Thursday, December 15, 2011

10 Days before...

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have my menu and shopping list made out, stuck to my refrigerator with a magnet, along with a list of all the Christmas cookies that had to be made (and another list of who would receive them!).

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, my husband Mark and I would be comparing notes, and figuring who would be here this year to join us at our Christmas table.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have my calendar in plain view, with places to go and people to see, and maybe even reminders of when my favorite Christmas programs would be on tv.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, I'd have already seen our church Christmas program, been moved to tears by memories of songs I'd not heard sung so powerfully; or moved to tears by the sheer memory of how dear these familiar songs are to me.

A year ago, 10 days before Christmas, my home would be collecting dust on all the greenery, my Christmas lights wrapped in tulle in the windows would be glowing each night, and it would seem that these special decorations are always a part of my home decor.

But this year is different.

10 days before Christmas, I'm sleeping in the attic room on an air mattress at my daughter's house in Pittsburgh, PA. My husband is at home, and no decorations are up. We are 8 hours drive away from each other. We spent last week together, here in Pittsburgh, hoping that she would have given birth to their little boy nearer to her due date. But he hasn't arrived, and she isn't ready, so I'm still hanging out here to help with the other 3 kids (4 and under), and Christmas is sort of - well - on hold? I don't really know what Christmas is this year, or where it fits in. I know that our son and other daughter and her husband are due to come to our home for some time there, and Christmas dinner is supposed to be shared with them, but I don't even know!

Christmas goodies have been made here, by my daughter and her husband, to give to their friends here. We've walked around the mall a hundred times, let the kids ride on the little train near Santa's workshop there, and they went for a drive last night to ooooh and aaaaah over the Christmas lights around the city.

There is a chance she may be induced this weekend, a chance the baby will arrive sooner than that, but we don't know for sure...and I have no idea when it is that I'm supposed to leave to go home. I guess we need to talk about this.

So 10 days before Christmas, I'm in a mindset I've not ever been before, and am trying - DESPERATELY trying - to find Christmas in my heart - in the place that Christmas can be every day of the year....

Remembering the first year I was a Christian at Christmas, and just NOW remembering an essay I wrote years ago that captured it...

"When I first became a Christian, years ago in Seal Beach, CA, it was as if I saw the entire Christmas season through new eyes. My senses were keenly aware of the importance of this time...to think of a girl, pregnant for the first time, carrying the Messiah, and facing the ridicule of an unplanned pregnancy in the eyes of the public. To imagine the awesomeness of the shepherd's interaction with the angels, in the stillness of the night, all the "choirs of angels" and their fullness of joy as they pronounced the arrival of the King!

It all came to my emotional finality in the quietness of midnight on Christmas Eve. Although we had lived in the same neighborhood for several years, things happened that I had not ever noticed before. Was I oblivious to it out of my spiritual ignorance, or was it something that God created just for me? I believe it was a little of both, instrumented in His glory as a gift to me.

It was a late night, and for some reason I could not sleep. It was mild weather, normal for December in Southern California, so the bedroom windows were open, and the sound of the ocean's waves crashed rhythmically on the shore. Not noticing time or space, I rose out of bed and sat on the balcony, overlooking the stillness of the town, the greenway park empty, yet lit up by the street lights all down the road. Then, as if out of no where, the sound of carols being played by church bells rang throughout the town! From midnight on, song after song, I don't even know how long it lasted, the carols sang out, proclaiming the King's birth!

It was as if each melody drew out from my heart the lyrics, making them real to me for the very first time! I cried at the proclamation of Jesus' birth! Rejoice! Emmanuel!! He has come!!

Now I live in Southwest Missouri, and I'm far from the sound of the ocean's waves or the little church down the road that had the Christmas bells in their steeple. Sometimes I can see the wind blowing the fields of grass and it mimics the ocean's currents, or I can imagine the sound of the waves breaking on the shore on crisp, cold, winter nights, with no water in sight. Yet Christmas season is always a time of miracles as I remember back to my first "real" Christmas, and the special gift that God gave to me that night. "

I'm not living in MO any more, and Christmas looks different in KY, and even here in Pittsburgh, but the heart of Christmas is the same. The songs of rejoicing still ring true in my heart, even if the steps to prepare are very different.

And I'm sure that 10 days before Christmas will look very different too...but no matter where I am, or what I'm doing, I can stop. pause. and reflect at how wonderful this indescribable gift of Jesus needs to be unwrapped in my heart...

not just 10 days before Christmas, but actually, every day of the year...




PS - my afterthought: so...as I was blogging this morning...it occurs to me: I know many people around the world where they have to prepare for Christmas in many other "different" ways, and things don't look/feel/smell/taste the same to them...they don't get to be with the ones that they love to be around (even if they are with others that they do love)....and they have to create new ways to prepare their hearts for "the most wonderful time of the year" when there may not even be lights on trees or houses, or Christmas parties to attend, or can't even mention Jesus' birth...so my pity party ended abruptly...and although it may not feel like Christmas in my circumstances, I NEED to make it Christmas in my ♥ , and that's not about where I am geographically, but where I am spiritually - and I want to be in THAT place...so I'm praying for "all those other friends" and remembering their needs this morning...