Photography by Folkert Gorter, Superfamous Studios
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
Lutefisk enhanced with bacon
For the fray of the parking lot –
Fuming vultures bumper to bumper:
Lord, give us peace.
For the rehearsals and performances –
And the hithering and thithering thereunto:
Lord, grant us peace.
For the wheedling children –
Who cry “Mine Mine!” finding themselves overcome with wanting (See Daniel 5:26):
Merciful God, give us peace.
For the exchanges of sundry sorts –
Of the cookies, of the festive cards, of the homemade ornaments, of the nasty viruses:
Lord, grant us peace.
For the relatives harboring grievances –
Who will stir up unto themselves gripes, complaints and all manner of lamentations:
Lord, give us peace.
For Mormor Ingrid’s gelatinous lutefisk –
However reminiscent of our Scandinavian family history it may be:
Merciful God, save us no piece.
Of mistletoe and reindeer –
And other traditions melded fancifully with the stable and the manger:
Lord, let us make peace. Amen
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
Friends of mine, Shaun and Mary Fullmer, are serving a mission in France. In a recent email Sister Fullmer wrote:
“The elders came back to our place for lunch after shopping and to do their weekly email. Because it is la Fête des Rois today (Kings’ Day), we bought galette at Tartapain for dessert. Elder B found the fève (“bean”, or surprise object) and got to wear the crown. He kindly left the figure for us to add to our small collection. Today’s item was an animal – hard to tell for sure but it might be a sheep or a donkey.”
She includes this picture of the fèves they have collected so far. Here’s what they are in the order the Fullmers acquired them: one of the magi, Hobbit character, croissant, baby Jesus, animal. (I’m betting the latest one is a donkey.)
By doing a little research through the scholarly authority of Wikipedia, I was reminded that Kings’ Day marks Twelfth Night, the beginning of the traditional Christian holiday on January 6th of “Epiphany”, honoring the “revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ” as well as the arrival of the wise men and their gifts to the baby Jesus, twelve nights after his birth. Continue reading
Annunciation by Matthias Stom
My ex-husband bought me a waffle maker for Christmas. Well, technically, my kids “bought” me a waffle maker for Christmas, but I know they don’t get that kind of money from their allowance. A few weeks ago, when my ex dropped the kids off on Sunday morning, he brought in a large box and stuck it under my tree. I immediately became nervous because I knew that he spent a fair amount of money on a gift for me, and I certainly had not done the same for him. Helping the kids buy presents for their dad somehow fell off my to-do list this December; I know the two oldest used some of their own money to buy a few trinkets for him at the school’s “Santa’s Workshop”, but the youngest didn’t get him anything. His generous funding of the kids’ gift to me left me feeling awkward—first that I had not helped them reciprocate equally and secondly because I wasn’t sure what the inspiration for his generosity was. Guilt over his past actions? A desire to make himself feel better and to be a ‘good’ person by being nice to his ex-wife? A desire to soften my heart and possibly make it more forgiving? But then, on Christmas morning, as I unwrapped my present, I saw the excited faces of my children intent on my reaction. They knew what I wanted most and were filled with joy as they watched me open their gift to me. I felt my heart soften and a little voice in the back of my mind whispered Receive, just receive. Continue reading