christmas present.

the demise of christmas began for me when my parents separated when i was in college, and then divorced a year later. until then, christmas had been a really exciting production every year. after that, we maintained christmas eve with my dad’s family per tradition, but it was bittersweet on account of leaving my mom alone.

and then his parents both died in 2002 and christmas was suddenly over for that side of the family. we were the only grandchildren, so christmas had always been for us…until it wasn’t. while i lived in The Big House, i tried to maintain christmas eve tradition as my grandmother would have and while it was still special, it just wasn’t the same and then my dad moved away.

we continued to spend christmas day and the day following with my mom’s family, but everyone really started doing their own thing when my grandma died in 2008. whoever is home will still get together on christmas afternoon.

you can imagine that our christmases have become awkward and without tradition. what was once a very special holiday is no longer sacred but uncomfortable, trying to fit in to other people’s very merry christmas. we wake up now at sarah hope’s house for hannah grace’s sake on christmas morning, and i love to see christmas through her eyes.

i imagine it looks an awful lot like that of three little girls i once knew.

even so, molly and her family aren’t coming home, which makes my heart ache, especially now that sweet baby james has come into the world.

* * * * * * * * * *

the week after thanksgiving, i watched both rudolph and frosty.

i watched cma’s country christmas, as well as michael buble’s christmas special.

i ordered and had sent sweet baby james his christmas present.

i decorated my sister’s house and hannah grace screamed when she came home and saw her christmas tree lit.

and on a friday night when i just wanted to stay home, i jumped up and ran out the door before i could tell myself ‘no’ and met friends at a nearby church to watch their heartfelt living christmas tree. while i waited for them, the pastor stood in the lobby talking to me. in their presentation, they made it clear that christmas is even for those like me who struggle to make it through, the ones who don’t feel much like celebrating and just want it to be over already.

the following night, on the way home from celebrating a cancer-free friend in raleigh, a friend plead on the fb for someone to attend a christmas carol at the community college where she teaches. i detoured and met her there. in fact, i got there before she did. but before it started, she rode me around the little town where she worked and we looked at christmas lights.

and then scrooge once again reminded me of christmases past and christmas of today and future christmases and, for a moment, i god blessed us everyone and laughed heartily.

and when i told her about my mission to make this The Best Christmas Everrr, i followed my kind friend through a christmas lights display on our way home.

i’m not sure my friend knows how much this night meant to me.

last week, i strung lights around my window and hannah grace hung stars from my blinds. i have a tiny, charlie brown christmas tree that boasts JOY in pink glitter. i decorated my table, the same one that will soon hold my art supplies.

i have watched elf 27 times already.

last week, the almost four-year old and i painted pottery for her mom’s christmas present.

i went to the local christmas parade last weekend with friends and enjoyed myself. this past saturday, i went to my hometown parade for a few minutes.

i have been listening to christmas music regularly. as a matter-of-fact, i just now edited my playlist because i realized i was missing some songs.

after i went to visit at heatherly’s house, many of you privately reminded me that i am a member of your family and graciously welcomed me into your home, if not my own, which i didn’t know my heart needed to hear.

* * * * * * * * * *

so my heart longs for christmas past and looks forward to christmas future when i can form and keep my own traditions. but, this year, in christmas present, i will hold tight in my heart memories of years past when i wouldn’t want christmas to end. the days when ours and my grandparents’ homes exploded in gifts and smelled of cinnamon & peppermint. when we would anticipate all of my cousins arriving christmas afternoon and we would laugh and play music and sing and dance around the piano late into the night. we did christmas big and it was wonderful.

christmas was…magical…then.

anymore, christmas is what it is but it’s not what it once was. and that’s okay. i continue to seek and find new & different ways to catch The Christmas Spirit. i want it to be magical again.

i’m not one to speak in extremes except for dramatic effect. life has taught me not to talk about The One Thing and The Best or The Worst and i try to avoid always and nevers. (usually.)

despite my determination to make this The Best Christmas Everrr, it’s turning out to be a Pretty Good Christmas instead.

and if christmas is in my heart, then perhaps Pretty Good is better than Best.

so, no Best Christmas Everrr Plan here this year, friends. i’m removing any expectation that christmas present will be anything it is or isn’t supposed to be and i will appreciate it for what it is. you have my permission to do the same (not that you need it).

let’s just breathe and relax into the holidays, shall we? (i mean, they’re here, so…)

how has christmas changed for you over the years, for better or worse? 

what’s your favorite christmas memory?

blue christmas.

UGH.

i.

dread.

christmas.

when het sent an email to a group of us asking to fill guest-spots about ‘preparing for advent’ my honest reaction was,

oh, holy night, het. (see what i did there? only that’s not what i actually said.)seriously? you really want me to tell our friends that my depression only worsens around the holidays and that i ‘prepare the way’ for the newborn king by hiding under my covers from thanksgiving to new year’s hoping that i can make it that long without breathing or saying the wrong thing?

(have i mentioned i was a theatre major?)

but here’s the honest truth: if i can get out of my own way, i really do love christmas.

(except when i don’t.)

i promise by the end of this post i do, in fact, get over myself but you have to head on over to heatherly’s house to find out the who, what, how and why. go on over, i’ll meet you there.

if you’ve jumped over here from our friend heatherly’s page, i am so glad you’re here. you are welcome, just as you are. there is always and only grace for you.

i hope you’ll come back here on monday where i’ll announce a Best Christmas Ever plan for this space.

(maybe i’ll have one figured out by then.)

sitting at the kids’ table.

have y’all recovered yet? :)

i don’t even feel like myself this week. i don’t know if it’s too much time with family, coming back to work after being off for a few days, being cooped up due to snow and forced to be unproductive for 48 hours or that i ran out the door this morning without drinking my tea but i tell you…i’m a little bit less me this week, and i don’t mean that in the ‘more of you, less of me, lord’ kind of way. i just haven’t gotten my bearings straight.

i don’t know what it is about being around so much family for a concentrated but extended amount of time, and i’m not going to mention any names, but someone starts feeling like she’s 13 again. she may or may not act like it (or she may…but she may not) but she definitely feels it. and so, returning back to ‘normal’ life 20 years later within just a few days…i don’t know why it always catches me off-guard but it does. i even anticipate it and repeat the positive self-talk and prayer that i know to do. I EVEN KNOW NOT TO ANTICIPATE IT AT ALL, AND TO ASSUME THE BESTbut when it comes down to it, no matter how ‘adult-like’ i appear to be on the outside, i am very much the insecure teenager when i get around my family. i shut down, withdraw – i try to fight it but then i just become awkward; my relationships, tense. and i am not myself.

this is by no means a reflection of my family. for better or for worse, they are wonderful. and i don’t know what their own personal dialogues are or how they otherwise prepare themselves for family-time. but, as i imagine to be the case with most families, we sometimes assume the roles we might have played once-upon-a-time or revert to certain behaviors or attitudes we didn’t know we still carried like a weight. or we bring with us stress from the outside and project it onto those we want to care for most. it’s exhausting to anticipate conflict, trying to avoid or diffuse it before it begins, all while trying to just be in the moment and not wear our past out anymore between us today. all while simply extending grace for who we are now, for who have become and encouraging one another as we continue to become.

i’m not passive-aggressively suggesting they do this and i do not. it would be easy to assume they assume past roles, too. but my responsibility is for my own actions, attitudes and behavior.

i do it. it’s me. i’m the one who does this. not them. me. and i wish that i didn’t.

i don’t have this issue with anyone else. only my family.

so i don’t looove the holidays because that is all of the above made manifest. i try to, i want to – in my heart, i really do love christmas - but i don’t like who i become and the sort of ‘recovery’ process that ensues every single time once it’s all said and done. i don’t like being around me when i go to that place. that place of being 13 or so, trapped in the body of a 33-year old. sitting with the grown-ups when i feel like i should be sitting at the kids’ table for no good reason at all and, the thing is, nothing even happened this year - it’s just a feeling. a mood, if you will. a place that i go.

and i hate it.

can you relate? to any part of that? please tell me you can.

and so, i go. i go to the manger. not in time, but after the fact because i like to go around my elbow to get to my thumb and make life extra-hard on myself.

and also because i’m hardly breathing during this whole time, calculating my words so i don’t say the wrong thing or step on toes or hurt feelings like i unintentionally do at times, or somehow otherwise inconvenience anyone.

i look to the sweet face of that baby in the manger, the one born king, and i stop. not then, but i do now. i stop and want to hold him like i want to hold all babies. and i am captivated by and enamored of him. because that sweet baby is the reason. the only one. and i hug within my heart that teenage mom named mary, scared and worn out by travel on a donkey and labor on a hay-floor. and i admire joseph, strong and silent and fiercely protective over his family (or so i imagine him to be). and i love that baby who is sleeping softly & tenderly.

and i realize now -not then, but now, and perhaps today i know it like i’ve never known it before- that that’s where family began. on a long, hard journey when young mom and stoic dad were both in awe and shock and excitement when the elements and the world were against them. traveling by foot and by donkey on unpaved roads with no street lights but stars to follow at night and they say it was cold, too. baby born in a barn is how it all began. not easy, but difficult, but it began nevertheless and there came love and that is family.

i find myself not at the foot of the cross watching my king die, but at the foot of his manger, watching & listening to him breathe life eternal. life that would become my own life eternal.

and that of the ones i love best, if not messily. because that’s what we do and this is how we do it.

and suddenly i forget who i am at 13 and i come back to me again.

and i look forward to doing it all over again but differently next year.

the plight of mary.

I met my precious friend Wendy when I just happened to sat down at Table 11 on the first night of the She Speaks Conference in July. The women from this table keep in touch now, supporting and encouraging each other in our journeys of faith and ministry. (How did I come to be so blessed, God?) She sent out a request to some of her writer-friends to contribute to a devotional for the women in her church. This season, they are focusing on A Mary Christmas in a Martha World.

I’m not going to mention any names, but someone missed the part that our devotionals didn’t actually have to pertain specifically to Mary & Martha because that would have made just too much sense.

Someone thought our devo’s had to specifically relate to Mary & Martha and that someone wondered how in the world all these women would pull 25 different topics from basically one story.

Conveniently, that someone is the only one who misunderstood the assignment and, therefore, is the only one who actually wrote their devo based on just about the only story to be found about Mary & Martha, sisters of Lazarus.

Here is someone’s devotional, now FOREVER PUBLISHED in A Mary Christmas in a Martha World.

Oh, to be able to laugh at one’s self…

{When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. – john 11:33 (nlt)}

The difference between Martha’s and Mary’s responses to the death of their brother Lazarus is especially poignant to me today, even though the story has actually been close to my family since I was a girl.

My dad died suddenly just over a year ago, so I get Martha’s response. I especially understand that of Mary. When tragedy strikes, it is natural to default into familiar & similar spaces. To withdraw. To be quiet.

I love that Mary waited behind when precious Martha went to find Jesus because someone had to do it. I understand now that Mary didn’t go with Martha not because she was upset with Jesus; she was upset simply because her brother had died. Her soul was quiet. She just did not have the energy to follow her sister.

Sweet Martha’s strong faith wasn’t challenged. She chose to believe that Jesus was the resurrection and the life, just as he had always been. Mary, however, needed still to know. Mary needed His touch, His attention. Something else, something more.

Jesus was neither threatened nor upset by Mary’s plight.

Neither was he indifferent.

Even so, when Jesus called for Mary, she went to him because she knew in her head what her troubled heart could not believe. I am struck that the crowd followed her as she mourned on her way to see Jesus. In her sorrow, she drew their attention straight to Jesus. Jesus himself was moved by Mary’s grief.

As I consider Mary’s heartbreak, I realize I too have known on a cerebral level what my heart has had trouble believing – that Jesus cares, that He hears my cries, that He was sad for my dad’s passing, even as He welcomed him home. My prayer is, even throughout my mourning, others might have seen the hope of Christ in me. And in my sadness for missing my dad, Jesus has moved closer.

My prayer for you is that you would be able to just get real with Jesus this season. Jesus can handle your questions and tears; they don’t knock Him off His throne. He is neither threatened nor upset by your plight. And he is not indifferent to you.

My hope, friends, is that your head would know even what your heart yet may not and that, even if your soul is quiet, you would respond when He calls for you and know that He is close.

Will you let this little community pray for you as we move closer to the day we celebrate the birth of The One who came to save you?

I would be so honored.

and the winners are…

merry christmas, everyone! thank you so much for playing last week!

side comments: zella barking is so common to me that I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE she was barking – but she yelped at all the right times, didn’t she!? she was excited about the winners, too! that’s my grrrrl. good dog. (i had actually planned on putting her in the video with me but then forgot all together.)

also, pay no attention to the fish ornament WITH NO EYE to the left (right?) of my head…

a very special christmas…for YOU!

have you answered every question this week? if you haven’t yet, go back and do it so you can be entered into the christmas giveaway! i’m so excited about your christmas present! i promise it’s a really good gift! i’ll draw for this first thing monday morning and mail it off as soon as i get the address from the person whose name i pick so, hopefully, you can have it in time for christmas! whoot!

BUT, THAT’S NOT ALL!

there’s a second part to the give-away, too! something i haven’t told you about!

perhaps you’ve noticed that the titles in this week’s post have been a little bitoh, i don’t knowshall we say…RANDOM? (hello? naughty by nature?)

there will be drawing for a second giveaway among everyone who can answer the following questions correctly!

1.) the title of monday’s post comes from a line (a.) said by whom in (b.) which of my favorite christmas movies?

2.) (a.) what song do you hear the title of this post sung in and (b.) who sings it in (c.) what movie?

3.) where in the world did i get this title? (hint: check the links.)

4.) (a.) who says the title in thursday’s post and (b.) in which christmas story or tv special?

you have the weekend to find the answers to these questions and respond by 8:00 a.m. (est) on monday morning!

happy hunting!

on dasher.

when i was little, every christmas eve i would sit in a tiny little rocking chair at the Big House and read ‘the night before christmas’ to my family. i can recite it to you even now. it continues to be my favorite christmas story, because of the memories affiliated with it to be sure. (i still have the actual book from which i read and it will ever be my favorite edition, the big white one illustrated by grandma moses.) we have a stack of little golden books now that we read to hannah grace each night, most of them christmas stories now:

frosty the snowman

rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

how the grinch stole christmas

these, of course, have also been turned into my favorite christmas specials i look forward to watching every year, along with the charlie brown christmas special.

so, today’s question is a double-header and i’m curious to know your answers because i’m not sure how many options there are available:

what is your favorite christmas book of all-time?

what is your favorite christmas special or made-for-tv movie?

think hard! for every comment you make on this week’s posts, or every tweet or facebook comment you make, you are automatically entered to win a christmas present from me! (be sure to let me know about your tweets and fb comments in case i miss them.)

 

naughty by nature.

yesterday we talked about our favorite christmas songs. but there are entire christmas albums that, from beginning to end, are better than some artists’ mainstream records. here are my mainstays every holiday season, some new this year:

a very special christmas #1 (red)

a very special christmas #2 (green)

{after red & green, christmas was no longer very special}

old navy motown christmas (bought it in…1996?…and this my favorite christmas album ever. hands-down.)

a very merry christmas – dave barnes (have i told you i’m a fan of dave barnes yet?)

{by the way, if you take the time to visit his page, then PLEASE WATCH his videos. he is hysterical. hover over the christmas lights at the top of the page to find them. he also has a youtube page. the work-out video will CHANGE YOUR LIFE if you watch it today. that is, you will get your own work-out from laughing so hard.}

jingle all the way (dumb movie, good soundtrack)

elf (i actually don’t own this but i bet it’s an awesome christmas album)

harry connick, jr.’s first christmas album (it’s white, he’s in a red turtleneck)

mariah carey’s christmas album

white christmas – bing crosby

i have heard from many folks that andrew peterson’s christmas album is wonderful, so i’m going to include it here even though i haven’t heard it.

ella fitzgerald sings christmas

clearly i’m getting a little lazy that i wouldn’t look up the actual names of some of these albums.

(either that or i might have fallen asleep horizontally across the bed as i was reading bedtime stories to a certain 2 1/2-year old, only to wake up at 1:30 with my clothes still on just to put myself under some covers, which means that i wouldn’t have been able to do today’s post last night and i may or may not be writing furiously in my office just to get it done this morning. i’m just saying that *might* have happened. not that it did. just that it might have. might, i said.)

might.

and clearly i’m not that lazy or typing that furiously that i would have located all the dave barnes mentions.

you might call me an obsessed, crazed superfan admirer.

i’m sure, though, that you can google ‘blah blah blah’s name – christmas album’ and it will come up right away.

which entire christmas albums are rotating through your ipod right now?

and remember! for every comment you leave here on the blog , tweet, or facebook mention you  make about this week’s posts, you will be entered to win a christmas present from me! (be sure you let me know if you tweet about it or mention it on facebook.) can’t wait to pick the winner!

fine & dandy.

the christmas song – nat ‘king’ cole

white christmas – bing crosby

santa claus is coming to town – bruce springsteen

a very merry christmas – dave barnes

christmas in hollis - run dmc

all i want for christmas – mariah carey

rockin’ around the christmas tree – brenda lee

holly jolly christmas – burl ives

i pray on christmas – harry connick, jr.

what are you doing new year’s eve? – harry connick, jr.

hard-candy christmas – dolly parton

santa baby – eartha kitt

merry christmas baby – bruce springteen

christmas time is here – charlie brown christmas (vince guaraldi trio)

what is the sound of your christmas season?

{we’re dedicating this week to favorite christmas songs, movies, and other traditions. if you don’t have a favorite christmas song, come back tomorrow when we’ll talk about our other  holiday favorites! and stick around – there will be a fun giveaway at the end of the week! be entered to win for every comment you make on this week’s posts and an additional entry for each tweet you make. drawing on monday.}

refilling your eggnog.

there are certain holiday movies that i feel jipped if i haven’t watched every christmas season:

elf

white christmas

it’s a wonderful life

miracle on 34th street (the old, old, old version)

a christmas carol (1984 with george c. scott is best)

national lampoon’s christmas vacation

a christmas story

what are your favorite christmas movies?

**********

{we’re dedicating this week to favorite christmas songs, movies, and other traditions. if you don’t have a favorite christmas movie, come back tomorrow when we’ll talk about our other  holiday favorites! and stick around! there will be a fun giveaway at the end of the week! be entered to win for every comment you make on this week’s posts and an additional entry for each tweet you make. drawing on monday.}

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 547 other followers