Christmas is just a few days away. Christmas is a beautiful holiday, but it's also just a special time of the year. It is something I have always looked forward to from the youngest years of my childhood all the way into this old adult age. :-) The hope of what we celebrate sets the precedent for the season for me, but I love every intricate (and let's face it, mostly unrelated) detail: baking Christmas cookies, the coming of winter with it's breath of snow, family time together, traditions carried down through generations, Christmas lights on as much as possible, waking up to a Christmas tree every morning that it's up, hot cider, watching the delight of people unwrapping a gift I've carefully considered and chosen for them because I know them, Christmas music playing everywhere including in my heart, eggnog with whipped cream on top... I just love all of it, honestly.
This year my heart feels differently. I feel numb. The joy is evident and the magic of the season probably still exists, but for me it is simply muted. I've struggled to find gifts - in part because we lack the funds to purchase gifts, but mostly because I just can't seem to rein in my thoughts to deeply consider those I love and choose accordingly. I haven't decorated our house or the airbnbs. Luckily, for me, my eldest son is filled with initiative and drive and has managed to beautifully decorate our house. He even decorated the ficus tree in our indoor garden with lights and ornaments from our Christmas box. He has wrapped all our presents with anything and everything he can find. He has built into his brothers that excitement that should be a part of every Christmas. He has worked tirelessly to make it all special and I am so grateful to him. He has asked me to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast and I'm glad he did because I have a goal and a plan to do so and it's good.
Next year, I will put Christmas lights back on our round house - we've had them every year except this year. I will put a big bow on the gate to our driveway, as well as solar lights. I will cover our beautiful gabion walls with Christmas lights. I will decorate our outside Christmas tree which still stands tall and firm in spite of the floods that hit it. I will buy a live Christmas tree to plant in the yard to start to replace the trees we have lost this year, and we will decorate it as a family and eat Christmas cookies and hot cider. I will wake the kids up every morning with Christmas music. We will make cookies for all of our neighbors because we adore them and we know that we are incredibly blessed to live in this community of people who live and love to the fullest. I MAY even try to send out a couple Christmas cards.
This year I just can't. I wish I understood why, but I guess that's part of the process. I wake up every morning ready to face the day and all that it may hold. But, there's a caution in my heart, a mild dread if I'm being perfectly honest. I work hard every day and I spend most of my day with the people I love the most in this world. I feel incredibly blessed and thankful. I feel weary too. I have worked so hard to restore that which was destroyed, spending days, weeks, and now months rebuilding and it has been rewarding and fruitful labor. I have worked alongside so many I love and so many who have given freely of themselves to assist and make my burden lighter. My heart is full and my joy complete. But, in my unguarded moments, I remember watching a huge part of my life disappear underneath mud and water. I remember hearing the fences pop as they simply fell over, their posts bent into two. I remember the raging rivers rushing past, shaking the walls that kept it from hitting the house. I remember watching whole trees wash through the yard. I remember seeing my neighbors weep. I remember the feelings of desperation and terror.
It seems like the tragedies of this holiday season are deeply compounded for me this year by what I haven't yet worked through in all it's entirely. The injuries of a beloved friend from a horrible car accident. The death of a good man's son and granddaughter in another car accident. The surgery a kind and wonderful man had to endure just before Christmas. The ache of missing my siblings. The void left by a friend lost to cancer. The longing for friends far away. The heartache of families broken apart. The loss of a beloved pet. And so much more...
I think love is a part of it. It seems love, which is so incomparable in it's power to change us, fill us, give us life in all it's fullness, is also capable of breaking us into pieces. We love people, places, things, and even ideas. We love our God. We love what He has created. And in that love we become more of what we should become. The process of love includes the excruciating joy/fulfillment alongside the breaking pain that chips away at us in the molding process.
So, admittedly, guilt nags at me, but like a body running a race with limited energy, I find the parameters of what I can fulfill this year to be smaller than I would wish. I know what I wish I could create in all that is Christmas this year, but the very real limitations of what my heart will allow are very much in my own way. And I'm choosing to accept them and ask for forbearance from all affected in the process.
Your heart deserves to be filled; filled with unexpected, delicious joy. I pray for this for you.
I cry. This might be the most beautiful thing you have ever written.
I feel your pain, dear one. And in a sense, it becomes mine as day after day I see the tiredness and exhaustion etched even more deeply into your face. For me, it was not only facing the racing encroachment of the ravaging forest fires that came so close to leveling our home and trees, and then living with the visual aftermath of 25 homes utterly destroyed… and the weird guilt that accompanies survival. My heart is heavy this Christmas… probably why I didn’t especially want your dad to so painstakingly put up the outside Christmas lights, and only half-heartedly wanted to take the effort to get a Christmas tree and invite the boys to help us decorate it. But this difficult year is almost over. Thank God. And the hope that Christmas engenders seems more real and desperately needed than ever.
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