Talking with a friend before Thanksgiving, she shared with me her decision to purpose herself to slow down and appreciate the holidays individually. No rushing through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas, just enjoying one day at a time. I’ve heard people say similar things before, but when she used the word “purpose” it resonated with me. She was going to “purpose” herself; It was going to be her intention or objective to slow down and enjoy the moment. Wow, a daily choice! It got me to thinking of the other things that Brian and I should “purpose” to savor; the every day, the stages, the interests of the moments, the little individuals gifted to us:

Sadie just turned two and is speaking in sentences, holding her own with her siblings, and totally charming. She loves to draw and the whole world is her canvas, along with our floors and walls.

Vance is three and makes us tired. He is boundless energy with “creative” outlets, terrible tantrums, and sweet kisses. Dinosaurs, snakes, lizards, and crocodiles are what he would love to have for pets.

Keely is five and keeps us guessing. She has tender mother-like qualities, enjoys math and puzzles, and hides everyone’s stuff like a gremlin or pack rat. I think she finds everyone’s bewilderment amusing.

Ryleigh turns seven this Boxing Day. Her love of fashion continues to grow as does her great sense of humor. Her sweet-as-candy little voice is matched only by her kind nature.

Brynna is eleven, has one of the most interesting views of life, and has become a blessing to the family as a mother’s helper with cooking and cleaning. Her interest in animals has her constantly brainstorming pet businesses and fundraising ideas.

Jace has become a young man at the age of 14. His passion for skateboarding and bikes has taken a back seat to animation which he spends most of his free time doing. This year his faith in God has truly become his own and is no longer just something belonging to his family.

The truth is, when our tired bleary eyes clear we will discover that just like Christmas, this chaotic, loud household was over all too soon. This holiday season and coming year we are purposing ourselves to be present in the fun, laughter, and love, as well as, the messy, frustrating, wanting-to-throw-our-hands-up-and-quit moments. Why? Not just because they are ours, but because this is the example that has been set for us. Thankfully, God purposed that his only son would come into our broken, ugly, hurting world, to be present for us, so that one day we can be present before Him. He shared in fun, love, and laughter, but most importantly he shared in the messy, frustrating, wanting to quit moments too. He loves us that much. As you reflect this year may you purpose to find your purpose in Him.

2011