Note: The below entry is long. And sad. But so is a lot of my life, so if this type of thing scares you I'd just get out now... :-)
It's December 7th. 17 1/2 days until Christmas morning when I'll wake up in my satin pajamas and pull my big fleece robe tight around me, and pad down the hallway to the living room to open presents. Last year was the first Christmas without my momma. It was so bad. I mean, nothing cataclysmic happened-- no tree fires, no financial despair, Dad, Brother, and I were in perfect health. But with Mom gone, even the lights on the tree seemed dark.
Being the lone woman in this now three-legged dog of a family, I watched my male counterparts assume their usual positions for opening gifts on the sofas around the tree. But this time it was different. It was always a slight conundrum to see who would share a couch while unwrapping seeing as there were three places to sit, and four of us. Usually Brother and I each claimed a sofa, with Dad taking his throne in the big armchair and Mom would sidle up next to one of us kids, eagerly taking pictures in-between telling us the order we should unwrap (so we didn't open a "big" one too early in the game), and puttering to the kitchen to put cinnamon rolls in the oven. But not last year. Last year the three of us sat each on our own place, and the problem was no more. That sofa never seemed so big.
For the past two weeks I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've been vaguely sick every day (now I realize the result of an allergic reaction last week), but something in my soul has been off. Like my insides have got the shakes... I went from having some of the most intimate quiet times I've had in my life, to feeling like my spirit got bagged, beat up, and shoved in the trunk of a getaway car. Disoriented, shaking, not knowing which way is up and who or what I should be fighting against, I worked myself into a bit of an outside frenzy in order to try and quiet the storm inside, but nothing seemed to even come close to calming me down.
Then it hit me suddenly last night: It's Christmas. And I miss her.
"Is that all?" I thought, "I always miss her!"
But it's Christmas, my spirit pressed. Christmas.
Yes it is. It's Christmas. A time that is so precious and sacred in my heart because of the reverence and joy I saw my Momma take in it every year. Christmas. When piles of presents jumbled beneath the tree were more than just "stuff", but things my mom had spent hours agonizing over, often buying, then returning, then buying again, trying to decide just what would delight her family's heart the most. Christmas. When the house would smell like roasting pecans and closets were magic-filled danger zones where presents lurked... "Nobody go in my office closet! JESSICA- Don't open the third drawer of that cabinet!" Christmas. Oh, Christmas! How on earth could I think that this season could go by without my heart feeling yet another set of aftershocks from the quake that broke it over a year ago? How could I mistake these spirit-tremors for anything but the shivering of grief?
They say that knowing is half the battle and relief is what filled me when I realized the source of much of the chaos inside... I know grief. Intimately. I know how to open myself beneath its scalpel that lets poison go rushing out, I know how to subject myself to its searing iron that burns as it cleanses, I know how to lay as still as I can, broken dreams and dashed hope and wounded faith bleeding from every incision, gritting my teeth as the tears pour and my wounds are sewn shut. Yes, I know grief.
And it's Christmas. Another one I'll have to spend without my mommy. The second of many, I'm afraid. But I'm going to lay myself down on this workman's bench, and try not to squirm too much as my wounds are cleansed. Because He called me to this life, and I'm going to live it.
So as I light my Christmas candles this year, and bake batches and batches and batches of cookies as the scent of toasting pecans fills the air, I'll wrap my presents on Christmas Eve like I always do and think of her. I'll try not to compare the cold feeling that seems to have taken over our home since she left with the warm bustle I can still remember filling this house all December-long, and think about what Christmas in this new world can look like. It might not be full of joy for a long time, and that's okay. I hope. Because Christmas isn't about her, it's about Him, and this year, like every year, I'm going to try and remember that.
"I want so much for Christmas to be a beautiful and warm time when we feel God's closeness and worship Him for the hope and salvation He has given us. I want so much for my children to feel that, because it is the only true Christmas memory and 'tradition' that can remain unchanged from year to year. People change, circumstances change, finances change. Only the truth of what God has done for us and how much He loves us-- that never changes. In over 20 years of walking with Him, I have had just about every kind of Christmas. Busy ones, quiet ones, crowded ones, lonely ones, rich ones-- and many, many poor ones! But my favorite time each Christmas--and the setting is never quite the same-- is when I feel His presence, His holiness, His faithfulness-- and just have a quiet moment adoring Him. That is my true Christmas."
May your days be merry and bright.