Friday, December 21, 2012

The Secret of Christmas

We all long for home, especially at Christmas.

The home we hope for is the one of our hearts, the very best idea of home. This may not match the picture we had growing up, or the one we see on TV. We long for the home of deep sanctuary, the one that glows from within, casting warm lights on our faces. The home that allows us to set all our troubles down and find the nourishment of loving company, feasting and laughter.

I was lucky enough to have this kind of home growing up. If you were to look at the surface of the circumstances, you would disagree. My mom was divorced with five children and not working, which meant Christmas was always full of guilt. We lived in a broken down Victorian home that never put out enough heat to feel any sort of warmth. We never ever had enough money to get Christmas together in any sort of style – it was always ramshackle, last minute and chaotic.

Despite all those crazy circumstances, I think about those holidays as a kid with wonder. The food, the gifts, the decorations – everything was pretty unremarkable. None of the material things stand out. What fills me with wonder is how we had nothing and yet we had everything. I remember the funny conversations, the times spent together, the laughter, the cooking contests – attending Christmas Eve services and loving the beauty and simplicity of an old church decorated with simple pine boughs. What made those Christmases great was the fact that we enjoyed all we had – each other.

Every holiday as a grown up, I try so hard to re-create that magic. I read magazine after magazine about meaningful Christmas holidays, recipes and activities. But when I think about it, it really is simple. It’s paying attention – to each other, to the moment, to the beauty all around you. It’s quietly letting go of every guilty demand. It sounds simple, and it can be, if we let it. Stop. See. Smell. Treasure.

As part of the holidays, I love to read the Christmas story from the Bible. Many people love the part about the angels belting out praises or the shocked shepherds or the wise men showing up. My favorite part comes at the very end – it almost seems insignificant, but to me, it is everything. In Luke 2:19 (NIV) it says “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary could have been thinking about a lot of things. She just gave birth – she could have been thinking “where is my mother-in-law to help out?” or “why couldn’t I be sleeping in a real bed?” But through it all, Mary treasured. Not exactly a magazine-style Christmas. If Mary, despite all these crazy circumstances, could still focus on the joy of it all, what about me?

This is the secret of Christmas. When we want to feel guilt, think of Mary. When we want to be stressed, stop and treasure. When we want to get angry or think it’s about one more thing we have to do, it’s time to stop and adore.

Mary gives us the secret to Christmas.  It is finding true home and to treasure it all up in your heart.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Peace

Lately the words "holiday peace" are feeling like an oxymoron.

If you are like me, things are getting to a fevered pitch as we are working on whipping up the magic and wonder again this year. Holidays had such a different feel when I wasn't the one hosting, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, wrapping and being the leader of the cheer-making. 

Deep sigh. Yes, indeed I need some holiday peace.

So in an effort to discover more wonder, I began writing down things that made me smile in the chaos. Sort of a gratitude journal at a time when my heart is desperately in need of it.

Here's my things that make me smile this season:

--Filling the bird feeder for the first time this year and watching the birds arrive in festive celebration.

--Hearing someone sneeze in a Christian bookstore, followed by an avalanche of "God Bless Yous."

--The privilege and honor to bless a family of a fallen soldier this Christmas.

--Making toast from the heel of the bread knowing no one likes it, but I secretly love it.

--Having a funny conversation with my doctor about how he has always wanted to enter the Guiness Book of World Records for pogo-stick jumping. 

--Hearing the "Car Wash" song come on the radio when I am in the car wash!

--Helping out my neighbor with her small children and being peppered with funny questions like if I like zebras and what is God's favorite color? (all of them, of course.)

--Finding the rattiest, but most treasured Christmas decoration I made many years ago. It always reminds me of the heart I hope to have this Christmas and here is what it says:

The True Christmas

If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; 
if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives
with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert,
as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? 
For each of us there is a desert to travel. A star to discover.
And a being within ourselves to bring to life. 
--Author Unknown

Wishing you moments of holiday peace that make you smile. As a gift to yourself, take a moment to notice all you have to be grateful for this season.