Preparing for Christmas – Part 4, December
I didn't sleep well last night; I felt so tense, keyed up, frantic. I thought probably I wouldn't be able to settle my brain down and focus at church. But that wasn't the case. I was definitely into it! The Spirit was there so intensely! Wow! Awesome!! I remember someone reading something during the service this morning about how God gives us just enough peace for one day at a time – like the manna from heaven that He sent the Israelites. We have to seek His peace EVERY day. That way we don't forget our dependence on God and start thinking we are self-sufficient, which
we humans have such a strong tendency to do! December is to be our last month in this church building. A new building will be built, but for a time, we will have our services in a hotel. It will likely be a challenging time for our church family. The “vessel” was present this morning. This would be our second time to use it. Difficult to describe, it is a glass and metal container in which we put pieces of paper on which we have written something we want to give over to God and be free of. Then the papers are burned to help us visualize the process of letting go. Today we were to write about the baggage we didn't want to carry with us to our new church home. I had felt a twinge of sadness as I left for church this morning – alone. “Going to church alone” – I wrote on my little piece of paper. Then I wrote the word “without” four times with the names of four individuals next to the “withouts”. Four people who, for a variety of different reasons, are not in church with me this day. I looked around me, at the places where I used to see them-- a long time ago or a short time ago. I see the place at the front of the church where we stood – the one whose name I put on the list first and I, facing the pastor on our wedding day in 1991. Were we ever really that young – as young as we look in those old photographs? He and I were never really close; the marriage was never good. But I grieve for my exhusband in that complicated way where you grieve
the loss of something that never was, but should have been. I see the place where my friend, the one whose name was next on the list, used to sit. For nearly three years he attended, never missing a single Sunday. When he dropped out, he said it was because of me. And even though I know his dropping out was not REALLY my fault, I feel sad. He should be here! It seemed like he NEEDED to be here and he BELONGED here! I see the corner where my daughter used to dance when she was just a little girl. The people would smile and say – “She is so full of the Spirit! You can just see Him shining through her!” But now, like most of the other teens, she sees no value in attending church. Why? Why are we failing our young people, failing to engage them, failing to reach them? Why? And I see the place, beside me, where the new man in my life sits – when he is in town. But he lives in Omaha, the place where his children and grandchildren live and where his family has belonged for several generations. And me? My roots run deep in the Colorado soil. Can this work? For now, it seems to be mostly working well, actually. The traveling back and forth is kind of fun and Omaha is such a delightful place! I also wrote the word “decisions” on my little piece of paper. I wrote – “God, I give over to you any emotions that may be troubling me related to these situations. And I commit to you any decisions
related to them as well.” And I put my paper with the others in the vessel, to be received by God. December 21
I'm sitting in my living room surrounded by unfinished Christmas stuff. But I promised myself I would spend the morning writing. I have peaceful music playing. I'm taking time to breathe. A few weeks ago I set myself a goal to have ALL my Christmas tasks finished by December 9 . But apparently the best I can hope for is to have (almost) everything done by some time Christmas Eve Day – just like always. Today is supposed to be the “end of the world” day. It seemed like toward the beginning of 2012, people were saying it wasn't going to happen after all, and then for months there was not much talk of it at all. But the past week or so, the topic is hot again; this time just something to joke about. I would tend to agree with my daughter, who said she didn't think the whole world would end, but that there was a good chance some disturbed individuals would figure it was a good day to shoot people or blow something up. So, that is one of the reasons I am taking the morning off from busyness to pray and fast and write and reflect. I need to stop and give over some worries to God too. Funny thing is, though, I'm not worried so much about violence. I worry about offending people. This past week there have been times I absolutely
agonized over certain decisions – decisions about gifts. What to give, what not to give, what to say, what not to say. I have always been one to worry to an extreme degree about that kind of thing. I will start today putting some effort into praying that I can let that go somehow! But I need to backtrack a bit. Now where did I put the notes I made about the events of the past few weeks? I have been attending so many wonderful Christmas activities, which is one reason I haven't had time to write, of course. But I have definitely had some beautiful, intense spiritual experiences! Wow! On December 8 , I rode with a very good friend to a property out in the country to participate in an activity with our women's ministries group. What a beautiful setting! I am grateful to the man, one of our dear friends and church members, who owns the property and contributed so much to the arrangements. I am grateful, also, to the wonderful ladies who planned and led the event. And I am so very grateful to God who lets us all be a part of blessing others. That is the most rewarding and awesome and joyful thing we can spend our lives immersed in!!
We took turns going on a carriage ride, something I have always wanted to do! We rode out to a place on the property where a large lighted cross has been placed at the top of a hill. We were each given a scroll with something in it we were to meditate on while we waited there at the cross for a short time. I wondered if all the scrolls had the same message or if the ladies who had planned the activity wrote something specific for each of us based on whatever they might know about us. In considering this, there was a part of me that wanted to be just a tiny bit offended.
(Because someone knows, no doubt, that I am NOT as committed to God as I really would like to be.) This is what my scroll said:
If it is a bit smudged, that is because I was walking around a pond as I was meditating and, while trying to open the scroll while juggling my gloves, cup of tea, and who knows what else, the scroll blew into the water, and I had to run to retrieve it! Well, I suppose you can see the symbolism clearly enough so I won't belabor the point! Anyway, I did take time to pray and meditate over the thoughts, which were, of course, extremely relevant to my own personal struggles. Later our group leaders explained that the scrolls were all different, but were handed out randomly so that it was God, not they, who chose which scroll would go to each woman. We stayed a while longer to share and interact. It was truly a beautiful and blessed day! Then, of course, December 14
is a date I will need to write about.
On the way to a 9:00 meeting, I has having another one of my mood swings – a crazy, giddy, “up” mood, with all the excitement of getting ready for the Christmas dinner we were having for the clients in our program that afternoon. I was singing at the top of my lungs with the Chipmunks to my car radio, thinking – wow! It just doesn't get any better than this! I was thinking about posting something on facebook about that moment, but then, the news began to come through and the mood would have been all wrong for that particular sentiment, with December 14 Connecticut.
being the date of that horrible school shooting in
And people all over the country and even in other countries grieved. We grieved for little children and teachers whom the vast majority of us would never have met or known anything about if they had gotten to celebrate Christmas 2012 with their families and had continued on living their ordinary lives instead of dying that day in that way. We grieved because we think about how very much we love our own children and about how we would feel if something so incredibly awful like that happened to our own families! And we think about little first graders, so lively and joyful and bursting with “visions of sugar plums” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. . .” And it just feels so terribly, terribly sad! And we wonder about the young men who take these innocent lives. Barely more than children themselves, how do they become so desperately disturbed? And we wonder . . . Why? I thought about how I had questioned back in September how a Christmas poem written so early could be relevant by the end of the year. And, even though I didn't write my Christmas poem in September, I DID finish it by the end of November, not knowing that, sadly, it would just continue to become even MORE relevant as December wore on.
On Sunday, December 16 , I read my poem during the church service. I wasn't asked to read it as part of the official plan for the service, but our church services very often do involve contributions that weren't officially planned. The topic for the message of the day was JOY – part of the advent series. A couple who had lost their four month old baby about a year ago talked about their experience, their ongoing journey toward healing. (This WAS part of the official plan for the service.) And they and the pastor mentioned how they had at first felt a sense of incongruence and wondered if joy was just the wrong topic to focus on, in light of the recent tragedies. And they talked about how God showed them that loss and joy DO belong together, and even some of the scriptures they shared were the same as the ones in my poem. So I HAD to share the poem during the church service. It just belonged there! But anyway, back to the present – December 21 . In seeking guidance regarding the gifts I felt hesitant about giving, I feel that my word is: ALL. Just like in my scroll. God wants me to give ALL that I had planned to give. And if anyone is offended in any way, I will trust God to bring something good from it. Worrying too much about offending people means I am focusing too much on myself again. It is not about me!! December 22
(Some miscellaneous Christmas preparation stuff) I did get a little decorating done early in the month, and on December 15
I got the
copies of my Christmas poem mailed out to people who live far away. Finding the addresses was not as much of a challenge as I had feared, considering they were scattered a bit -- some on old envelopes, some in a tattered paper address book, and some I had to call my mom about. It's times like these that make me wish I were an organized person, someone with her addresses all up to date in her computer or file cabinet. Well, I will put that in my New Year's resolutions, if I decide to make any. By now, I have the wrapping mostly done. The shopping is DEFINITELY done; well maybe there is a little grocery shopping to do, and I will probably stop by the Goodwill store for the half price day, and I forgot to get a gift for the cat . . . I remind myself that a person does NOT have to buy more stuff just because they still have a little money left! I have a picture in my head – my goal! I see myself sitting here in my perfectly clean house with all the wrapping paper neatly put away. I am sitting peacefully on December 24
drinking a cup of
tea, listening to Christmas music, looking around at the pretty lights and lit candles. And I am thinking – Yes! I am READY for Christmas! December 23
This morning, as is often the case, the beginning of the church service
found me distracted, with my thoughts racing/wandering all different directions. I'm not going to cry this time, I thought. I'm not even going to be able to settle my mind down enough to focus and connect with God. People talked again today about ongoing grief, and anniversary dates of loved ones lost. Some of my (distracting?) thoughts were about my exhusband and how I was still waiting for some kind of message or connection, like I had written about in my September essay. I looked back at the place where he had stood, solemnly singing, the last time he had attended this church, a little over a year ago. Then the musicians began playing the song which I believe is called simply – He is Here. Such a meaningful, beautiful song! And my tears began to come even before the words started. He is here!! God is here, with us in our sadness; He is here! And then the thought came to me – Not only is God here, but THEY are here! All those we are grieving for; they are here! In the midst of our tears and in our connection with God, they are here! Look around – They are still here, in the places where we used to see them, and even the ones who were never here in our church in person; they are here! And THAT I believe is the message I was waiting for! But physically, we are leaving behind these places. And maybe we can leave behind a bit of the sadness too, and be eagerly ready for
our new beginning! But what can we, should we, will we take along with us? I believe that one of the very most important things that we MUST take is that intense and wonderful sense of unity, the unity we have with those who are present and those who are absent, that unity that is all wrapped up in the Spirit of God! Like a beautiful gift to cherish, let's take that with us wherever we go!! December 24
My boyfriend arrived from Omaha at 12:34pm. I was not sitting peacefully, drinking tea, with all my Christmas tasks finished as I had hoped. But that's okay. The house is not “perfectly” clean, but reasonably clean and that really is good enough. My teen aged daughter is getting ready to attend the Christmas Eve service with us and seems excited about dressing up. “I like dressing like a princess,” she said. What a blessing – going to church, and this time – NOT alone! Tomorrow we will go to my parent's home and celebrate with other members of our wonderful family! Wow!! Am I “ready for Christmas”? Well, I suppose so. But then again, Christmas is not just a one day thing. Actually, I have been experiencing Christmas all month long, and it has been Awesome!!! RoseDQ (Brenda C.) December 2012