Posted in Living this Life

Dust bunnies and Christmas trees

It finally all caught up with me.

I mean, you can only hide the dust that is threatening to engulf your home for so long before it rears its ugly head and exposes you for who you really are.

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Because even though we all may prance around like Lucy from a Charlie Brown episode, pretending to have our stuff together, if we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we feel a little bit more like the dust-embattled “Pig Pen” of the series. Literally.

Let me explain. Some people use Thanksgiving as their gauge for the appropriate time to break out the Christmas decorations. In my little world, it comes the day after Halloween. After a month of dealing with ghosts and ghouls haunting the aisles of every store I walk into, I can’t wait to throw up the tree and string the lights! (Thanksgiving looks extra good in the reflection of Christmas lights … we don’t skip Thanksgiving in these parts, we just “accessorize” it!”)

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So this year I jumped right in. Only, to my horror, I suddenly realized that this wasn’t going to be as much fun as I thought. It has been an exceptionally busy few months, and though I have maintained the “mandatory” cleaning of laundry, dishes, and the necessary loathsome toilets, I had blithely ignored the dust gathering in all the corners and surfaces of my home.

Until the lights came out and suddenly I could see it all. Everything ugly shone forth in shocking brilliance. And my dreams of glorious decorations stopped short in the depressing realization that I needed to put on my big girl pants and clean.

Truth is, I’ve been struggling with the thought of Christmas this year. I want all the joy, I want all the celebration, but sometimes it just feels like a lot of work, and I’m tired. It’s like I’m bursting at the seams (literally and emotionally) and then we take all these lights and decorations and songs and expectations and pile them on top of all this other stuff going on. And it starts to feel heavy and busy and cluttered.

Kind of like my house with decorations obscured by dust.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty through the chaos, isn’t it?

Don’t blame Christmas. It’s holding out it’s arms with the promise of wonder and beauty … the opportunity to pause and remember. To put up impractical decorations just because they shine and make us smile and to give unnecessary gifts just because we love someone. To remember those important things that we build our lives on, but allow to get squeezed out in the business of life. The problem with Christmas lies in our capacity to receive it. We don’t know how to make space for it, so it just starts to feel like more work, more stuff, more than we have space for. We’re putting the beauty on top of the mess of our lives and it all dulls into incoherent clutter.

So I pulled out my dust rag, and I started to wipe. And as my home started to sparkle a little more, I felt the space around me work a surprising miracle. It was like the literal act of wiping away dust was starting to clear out the dusty corners of my heart. As the spaces around me cleared, I looked at my boxes of decorations and suddenly felt excitement grow over filling these spaces with lights and beauty.

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Are you feeling this with me? Is your soul feeling a bit cluttered these days? Do you have those spaces too – the ones that have been ignored too long and when you let your gaze linger, all you see are those stinking dust bunnies staring back at you? Has the calendar pressed in on you so that you no longer see the moments around you and only hear the ticking of the clock? Has the hurt that’s been done to you hardened your heart so all you hear when you call to God is your own voice echoing back? Are the necessary bills piling so high that every responsibility is just something else you can’t afford? There’s that diagnosis, that relationship, the drama that swirls around us and sucks the joy right out of our hearts… What do we do with all of that? Especially when Christmas comes along and tells us to put up the lights and rejoice and how do you do that when you can’t really find yourself in the middle of all the crazy?

It’s just easier to ignore it all and go on with the daily necessary requirements of life, isn’t it?

But then you hear the echo of that song and it feels a little different …

“Let every heart prepare Him room”… but if I’m honest, there really isn’t room most days.

Maybe what we need this Christmas is a different perspective. Maybe instead of trying to lay baby Jesus in His manger on top of all the other things in our lives, we could try inviting Him into that messy place? Maybe we could hold open our hands and simply ask Him to hear the cry of our hearts.

We all want to move a little slower so we can take it all in, but until we can, let’s “prepare Him room”. Maybe we can dust out the corners of the heart, release some resentment, soften some anger, forgive a hurt – and let Jesus in. Recently I found myself needing to utter a simple, “I’m sorry” to the God of the Universe who I had unwittingly shut out of my heart. Hurts in various form had caused me to want to protect myself and those I love and so I let myself grow hard – and God can’t be heard when the walls of our heart turn to rock.

Maybe this Christmas season, we can string the lights and remember the Light who scatters our darkness. (John 1:5)

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To hear His precious promises – and truly believe them!

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair. – Isaiah 61

Maybe with each twinkling light we see, we can take a deep breath and see the face of Christ – “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

Oh how my soul needs to hear that truth! Pig Pen and I have some work to do around here! But we’ll have the Christmas music blasting while we do it…

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Posted in Living this Life

The bell still rings for me…

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I rode the Polar Express the other night.

Not by myself, of course – that would have been weird.

My family all jumped aboard with me – we dug out the Christmas PJs and Santa hats and braved the cold to ride the train. We sang the Christmas songs, drank the hot chocolate and ate the cookies – we met Santa, saw the elves, and let ourselves feel the magic of the story.

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But as I sat in the middle of all the merriment – I looked around at all the other families sharing this moment with us and thought – this is all so bizarre. There is the man up there, with his arms covered in tattoos participating in the same experience as me. And in another car, there is the big family wearing matching giraffe costumes – I still don’t know what that has to do with the Polar Express or Christmas, but they looked cozy and happy. Surrounding me are people of all ages – wearing all manner of PJs and random Christmas attire – every walk of life, sharing this moment, this story, this child-hearted experience.

And I can’t stop thinking about it.

Whey do we do these things? We drink lukewarm hot chocolate, eat cheap sugar cookies, and listen to a story we’ve heard over and over … and we LOVE it! The incongruity of it all makes me think that something much more important is happening in our spirits and maybe we just don’t have the words.

If you’re anything like me, this grown-up world can spin you upside down. And if we’re not careful, the harsh winds can form a crust around our souls until we stop feeling. Maybe what we all need this Christmas season is a taste of childlike wonder to wake our souls up and help us see beyond ourselves.

Chesterton says it like this: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Is it possible? Do you think that this is what we’re all really craving but don’t know how to say it? A taste of the kind of wonder that we’ve all somehow forgotten? So we slip on our jammies and ride Christmas trains and whisper “do it again” because we all need to wake up our slumbering souls and savor the wonder again?

What about when it ends, and we wake up the next morning, put on more appropriate attire, throw in the next load of laundry, take the kids to school, and go about our workday, shuffling along in the apparent monotony of life. What about those days that unfold into weeks until we start to feel like robots in a factory?

I saw a man yesterday who had been through mind-numbing physical pain. He was a strong, active man – but sickness recently claimed his foot and part of his leg. As I saw him being helped on stage, with what remained of his leg wrapped and hanging out the bottom of his pants, my heart broke a little. Then he spoke, and my heart swelled. This is what he said about his pain – “it’s been a great adventure. All this pain – it’s worth it to simply feel.”

Maybe we spend too much time trying not to feel. We avoid the pain, numb our spirits with technology and diversions. We escape the monotony by running somewhere else in our minds, wishing we could be anywhere but washing these dishes again. We see other lives on social media that seem so much more interesting than ours and we forget that they start and end the day the same way we do – maybe we all need to ride the Polar Express and remember how to feel the wonder again.

To do it again with hearts awake! To let the magic pour out of the air around us and soften the crust around our souls. “All around us, magic is overflowing and running down the streets. Do you really live on a ball spinning in circles through the stars? Does the heat from the closest star really make trees and grass and moss out of the carbon dioxide in the air? Have [they] really pulled black ooze up from beneath the earth’s skin, mixed it in their lairs into something that explodes, and made us magical metal boxes than can race around on roads, riding on those explosions? Are you bored with that, yawning in your seat belt? Is lightning real? Tornados? Does the big spinning ball beneath us always suck us down, and are we really talented enough to constantly balance on our feet? What kind of creatures are we?

Sit Moses and Beowulf down, and listen to their stories. Sit Bilbo down and listen to his. Do you disbelieve their tales? Are they made up? Are they fantasy? Now tell them your stories. Have you flown through the sky in a giant metal tube? Do we have boats that can sail to the very bottom of the sea? Have we thrown men all the way to the moon?

A hobbit would laugh at you. To him, your world could not be real. Your stories would be fun to read, beneath a blanket on a rainy day. He might look out of his window and sigh, wishing for a more magical world of his own.” (N. D. Wilson)

Whatever you have ahead of you today, this is the only day we’ve got! Let’s be brave enough to stop the hurry in our souls and let the hardness fall off. I know it’s not all starry eyed happy – I know pain often hovers or threatens to consume. But when Jesus said “let the little children come to me”, He was talking about you and me. In the middle of all we have before us today. He said the kingdom of heaven belonged to them – to us! This is not just future tense, this is our foretaste of the kingdom of heaven now.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

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Posted in Living this Life

Kisses for Jesus

I hesitate to even write this, sitting here in the middle of December, my mind spinning with everything I have to do. Let’s be honest – which of us has the time to even read one more thing? These are the days when our calendars are full, our to do list is full, but somehow it feels like our hearts can be a bit hollow. I saw a friend last night for a brief 3 minutes, and as she was telling me about all the activities she is involved in, she said, “why are we even doing all this?”

My mind flew back 10 years. To when my sweet girl was just one – truly celebrating her first Christmas. And this: charissa kissing Jesus

She loved her Nativity. She wouldn’t go to bed until she had kissed Jesus goodnight. Every  single night. I put a few different Nativities throughout the house every year, and that year, I found myself re-arranging them often. Until I figured out what was going on. They were getting arranged Charissa’s way. With everyone’s backs to the room, all the wise men and shepherds in a clump – you couldn’t really see the Nativity. Then I looked closer, and realized that they were as they really should be – all gathered tight around the manger and baby Jesus.

At the age of one, she got what most of us miss.

 

We are those people who pull out our Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. Christmas music is on, candles are burning, I have 3 Christmas trees (one has a Muppet as a tree topper, so I’m not sure that counts), and all the necessary blow up figures on my lawn. We love to celebrate this time of year – for the fun and the family,  especially for the opportunity it gives us to pull back and really celebrate Jesus. The tragedy of it all is that somewhere amidst the wrapping paper and the noise, Jesus gets a little lost.

And so I buy more devotionals. We do our Jesse tree with the kids every night. I even make sure to eat a piece of chocolate from my chocolate Advent calendar every day (or two or three, depending on how the day goes…)! I study the meanings of what happened when Jesus was born, I read commentaries – I dig because I want to know more, to understand more.

But this year, Jesus keeps whispering to my heart – “just come away and be with me

There is great value to understanding. I’m not encouraging setting the books aside – God often speaks to me through greater knowledge. But have we lost those quiet moments where we just worship? Just sit in silence and listen for His still small voice?

 

 

 

My sweet Charissa lived a parable for me years ago that will never leave me. I love all the joys and festivities of this season, but as we celebrate, as we wrap gifts and listen to Christmas music, and even while we’re doing our last minute shopping, let us breathe a little deeper, move a little slower. As we sit in traffic – again – let us lift our eyes from the red lights in front of us and let the glory of God all around us sink in. Listen for the song of a bird, look for the rainbow glint of sun off the snow. And tonight, for just a few minutes, try turning off the tv and the bright lights overhead and let the gentle glow of the Christmas tree warm your heart. May we all be a little more like the wise men in Charissa’s Nativity – less worried about what’s “out there” and more turned in, hearts in a beautiful clump around Jesus.

Oh come, let us adore Him!