Two thousand eleven has been a whirlwind of a year and I can't believe we've finally made it to
Christmas Winter (as we must call in in School District #81) break. We aren't yet at the halfway point in the school year, but it's quickly approaching. Summer can't come soon enough for us here. I would be satisfied to never see another snowflake ever again and it's looking like I might get my wish this year. Although, I did teach Owen to catch them with his tongue and now at the slightest hint of a gray could, he opens his mouth wide. It might be freezing outside, but that melted my heart. Aside from Owen being occasionally happy to see a flake or two, JJ and I often comment that if we woke up tomorrow to 90 degree heat we wouldn't have a single complaint. Alas, it is still winter and we have to make the most of it.
Each time this year, I feel the anxiety welling up inside me due to the money spent, rushing around finding gifts, and worrying that I might have missed wishing someone a Happy Christmakwanzikahorwhathaveyou. I stayed up last night thinking about how stressful this time of year always gets no matter how I try to not make it about money and presents. It seems like each year, I declare that I won't be buying gifts or doing the typical Christmas thing, and somehow I get lured in. It never fills us up, never makes us happy, and always seems to leave a little twinge of guilt that I couldn't make it about what I want it to be about. And wouldn't you know it? I had a wake-up call.
Remember when you were a kid and you didn't finish your cereal and your parents would say, "You know there are starving children in Africa who would be happy to eat your soggy Cheerios!"
I remember thinking, Well if they want me to mail my rotten food to them, I will. It's a horrible thought, I know. I didn't want my parents making me feel guilty for not finishing my meal. In that same line of thinking, I used to say that whatever our issues and circumstances are, they are important because they are our individual reality and that matters. I can't compare my difficult situation to a starving child in Africa's situation. I can't let that lessen the pain or discomfort I am feeling because what I am feeling is real, too. The counselor (and human) in me wants to validate every single inconvenience, but the realist in me has become acutely aware that is does matter that others are less-fortunate. The starving child in Africa actually should change our lives. The two friends we have with the same "rare" form of cancer do make me less prone to complaining about colds, flu, and aches or pains. The people who got my old wool sweaters, hats, and jackets it UGM this week should change my perspective on our material wealth. Of course I can't complain--I'm getting off really easy.
This post isn't meant to beat anyone over the head and force anyone to take back all their gifts and exchange your 8-foot tall Christmas tree for a Charlie Brown twig. I am simply realizing that Christmas has nothing to do with spending money, sending cards, or listening to Christmas songs. None of those things are bad--in fact for you thoughtful people out there, it's an act of love and care for those around you. I just look at what is happening in the lives of those around us near and far, loved ones and strangers, and I can't help but feel like I am missing the mark. I am missing the true Christmas. I am missing the revelation of the Christ Child and all that he came for.
When I delivered my old stuff to the UGM this week, I drove past the bike rack outside its front doors. I was struck not only by the fact that in this cold weather, people are still riding bikes, but also by the two or three children's bikes that were parked there as well. I began crying as I left the parking lot, thinking about the fact that there were children just like Owen inside that building warming up and eating a hot meal. No home to call their own. No Christmas presents. No parties with hams or pie. Their reality washed over me like an ice-cold river. I ached for it to be different and better, fully knowing that it might never be in this life, but recognizing that the message of the season is that it will be different in another life.
My heart longs for the hope that Magi felt when they heard about Jesus. It aches for our friends to feel the awe and wonder of his healing power. My soul reaches out in recognition of God's holiness and pure love. In justifying the busy nature of the season, I feel the pain of the thought that I have missed the opportunity to experience these things. But how small-minded of me to think that these aspects of God only come once a year. Isn't this the longing of a weary soul each day that it is on this Earth? It should be, anyway and how often I forget.
These are just the thoughts of a human becoming aware of my personal selfishness and pride. My hope is that I can remember the message of this season each day. I have a feeling that if I carried the hope of the Christ Child in my heart more fully throughout the year, that I wouldn't feel so jaded about the rush of Christmastime. Our prayer for you, our friends, is that you feel that hope and longing for the true meaning of the coming of Christ. We hope that you understand the invasion of Christ in your life and that the true message of Christ is alive in your hearts all year long. Thank you for loving us and loving the people around you. You all do it so well and this world needs the love you are giving it. Enjoy what you've got and continue being grateful.