The end of a year

The last two months of 2013 were a blur of activity book-ended by sickness and punctuated by tears. Sounds pretty awful, when I write it down, eh? But it was in fact all covered in grace. Still, I am weary and needing to regroup. It feels like I just sort of fell across the finish line of last year, limped into 2014 and am still trying to catch my breath.

I found this year that, as the calendar page turned to November, it grated hard on my soul. After the beautiful day of the Hot Chocolate 5K, I found myself sick with a bad chest cold that lingered too long. The weather turned cold, too. We celebrated a special seven-year-old and, thank God for whoever invented the Indoor Waterpark!

Through the end of November and into December, with the press of the holiday activities, I tried to close my eyes and not miss my baby girl so much – but I did. Then there was deep sorrow, that isn’t mine to share here, but made me weep for other mothers and fathers dear to my heart who now walk without their precious babes on this earth. So many tears. God must have a very big bottle to hold all the tears, I think.

Then came the time to remember, to celebrate God come to be with us, and to long for Jesus’ second coming. I found myself sick with fever and cough and aches so bad there was nothing to do but stay in bed. So my amazing husband made Christmas for us – cooking and cleaning and feeding us all – while I slept. All the way until New Years and a diagnosis of pneumonia. Oh, and in the midst of me being sick all three of them had the stomach bug – fun (um, not really). And a gerbil escaped…and was found while up in the middle of the night with a sick child – a silver lining? 🙂

And that grace? In-laws who welcomed us – sickness and all – for Christmas. My momma cleaning my kitchen. A sweet friend bringing soup and pie, a movie and yellow flowers on New Years Eve. Medicines and prayers and kind doctors.

Slowly I can breath again. Breathing slowly into this new year – resting and healing.

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Keeping Christmas

On Friday after Thanksgiving we were at some friends’ house watching The Muppets Christmas Carol, one of my two most favorite Christmas movies. They use the term “keeping Christmas” in that movie. And it reminds me that we have to choose to celebrate some years. This is one of those years, the first in my life actually, where I would rather not put up decorations. I don’t want to listen to Christmas music. Mainly because our American way of celebrating Christmas feels rather about everyone being happy and pretty and nice. In the face of grief, sorrow and the mess of life that feels so harsh and hard to embrace.

Yet when I think about and read the story of Jesus’ birth, the event that I am celebrating, it’s with a sense of overwhelming relief I read Jesus safe born to Mary, like gulping down a huge cold glass of water after a hot, long, arduous journey, or like being able to finally breath because we were not sure if help was really coming and how could we be really saved? Finally, the Messiah is here. Finally the Redeemer has come and it’s bad, getting worse all the time. But he’s here, a baby, and so we celebrate because HE didn’t die at birth. He wasn’t killed by Harod’s soldiers, not now, not yet. But his parents fled, moved, prompted by the angels.

I’m choosing to keep Christmas this year. The meaning is still there, to be celebrated. But some of the trappings…they are more valued by my sons than by me. And that’s ok because their enthusiasm makes me smile, like the younger boy running around saying “it’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” and the older one so excited to decorate the tree.

Tonight we carried on a tradition, creating houses built of sugar…a sugary mess ripe with melt downs and a tired momma. But thankfully NOT at my house. They do this every year at the preschool and its the only reason we even have a candy house because I don’t know that I could handle this at my house!

Notice the sugar coma in the eyes? It was coming on quick at this point so I figured I’d better at least snap a few pictures. But we did manage to get two candy houses built and since I was going it alone I count that a success! I am ever so grateful that we won’t be doing that again until next year!!

So we’ll do some of these fun things. But we will also spend quiet moments thinking about and talking about the infant King. As we mourn the fact that our baby is not here with us, as we remember her life, we will also remember with joy, the birth of another baby, who came to die, whose mother watched Him die, for us.