Staying in the spirit of Christmas

As colds race around our house and keep various individuals awake through the night for various reasons, I find that we all are a little short tempered, a little extra whiny, a little extra boogery, a little extra coughy. And mama has a little less patience to deal with it all as the little negotiate each day with coughs and extra boogers and an extra dose of being tired. Plus we discovered our dishwasher has decided to take a break, so my counter AND my dishwasher are full of dirty dishes and, naturally, we ran out of liquid dish soap so no washing dishes until husband comes home from work tonight with more dish soap.

I find myself wanting to avoid it all, to hide away somewhere in the house where I can hear everyone and just maybe see them if I really feel like I should be responsible and check in. I find myself wanting to crawl into bed and sleep the day away. I find myself grumping about the cheery Christmas music on all the radio stations. I find myself a little stressed out about needing to make a trip into town to buy fleece for a Christmas present for my niece, not really knowing when I can or will even want to do that before we all get together.

It’s really easy to let the little things get to me, especially when I have a cold just like everyone else. When I have slept just as little as everyone else. I definitely start to feel sorry for myself and I justify pulling away from the kiddos, hiding away.

I grump and I whine inside my own head.

Then I remember, it’s all a gift. The realization dawns slowly on me, over the course of half an hour. I remember the snow and the radio, I see the tree and various gifts around the house, some wrapped, some needing to be. I remember that we are gathering with family soon. I remember that Christmas is about so much more than gifts and stress, more than driving and arriving and leaving, more than food and family.

Christmas is really about the arrival of the hope of the world. Christmas is about when Jesus Christ finally came to earth for us. Christmas is about the arrival of our salvation, of our reconciliation to God, about the coming promise of the Holy Spirit, of living in communion with God, of a new age of relationship with God.

When I think of that, when I remember that, it’s hard to stay grumpy. I think of Mary, traveling far longer than I’d want to much more uncomfortably, much more pregnant than I’d want to, giving birth in a barn instead of a nice, clean hospital, with her probably clueless about birth husband by her side instead of knowledgeable nurses and doctors, wrapping him up in strips of cloth instead of a nice, new, sterile hospital blanket, staying outside with the cows and sheep instead of inside on a fancy hospital bed. I consider the life Jesus led, being obedient to his parents who were very like rather ostracized on account of Jesus, who lived with ridicule and whispering and shaming. I think about him finally coming into his own ministry at my age – leaving all he knew, traveling around, sharing the Good News of God with people. I think of him being starved, beaten, tortured, and ultimately killed on my account. It’s hard to be grumpy, no matter what’s going on.

Without Christmas, none of what we do matters. Without a relationship with God, life is meaningless. The money, the stuff, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t fulfill us.

I find it terribly easy to get sidetracked by other stuff. I find it terribly hard to remain focused on what matters. God matters. People matter. Our relationship with both matters. The choices we make here on earth DO echo into eternity, to quote Gladiator, but in a different sense than Maximus meant. Whether we choose to enter into a relationship with God and into eternal glory with him or choose not to and into eternal separation – that’s what matters. Christ came for us to pay our entrance fee into heaven, with a God who WANTS us to be there with him.

I need to do a MUCH better job of remembering what Christmas is really all about, and I need to remember it day after day, not just the few days of December or April, around Easter. For us Christians, Christmas is every day. Easter is every day. Our lives are a testament to those holidays and that they MEAN something outside of their designated federal holidays.

Are you like me? Easily sidetracked by the mundane, failing to see the miraculous and glorious all around you?

How do you recenter yourself? What do you do to remember the glorious when you find yourself sidetracked by the mundane?


I See You

Do you ever feel unseen?

Perhaps you feel like nothing you do really matters or that those around you aren’t seeing what you do. Maybe your coworkers. Maybe your spouse. Maybe your children. Maybe your friends.

Maybe you, like me, find yourself wondering from time to time if anything you do matters. If anybody sees you.

I can speak most knowledgeably about being an at home parent, because that is what I do now. I stay home. I live behind my front doors, surrounded by people that come to my knee caps and have a very loose grasp of the English language, very little emotional control, and aren’t all that capable or coordinated. It can be really lonely sometimes, but from my years in the workforce, I know these feelings aren’t limited to living behind closed doors.

Maybe you feel like an outsider at work, like you’ve never really connected with anyone, like you live between two worlds of workers – those who like each other and those who despise each other. Maybe you don’t really directly work alongside anyone so you find you don’t have the chance to get to know anyone very well.

Or maybe you find yourself in an even more extreme situation where you really are alone. Family is far away, if even there. Friends are basically non-existent. Your coworkers make you want to stab yourself in the head so you actively avoid them. You felt judged that one time you went to church so you don’t have a faith community or the one you are a part of is really fake and empty (yeah, it happens).

It’s easy to feel unseen in life, as it fills up, as more and more things demand more and more time. As you get married, have kids, get a dog or two, have separate jobs, hobbies you try to pursue, faith you try to keep up – sometimes it all gets to be a lot and suddenly you look around and the space feels empty around you.

It’s nobody’s fault, though, right? Everyone is on that same train, riding that same ride, looking around at the same empty space once they stop for a moment.

It’s easy to forget that God promises to never leave us. All of us. Not just the ones that go to church.

“…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  –Deuteronomy 31:6

Moses was speaking to the Isrealites, commanding them to follow Joshua into the Promised Land. However, the situation could just as easily be God commanding us to follow Jesus in to our own personal promised lands.

Friends, God sees you. All the time.

I can be a friend that gets too busy to check in with other friends and suddenly I find it’s been two weeks since I talked to this person or that one. God isn’t like that. He’s a much better friend than I am. He’s always there, whenever I need someone. Maybe I pick a bad day to reach out to a friend when I’m having a rough day – maybe she’s in the hospital and can’t reach back because she seriously feels like her body is going to rupture with pain. God is always there. He’s never in the hospital. He never loses his phone or drops it in the toilet.

If you read the Gospels, which I highly recommend if you haven’t, I think you will see a common theme among Jesus’ interactions with people. In every encounter recorded, the person who is sick or seeking him is seen by him. He doesn’t just heal and run, he forgives sins, he reminds them to go and sin no more, he is astonished by their faith or by their lack of faith – he was a professional people seer.

I forget that all to quickly. I want a physical text or email or message back when things aren’t going well and I reach out. The irony is that I always find myself far more fulfilled when I spend that time I would have spent texting back and forth in prayer instead – the answers I receive in prayer are always more satisfying and reassuring.

Because God sees me.

He knows me. He knows my heart. He knows my situation. He knows the details I’m too ashamed or embarrassed to share with others.

So, friends, while I may not be the best at seeing you and others in your life might not see you as much as you want or need to be seen, remember that God sees you and he is just waiting for you to reach out and be seen by him.

Carry on, friends, and try to see someone else this week.