A Very Un-Crappy Christmas

Mid-November to mid-January is my least favorite time of year. This did not use to be the case. I used to love it. I would eek out Christmas as long as I possibly could. I loved the lights, the color, the way it seemed to make everyone smile just a little more.

Then trauma entered my holidays. Take-my-breath-away memories. Heaviness and paralyzing fear replaced joy and anticipation.

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Trauma isn’t my reality any more. It is the past. But trauma is a wily thing. It doesn’t seem to want to recognize time. Nor does it distinguish between real versus perceived versus non-existent.

This year the pounding in my chest, the lightheadedness and nausea still visited. They didn’t come with the flooding of memories, and they came less often, but their power was the same. I felt a suffocation to be happy. No one told me that was an expectation. No one shamed me for not being able to smile. But all around me was happiness. And cheer. And delight.

I just didn’t feel it.

As evidence of my changing reality, my love asked boldly on my behalf for a very un-crappy Christmas. Every day he asked the Father. My whole tribe was gracious to make Christmas as simple as I needed it to be. The tree went up, and we baked the memories we hold most dear. But that was it.

Christmas came, despite my protestations, and it was very un-crappy. I would even say it was lovely.

This is the place where I want share the life-changing lesson I learned. I want there to be a piece of enlightenment that will change every Christmas yet to come. But there isn’t.

I made it through the day. It wasn’t traumatic, and I experienced no panic. But I didn’t know joy either. Joy continues to elude me. Slowly I am building the muscle to not beat myself up about that. I am growing in self-compassion.

My simple Christmas did make me see less of the tinsel and more of the babe. My need is so great for the Hope that came into the world that night over 2000 years ago. In the absence of joy, I was acutely aware of my brokenness. I am so, so broken.

I confess this Christmas season what I wanted to know was not my brokenness but my healing.

So I am thankful for my Very Un-Crappy Christmas. I just want more.

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The Explosion

I chase the sun now, as I head back to my corner of the world. Behind me the pictures of a world blown wide and before me the loves my heart longs to see.

Five days I was in a foreign land. And yet, I heard lifetimes. Unlike trips of the past, I saw little of the place I went. Instead of meeting the culture outside, I sat with the ones who had come to this place with me.

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I assumed my taking in of a new people would be as it had before. My eyes would widen as I soaked in all the new. My senses would fill to the brim. Every smell, every taste shifting my normal. My heart would grow with wonder and feeling, longing and ache. I would be haunted by the faces of ones who live this new place every day.

This corner was different. My heart feels as though it could explode with fullness over the lives, the dreams, the challenges I saw. I sat with one after another from places covering the globe, and I listened.

Saints from around the world came to this place to talk about the expansion of the Kingdom. Some from homes where governments fear followers of a Savior. Others from places where the work of everyday living almost drains one dry. We met under a blanket of security, caring well for those who risked much to be with us.

I was the most privileged of those who came. I did not talk much of ideas or strategy. Others were there for that. I came only to hear the stories of these saints.

One by one, they share how they have seen God.

One speaks of the war in his country and how God is using it to bring many to faith. Another shares the struggle of burying the young bodies of those killed for believing and rejoicing in seeing a greater passion rise from those who survived. A team in a hidden place tell of the ache, as they long for those around them to know a hope that doesn’t condemn.

My ears hear so much my voice doesn’t sound my own. My thoughts reflect the accented English that has played all week.

The world has faces to me now, and I feel my heart exploding with their realities. I will honor their trust. I will tell others what I have heard so that their faith, their joy, might remembered over and over.

As I race through an airport to catch my way home, the experience of before does capture me. I weave my way through so many languages and peoples I can not take it all in. Few of those around me are believers in Jesus, I am sure. But the glimpse I have is of heaven. Every tribe. Every nation. My world has blown wide.

Can a heart hold such a picture? Mine is exploding.

 

 

Leaving Christmas

Twinkling lights filled our home as I left. We spent the morning pulling out boxes and putting up memories.

The tree showing off our years of life together limps this year. Several branches of light have turned dark. Some blink, while others shine steady. Its glorious cacophony of sight is every bit a picture of our family. Where we’ve been and who we are.

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Hallmark mixes with glue and glitter. Darth Vader with the babe in a manger. Mexico, Hungry, Holland, Italy, Austria—they all dance on our tree and bring back pictures of a different place in our lives. It’s beautiful in its mosaic.

Lunch brought conversation of heaven and play and the Spirit and feasts. The littlest asking each, “What are you most thankful for because Jesus was born?” One by one our hearts are filled with the gratefulness of rescue coming. We feel our brokenness. Christmas brings the reminder we are being made whole again. We know the need of our redemption.

The family packs in the car and makes the drive to the airport. I’m headed away for a week. When I return, a son will be a year older and Advent will be half passed. A lot of life will come in seven days.

I wait my turn to prove who I am, and it is not lost on me to where I go. I will leave Christmas behind, twinkling and making merry, to go where Christmas is not seen.

It will not be the Carol of Bells I hear the next week but the call of a people to prayer. The air will fill five times daily with the reminder to those around me.

There won’t be trees decorated with memories or the signs of a Savior in hay.

My heart already feels the stirring of the world opening. It is being captured once again. My little bubble of sunshine and freedom is breaking wide. I am carried on it like waves taking me out to sea—moved to an unfamiliar place before I’m even aware.

I remember this. I remember how this feels. It speaks to my before.

Hope feels different today. It feels big. I welcome it and ask for its continued beating within.

I don’t feel stuck in this moment. I feel the movement of the one who writes my days. It is calling me back to the place of life.

It is good.

Re-entering Wonder

I am not who I was before.

I have put words to that loss, but I have not fully confronted new normals. Next week I will face a longing of the past.

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My heart once leapt at the opportunity to travel. I loved seeing new places, adventuring through new cultures and people. It spoke deeply to the Spirit in me. Wherever I travel, I am captivated by watching people and wondering what life brings to them. What has their story spoken to them? What weighs their heart? What brings joy?

On Saturday, I leave for a week in a new country. A country bordering war and terror. I will be surrounded by saints from 30 countries, and I will hear their stories. I will hear them talk of how they have seen God.

Before, this trip would have filled me up. I would have soaked it all in and reveled at the blessing of being present.

Now, I am weary. The adventure feels exhausting. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the energy it will take to hear those stories with the presentness they deserve.

I fear days of darkness, in a corner where I don’t have a safe place. Will the pit consume me half way around the world? Will I have the resilience to press on by myself?

It is a different day. I am different. I miss the spirit who would have thrilled in this travel.

There is a hidden place within that hopes to be caught by a new picture of the world. It longs to be stirred again. What if exhaustion gave way to the rest of feeling God’s heart?

I will get on a plane with hope and fear. Fear suffocates, and it is taking a lot to allow hope space. But in the end, I want hope to win. I want my heart to be moved.

Pray for me, friends. This trip feels much bigger than the work I get to do. Pray it would be another glimmer. Pray the Spirit in me would awaken again.