The Miracle, Mess, and Mystery of Christmas

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!


(*Four Christmases)

(**Galatians 5:22-23)

Easter Kids Living in a Good Friday World…

I cannot help but identify with the small band of followers who were left on this earth confused, alone, and wondering why in the world they put their trust in a man for the past 3 years who ended up dying a common criminal. The very first Good Friday must have been one of the most devastating days in the lives of the friends who had done life with Jesus. A man who claimed to be God’s son, who performed miracles and even brought his friend back to life…now hangs on a cross? When they agreed to follow him–they had hoped for much more. They believed something big was going to come from this man’s life…following Him was going to bring about change in the world. They likely believed they had swallowed a big fat lie. I assume that Friday in their grief, they started to make preparations to go back to their fishing jobs; bracing to hear the sarcastic voices of friends and family say, “I told you so.”

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Finding the Thankful in All Things

Lately I have been pondering the words:  Sacrifice of praise.

For my lifetime, thankfulness has been something that bubbles up from within.  Then was nurtured by my parents.   One year my brother wrapped up a toothpick for my mom for Christmas…it was the family joke, “I don’t care if you get a TOOTHPICK for Christmas…you be sure to be thankful!”  A job well done and I am a better woman for the lesson of a thankful heart.
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Mr. Scrooge’s Grateful Heart

Our family watched A Christmas Carol  last night and I began to ponder the life of Ebenezer Scrooge.  He had a difficult childhood…abandoned, neglected, forgotten.  He lost a sister he loved.  He lost perspective.  Fear and greed drove his business to flourish, but drove his engagement to destruction.  The story reminded me once again; we all have reasons for being where we are and who we are at this very moment in time.

The past 12 months have been a doozy.  No one would blame us this holiday season if we were a bit cranky, like Scrooge.  “Bah Humbug,” yeah, it doesn’t roll off my tongue?!

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A Less Commercial Christmas

What would I be doing RIGHT now this week if I was in the US???

Parties, decorating, shopping, school activities, church activities, more parties, memories to make, traditions to keep, family to see, cooking, baking, candle stick making.  If I am honest I almost make Christmas a sport as I try to fill our calendar with wonderful memories and magical moments the whole month long!  All wonderfully wonderful things–and some that I truly miss this year.  But there is a fraction of that here in our corner of the world.  Even if I wanted to, there is no competition for me to enter when it comes to the most holiday events to attend, parties, and festivities to fill your calendar.  As far as I can see the emphasis in Africa is just different.  I could drive for hundreds of miles and never see a blow up Santa.  (I mean do you have any idea the amount of electricity that one of those takes to run?)  I am just thankful when my fridge stays cold all night! 

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St. Nick VS. Santa

So when you are starting to run a little low on curriculum for your children and are waiting for your next installment of material to come in…

You improvise.  Yesterday knowing that somewhere around the 1st of the month people somewhere in the world celebrated St. Nicholas, I decided we would do a little research to find out more about who he was and what he was all about.   I knew enough to know that he was a good dude, one we could learn from and model character traits.  After gathering some basic information…we did a little scavenger hunt around the compound…looking for clues…learning about his birth place…his history of generosity…and many other fun note-worthy facts about this historical figure.  

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