It began like previous Christmases, with a determination to avoid the frenzied trappings of the Christmas season. But all too soon, the familiar stresses began to mount. There were schedules to keep, errands to run, and online and store deals to chase, plus the ever-vigilant financial constraints. Each day brought multiple to-do lists; some items relegated to another day. This is a plan gone awry.
And then it all changed.
It began with the simplest of household chores: cleaning In preparation for putting up the Christmas tree. I was undertaking the weighty tasks of moving the heavy stuff, digging into corners and vacuuming behind and under furniture. Then, with the furniture strewn in all directions, I abruptly stopped and looked around. Why not consider an entire new arrangement? Hmmm. An hour later, my living room was transformed. My tree now has a new place of prominence. When all was tidied up, I sat with a cup of tea to admire my ingenuity. And all it took was rethinking space, relocating items to other rooms and some long overdue decluttering. That is when I began to think more about other spaces, the inner kind. Maybe my own heart needs some rearranging too, clearing the way for God’s messages to me this Christmas.
Peeling away the Layers
The Christmas season has its layers, its dimensions. There are distractions of every sort and layers of emotions that tug. My best intentions could slip sideways. Remembrances linger on the surface. They are easily triggered by yearnings for days past, for loved ones departed and for the so-called simpler times, times when we were young and naïve to the ways of the world. It can be a song on the radio or a familiar aroma that unspools pain, longings and melancholy. A commotion of voices from the past take up residency in my heart. The irony is not lost on me. I decorate my house with sparkling colors of joy, while still steeped in yesterday’s sorrows and carrying the uncertainties of tomorrow. How many more tomorrows will there be?
Ask and Ye Shall Find: My Christmas in HD, A Higher Dimension
Perspective: Christmas is full of wonderful traditions and emotions. I do not wish to break with these traditions or minimalize them. I embrace them. But I knew there was something that needed my attention and with a little rearranging, I created that space in my heart for something, something yet to be revealed. It was a hollow space, waiting to be filled, kind of like a wrapped present waiting for its contents. This was not a crisis of faith. It was more like a quest for deeper meaning. I realized I was jig-sawing my days into incongruent pieces, and I wanted the parts to fit together, in a more spiritual manner. I needed to cherish my memories without having them erode my capacity for joy. And like the magi, I trusted the Christmas Star to guide me in my journey, a quest that led me to a personal revelation.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7)
To say my heart is used to these pursuits is an understatement. It is in my nature to probe, to unravel the layers, shedding light on the parts of my life. I am a searcher of meaning with God’s love illuminating my way. But unlike a harried holiday shopper in a grueling search for that perfect gift, I have the confidence that if I ask, if I seek, I will find. And there it was, revealed in a simple touch.
Sometimes, we find meaning and discovery in the little things, in the gentlest of gestures. My sweet three-month-old granddaughter, Lianna, is in her early stages of coordinating eye-hand movement. Her arms randomly paw and comb the air. But on this day, while performing my grandmotherly duty of rocking her to sleep, I was about to be changed by one gentle gesture. As we swayed back and forth, and her head laid heavy on my shoulder, and just before her tired little body succumbed to sleep, her tiny hand reached out and grasped my finger. This did not feel like a random touch. As she held on, this simple connection reverberated through every cell in my body. In that touch, I was transformed. Time and distance fell away. I felt another hand reaching out to me, all the way from Bethlehem. It was a reach that changed the world, a reach that still calls to me, a reach changed me that day. It was an open hand that seemed to say:
Follow me . . .follow me as you are.
I write in the early hours of the morning when the lack of distractions allows me to bare open my soul and to listen with my whole heart. When I began this post, I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew honesty was paramount. I wrote for days, with many stops and restarts. Much of what I wrote was summarily deleted. Nothing felt authentic, until that touch, a baby’s touch, that cut through the centuries. An open hand was extended out that said, “Follow me as you are”. For months, the symbol of the open hand has persistently, yet gently inserted itself into my thoughts. And this time, I knew, it meant more than invitation. It was an acceptance. It said, “Come as you are.”
Acceptance means come as you are: I am well into my senior years. In one of my former blogs, I quoted Sue Monk Kidd who wrote, “One day, I will have to forgive myself for getting old.” I am not there yet. I do need to forgive myself for my advancing years. I see evidence of aging that diminishes my sense of self.
I now understand that my longings for Christmases past have much to do with me—with grieving the fact that with old age comes a loss of status; that I am not the person I used to be, and I cannot do some things I used to do. Oh, I do workout to remain as flexible and strong as I can be, but I see and feel the daily truths of a ticking clock. I needed that message of total acceptance. Like the shepherds in the fields that night, they left their flock and they came as they were. I am likewise invited to come as I am, accepting myself as I am.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:16)
Postscript from Gloria:
As I continued to mold some of the disjointed parts of my Christmas together, I found more insights. In Hebrew, my granddaughter’s name, Lianna, means, “God has answered”. From the Latin and Greek, Lianna means a vine that keeps growing. While pondering these two meanings, my gaze rested on the garland that twines up and around my bannister like a festive vine. I noticed its many twists and bends, its many textures, dotted by sparkling lights and as it ascends upward. Like this garland, my life is a tapestry of textures, a myriad of parts, interwoven and still growing like a vine, climbing up my staircase. God did answer my prayer. I found more space in my heart, space for the open hand and a garland that wraps around it. And I glory in that. (Gloria)
. . . they will call him Immanuel (“God with us”)