Every Christmas there are these repeats. Not just for me, but something you can see in the faces of the person opposite you in the intersection, or the carts as they dart through aisles in a state as rushed as it is demanding.
The funds are slimmer than desired. Time and energy never seem to be able to keep up, either.
The performances, events, parties, traditions to uphold. The outfits, cookies and gifts coordinated for EACH of those. And of course I realize at dinner time I am out of dog food. And shortening, somehow. Cookies, mid-batch.
How on earth we came to also have appointments scheduled with the dentist, the DMV and the oral surgeon in this month baffles me. But here we are. Jam-packed. And my sewing machine just died. That is the sound of my heart hitting the floor.
And YET, every year, I gleefully anticipate the START of every bit of this season. Not because I like those tedious parts. But because of the other parts. And one very important part that I’ve realized will come.
I love the glow of the living room when the tree is the only thing awake. The sound of the silence surrounding outdoor lights. The smell of gingerbread that seems to have made permanent residence in every room in our house.
I even love the cats, up and down the ladder when decorating is underway, their insistence on being IN the manger scene and attacking the little drummer boy periodically. The ornament that breaks. I marvel at how very cool ugly sweaters have become.
But inevitably, even with a tree up and lit, I know I will return back to that place where it’s all too much. The missing gift on the list consuming my whole head. There is not enough and too much all at once and the determined effort to swap the situation.
So I was in this overwhelmed mindset when I was elbow to elbow with another lady on the bottom shelf in the kitchen aisle at Target, both of us willing these items to appear more perfect than they might actually be. But it's Target, so they actually were pretty adorable. There we were, on the floor, grimacing over finding what price goes to which partially labeled thing, hmmmmming and debating. And the other lady says, “I just love this store.”
Ice broken, I said, “Me, too. If I had a million dollars I could spend it right here.”
She said, “Me, too.”
So I added, “But I don’t. So…” deep breath debating, to get the one left with the torn label or not.
And she added, “But you know. There are people with millions of dollars who are very unhappy.”
And, Right there. The Holy Spirit caught me.
It’s silly to say, but one of my favorite parts of Christmas is THAT moment where time pauses. Catches all your breath. And you see more clearly.
It happens every single year - not always on the floor of target - and sometimes not even until we’re huddled in a pew, freezing and kneeling at midnight mass on Christmas Eve and the verses of Silent Night seem to go on for eternity…
but it does always happen, somewhere in the season
usually right when the stress level is as high as the Holy Spirit’s might
One year it was as Ryan knelt in the freezing, unfinished livingroom of a house he was building and held up a ring. Some years it has been in the silence of the lit up angel in the vineyard when my baby girl insisted she needed to visit her and pray - and I prayed alongside her that we did not get mugged or in trouble for being in this vineyard so far past open hours. One year it was on stage as I spoke into a microphone, as our family presented our tradition of celebrating Saint Lucia.
It took a few years to realize it’s always there. This opportunity to see the raw depth of the goodness that makes me tree-crazed from the start.
Because I know it’s going to be a wild, chaotic, painful, less and more than I would wish for all in one. But I also know.
There will be this moment.
Where truth hits my heart
and I fall over
maybe I need to go through the chaos
what has been
Peace be with you