How is it possible for a season to evoke so many different emotions? There is the mystery and wonder filled with sights and sounds. Tiny white lights and familiar Christmas Carols. Our senses are elevated by peppermint and pine. But for many, it is not always falalalala and festive this time of year. It’s more of a mixed bag.
Many are experiencing a holiday without a loved one for the first time. Loss and grief are highlighted throughout this season. Love (familial or romantic) appears to be on display–and therefore there is a constant reminder of love that is missing within our own lives. Dysfunctional families still expect Christmas plans to unfold per usual. So unless you plan on inoculating babies in Burma this Christmas*…you find yourself dancing with drama despite your best efforts to avoid these types of shenanigans. You play your part…you may even pretend. I heard recently of a family member’s husband who was so difficult to be around that the mother hosting Christmas gave a fake Oscar to the person in the family who acted the kindest to Mr. Miserable. I am one who is extremely passionate about spreading kindness in the world…sometimes bringing it to our holiday dinner tables or family dysfunction can be the most difficult.
I don’t have the answers to any of these holiday doldrums…I guess I felt like I needed to say they are normal. Life is full of disappointments and heartache and instead of being surprised by this we should expect it. (Wow, Jenni such an uplifting Christmas blog!?!?) I know, but honestly; truth takes the sting away–and shepherds in a more awe-filled wonder when we encounter a tender touch from a child…or an unexpected act of kindness. (I literally blinked back tears of shock in the Starbucks line when I was told the person in front of me had paid for my order.) God’s (hurting) kids are living and loving–being the hands and feet that He tells us we were designed to be–and therein lies the Miracle.
The window of my soul cracks a little bit wider this time of year…and my heart softens to a world that will one day be calm and bright. My fullest understanding of the here and now is that we live honestly with as much love and kindness that we can muster. And when we can’t muster any more we pray for a spiritual fruit basket full of things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.**
My holidays are a mixed bag. We have three delightful children with whom who will make magical memories and celebrate simply. There are two in Uganda I long to share this holiday with but cannot. We will remember and miss Chris’ mom and her German Christmas traditions. There are certain family dynamics that will quite honestly be excruciating. And we will end the day with wonderful capers involving candy, popcorn, and insane Christmas light adventures with friends that feel like family. On these adventures we will laugh until we cry. This is mine. You have your mixed bag too. The characters are different but the joy and the pain are the same.
The Christmas miracle this season may be to find the grace to embrace the joy and the pain this season illuminates. To recognize the pain is magnified but so is the mystery. And most importantly this holiday celebrates the good news: a birthday celebration for Emmanuel…God with us. Doing any of this alone and on our own leaves us exhausted and angry…but remembering there was a Love who entered the world–not to eliminate the pain but to walk with us through it–provides a mystery and miracle beyond comprehension.
So from one who desires to embrace the mess, mystery and miracle of this season…to another…Merry Christmas!
Have you ever been around someone who made you feel incredibly uncomfortable? No matter what you said or how you tried to connect and please that person; your attempts were never quite good enough? Maybe it was a teacher, coach, or family member…but this person made you feel like there was something innately wrong with you at your very core?
I recently had a run-in with an adult who made me feel incredibly small. He was correcting me on the most minute of details…speaking over me…cutting me off and so on. This interaction took me rip roaring back to some unhealthy childhood relationships–relationships where I was constantly walking on eggshells. I was able to exit the presence of this person relatively quickly because clearly he was a bit unstable. I can now recognize–he was trying to throw me off balance to bring about his own stability.
Oceans Between Us – Jenni Cockerham *
Almost exactly 2 years ago to the day I penned these words*. It is a mini memoir that was written mostly for me. But it was written with others in mind…those who have had hard histories…who were struggling or disillusioned with life…or God. I think I have spent the past few years spiritually disoriented…after having spent the past few decades so very clear.
A recent Facebook post grabbed my attention. It was written by a brand new mommy who was headed back to work after her maternity leave. Referencing leaving her little one she stated something like…”No one prepared me for how hard driving away would be!” The string of comments that followed were peppered with both words of encouragement, polite judgement or at least insinuated disapproval. All responses had an opinion. Oh–friends. This is one of those super sensitive hot buttons that fill women with a great deal of stress and drama. No matter what decision is made and for whatever reason–there are differing opinions on what SHOULD be done. I have had the awesome privilege over the past 12 years to become the mom of 3 beautiful kids AND I have a passion to lead and inspire those around me. I hold a necessary position of helping make ends meet financially for our family…so this has personally plopped me in the middle of several hot button discussions.
Disclosure: Sometimes when I write, I write for anyone who will read it. And sometimes when I write I have a specific message meant for a specific group. Now certainly anyone is welcome to read this piece, but this is written for folks who might consider themselves one of God’s kids, and specifically someone who is working to serve Him with their lives. Today I am writing with you in mind…
I remember the day Lela Serapin spit in my face on the playground. We were standing near the metal dome-shaped soccer ball climby-thing. I remember standing there stunned wondering what in the world I had done to receive such treatment and why in the world she was so angry? I think we were talking about our backgrounds…and I shared a bit about my families’ faith…I might have uttered the name of Jesus. What I quickly discovered was her background and the offense she took of his claim to be more than a man. Whatever the words spoken that day…she was cut deep and I was devastated. Not only because my face was covered in humiliation and saliva…but also because I never intended her harm.
So I see this as a blessing and a curse. And it is probably a combination of nature and nurture generating my hypersensitivity to the feelings of others. Sometimes I am paralyzed as I don’t want to say something to offend…or do something that might hurt your heart. (I am not perfect at this and am sure I have hurt many–but I can assure you it was not intentional as I have spent the better part of (almost) 40 years doing my best to be very very very sensitive to the hearts of others…especially surrounding delicate topics like this one!) So on a day like today as much as I would like to post a picture of my babies (and there is NOTHING wrong with doing this)…or a picture of my mom (and this is also to be celebrated)…I pause. Because this day can be hard.
Oh Mark Zuckerberg you lovable little genius you. The thing you predicted would blow up has taken over and altered the way we communicate and connect with the rest of the WORLD. Thank you and darn you all at the same time. I could not be more grateful to follow and keep track of my sweet friends I met and did life with in Uganda. I could not be more grateful for the ways I can keep a “visual eye” on that beloved place and the people who live there. But then I honestly get tangled/trapped in the mind numbing scrolling and sometimes am completely sucked in to a video of a pug pouncing up the stairs or I “need” to know what animal my face looks like!?! Several seconds of my life later THIS pops up.
Completely.unneccesary. But in the “Facebook moment” I NEEDED to know. (Love/hate.)
This blog stems from a deep desire in me to not add to the negative voices in the universe. The voices whispering, “You are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, creative enough…simply…you are not enough.” I hope to communicate a strategy I have adopted that has sent me to a different place with my children, friends and family. It has quieted some of the critical voices and shifted my semantics to speak life and love in to those around me.