I was leaving town on December 8th for the winter so I went visiting teaching earlier than usual. Afterwards, I decided to stop in unannounced at another ward sister’s home to say farewell. I hadn’t seen Cora Lester* for a while and the last time I’d heard, she was in remission from last year’s terrifying battle with thyroid cancer.
She looked weary and was recovering from pneumonia. She shared the devastating news that one of her daughters living in another state had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, and that another of her out-of-state daughters had brain cancer.
Cora, whose heart is oceanic in its compassion and generosity, seemed broken and bowed under the weight of these challenges. She felt helpless to give anything “more” than empathy, a shoulder to cry on and her ears to hear her family’s sorrows and stories. Continue reading Present→
I think it was last March when my husband came in from shoveling snow (once again), shed his heavy parka, and said, “I think we should go on vacation for Christmas this year.” While he probably had visions of sitting by the pool with a tropical drink in his hand, my mind immediately went to “The Spreadsheet,” as in, the document that rules my life in November in December, the one in which I keep track of what needs to be bought, wrapped, shipped and crossed off my list. The Spreadsheet gives me the kind of nightmares I used to have in college, when finals week always brought a heart-stopping dream involving a math class I didn’t know I was signed up for.
“Can we go instead of buying presents?” I asked. I had visions of a December where I wouldn’t be running from Costco to Bath and Body works, and the UPS man wouldn’t need a dolly to get to my front door. Obviously, gifts are not my love language. I didn’t want to skip the Jesus part of Christmas, just the ribbons and wrappings, the tinsel and trappings.
Of course, our families are not going with us on this trip, so there are still parents and siblings to buy for. There’s still the cousin gift exchange, and the cousins on the other side, and the courtesy cousins, and therefore still the need for a spreadsheet.
I just got back from Target with half a dozen white elephant gifts for parties we’re attending this weekend, because opting out on the social events makes me feel like a Scrooge. Continue reading Skipping Christmas→
I’m not feeling merry. Festive has fled, and while there is tinsel winding its hairy way around the lounge room furniture, I’m counting down to the new calendar and year that sparkles and glitters just a few days away.
This year has been a beautiful mess. Difficulties have kept me company and awake more nights than I’d like to consider, and answers to prayers have left me furious. I’ve made some friends this year (a miracle in itself) and I’ve been blindsided by generosity and danced myself giddy at opportunities. It’s been a beautiful mess of a year, no doubt about it.
And if someone else wishes me a merry Christmas I may not be able to stop myself shoving their Santa hat down their shirt.
I don’t want a merry Christmas. I would like a merciful Christmas. I want one for dear ones, first off. For two friends in particular, one who is weathering the first Christmas after the passing of her firstborn son, and one who is gathering the silken, sharp hours of her mother’s last Christmas. I want a merciful Christmas for them both, softly delivered like countless hugs and tears melting in the neck creases of loved ones. I want the mercy of a solid nap for them, of belly laughs and clasped hands, of whispered words lifting the weight of their bones, lightening strikes of joy, peace or even generous forgetfulness, all of it shoved determinedly into an odd little parcel then slipped in their pocket. Continue reading Dear Christmas→
Over the next two weeks, we’re all going to hear a few Christmas songs. Make that a LOT of Christmas songs. Between next Wednesday night and next Friday morning, I will have the pleasure of attending one junior high Christmas concert, two elementary school Christmas concerts, and two preschool Christmas concerts (in case you were counting, that makes five concerts in 36 hours). By the time they’re all over, I’m sure I’ll be vacillating between cuteness overload and wanting to wear noise-canceling headphones through the New Year.
One thing that most of us can agree on is that Christmas songs are awesome. Part of it is probably because we only listen to them for six weeks out of the year (if we adhere to the “only after Thanksgiving” rule, and I refuse to acknowledge any other kind of people). Part of it is probably because we associate them with all kinds of happy memories. In my mind, Amy Grant equals baking cookies. After performing for a season with The Nutcracker, the opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s ballet will always be linked with the musty smell of my mouse costume as I watched the party scene from the wings. I associate listening to The Forgotten Carols with holiday road trips when I was a teenager (although I gathered my kids to watch a video of the production a few years ago and I was sort of shocked at how bad it was). I’m getting ahead of myself here. Continue reading Passion: Christmas songs you love, Christmas songs you hate→