A Broken Hallelujah…

Happy New Year! … and a belated Merry Christmas, too. I had the best of intentions to log in and provide some kind of grand blog on ending 2016 and beginning 2017. But, time, energy and “too many other things” got the better of me. That’s OK…it’s only January 2nd. Plenty more time to provide wit, wisdom and great depths of knowledge.

I had a really fun Christmas. We live in South Texas and my husband and I just completed building a pool. It was done in time for Christmas. (We thought it was going to be done back in October. If you’ve had to do any work with contractors you understand that there is no schedule that can’t be broken and no timeline that can’t be extended…frustratingly so. I digress) As I was mentioning we have a beautiful, new, blue pool.

Having lived up north for pretty much all my life, it’s a new experience to have weather warm enough in which to swim. We had lots of nights in the hot tub. My kid, I’ve learned, is part fish. He would live in the pool if he could. This unfortunately means that we experienced our first bout of swimmer’s ear. Not cool.

One thing about getting a pool that no one ever tells you about is the increased amount of laundry that comes with getting in and out of water repeatedly throughout the day. Wet beach towels are heavy and start to stink if not properly aired out. Ergo…I did close to twenty loads of laundry during the 3 or 4 days surrounding Christmas.

In this frenetic effort to keep Christmas traditions, enjoy the pool, enjoy my family and, Christmas baking done (because no perfect Christmas isn’t without gingerbread cookies) and try not to miss out on the true meaning of Christmas…I started to get a little panicky. You know when you get that feeling of frustration because you feel like you are doing ALL the work and “why in the world am I doing all this work!” and “if I have to fold another towel I swear I’ll…!” and “I’m doing all this work and missing out on Christmas and this is my one chance to enjoy it because it only comes around once a year!”…you smelling me?

At this stage of frustration the sweet, cheerful, perfect-Christmas attitude exits and the ticked-off, “Get away from me; don’t touch me” attitude joins the Christmas party. She’s a joy. Killjoy is more like it. She’s also a  tough nut to crack because she just won’t leave.

Groan.

All I want to do is celebrate the birth of my Lord. Love my husband. Enjoy my son’s delight. Instead I’m bent out of shape because things aren’t picture perfect and what the frick am I folding all these towels, for?!?

Then comes my favorite part…guilt. On top of the towels and grumpy attitude let’s spread a little guilt on this craptastic parfait. Guilt you ask? Yes. That sick, guilty feeling of , “I know it’s Christmas and I’m really trying to have that Mary not Martha attitude. But I can’t help it…I’m grumping-out big time and I know I’m missing out on this fun season because of my own crabby attitude and now I feel really guilty about it.” That guilt.

At the end of this schizophrenic tale it finally occurred to me. I celebrate Christmas everyday. The saving of Christ’s birth. The closeness of his presence. The newness of a new year. The stillness of His breath. I guess I don’t have to cram Christmas cookies, decorations, family time into one season because each day of my life is a rhythm of re-birth…a rhythm of Christmas and  New Year.

I’m sure next Christmas season I’ll try harder to slow down and soak up the joy of Christmas…but, I might fail…actually, I will fail. A broken hallelujah. That’s OK. I’m just one woman and I can only fold one towel at a time. But one thing is for sure…I’m not going to feel guilty. My Jesus has given me Christmas and New Years rolled up into one and I get to enjoy it everyday. He’s given me grace to screw up and the hope of knowing He’ll make things new. That’s a relief.

I’ve got to run…towels need to be loaded into the dryer.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:5 NIV

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Merry Christmas

I love Christmas. It is, hands down, my favorite holiday. I love sending Christmas cards, baking, decorating, singing carols. The crowds don’t bother me; not even the commercialism gets to me. The traffic can be sort of nagging and the parking lots are a bit of a drag. Last week a kind soul honked at me as I was straightening my car out in my parking space. I graciously gave them a “thumbs up” sign. Christmas just brings the best out in me and everybody else. (Tongue in cheek)

All these people, myself included, running around like our hair is caught on fire trying to get our “Christmas-To-Dos” done…why is Christmas such an over the top holiday while it’s origins were so humble? Why was Jesus born in a manger? Seriously…why? Why was it God’s design to bring his Son into the world in a stable? Why were sheep herders the recipients of a sky filled with “heavenly hosts?” It seems opposite from what you’d expect. Backwards.

Remember when the Duchess of Cambridge went into labor this last summer? Remember the months preceding the birth where news reporters speculated when she might go into labor? They were camped outside of the hospital long before the duchess even checked into labor and delivery. After the baby was born, I remember seeing “royal town criers” delivering the news of the baby’s birth. Then there is the moment where Prince William and the Duchess came out of the hospital with the baby to a throng of photographers . He (William) gives an interview and then the new family drives off in a parade of black cars. Then, because we all simply couldn’t get enough, there is the much anticipated family photo of the new family together. There is an example of a royal birth! Why wasn’t Jesus’ birth like that?

I have an idea on that topic. I wonder if Christ being born vulnerable in a barn with animals had something to do with God turning the tables on what we think a king and kingdom should look like. We think royalty and Camelot comes to mind. But, God thinks royalty and a stable comes to mind. We think King and then wealth and power come to mind. God thinks King and all of the sudden an omnipotent being becoming human comes to mind.

Could it be that our definition of power is not His definition of power? Further still, could it be that my definition of life is not His definition of life? For me, at one point, life was a successful career. Now, life for me is lived through the eyes of one with MS.

Everything about Christmas is the opposite of what we think. I believe this stark contrast was intentional on God’s part. It isn’t about our kingdom or what we think a kingdom should be. It’s about His kingdom and He keeps trying to draw us into it. But, we continue to fight and build our own kingdom. Stuff. Status. Validation. The list is long. The humbleness of Christ’s birth was by design and a important detail that I don’t think we should miss. I think Christ was born in a barn to an unassuming mother and father, with animals, laid in a manger (trough for feeding animals), visited by shepherds and wise men because God wants to draw us out of our world into His. He wants us to let go of our definition of what power looks like and see what his power looks like…total dependence upon Him.

I think my favorite thing about Christmas is how backwards it is. That a group of sheep herders received perhaps the most glorious birth announcement of all time. That no one local came to celebrate the Savior’s birth except Wiseman who were foreigners to the land. That a King was laid in a feeding trough. There were no town-criers. No caravan of important people. The star and the choir of angels were the only outlandish parts of the story. Our Jesus stepped down to join us and become Emmanuel, God With Us. His actions showed us humility is power brought under one God. The implications of this are profound. That instead of fighting to maintain control, His grace has afforded me the ability to let go. To take in the moment, and not fight to get out. To see Christ at the helm and know that I am safe. Struggling falls away and peace settles in. Stillness. Perfect peace.

God’s grace and peace to you…have a very Merry Christmas.