Christmas is for brats

I was thinking about Christmas this morning. About seemingly silly traditions that accompany this holiday. Moreover, I was thinking that it was wrong to celebrate in some of the ways we do. It was unfair. I was trying to sort in my head all the gifts that still needed to be made and purchased and weighing the things I still needed to get for my kids against the mountains of presents they would already be receiving. I needed to make sure I got them something they would like, something they wanted, something someone else wasn't already giving them. And hopefully something that they would love and be interested in for more than a week.

That led to thoughts of what to get the little cousins whose names we have. This is trickier because we don't see them often and aren't always sure what they would like or what they already have. Then there are gifts for friends and neighbors and grandpa and the sister who has everything and teachers and mailmen...I thought, "this is ridiculous! This long list of people that we buy for whether or not they deserve a gift, whether or not it will be appreciated and used and loved, whether or not it is something that they want."

My kids know that they will be getting gifts for Christmas -- lots of gifts. No matter how many times in the month of December I may say, "you had better be good or Santa won't bring you any presents." Or my latest threat, "If you don't start picking up your stuff I am going to pick it up for you and wrap it up for your Christmas!" No, my kids know that, come Christmas morning there will be a pile of presents carefully chosen just for them. And the giving doesn't stop there. They will open gifts at home, at Grandma's later that morning, at Grandpa's that afternoon and the gifting will continue into the next week as we travel to the other grandparents' house for a Christmas party there.

All these gifts, regardless of their deserving them.

And then a thought stopped me in my tracks.

Isn't that exactly what Christmas is all about? It is a gift of a Savior of the world. A gift of a perfect example of a perfect life. A gift of atonement and redemption and resurrection and eternal life. And it is all given freely and lovingly to every person in the whole world. Even brats like me. No one deserves it. Few acknowledge it and none of us are grateful enough for it. Too many times I don't even give it much thought. Yet, it is the perfect gift delivered with pure love and certainly with hopes and prayers of our using it. No gift has ever had a higher price, a greater degree of agony, or a brighter promise of hope.

Today I thank heaven that Christmas is for brats.



To say that this week has been tough would be quite the understatement. Combine my bronchitis, an explosion of produce to can, a houseful of influenza, and --toughest of all -- a miscarriage at 12 weeks and I have really been having a difficult time.

Tonight, as I was tidying up an unusually quiet house, alone because my husband is out of town, I found myself humming a song. This song has been an almost-inaudible soundtrack in the back of my mind for a few days now and in the silence of this evening I noticed, for the first time, the words. I realized then that I am not hearing this hymn from the beginning but, rather, it is the third verse that is playing in my head:

"I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand."

That has been my Father's message to me this week. And tonight I finally was still and listened. And I know the words are true.



The summer is warm
And the rosy cheeked apples,
Made ripe by the sun's gentle kiss,
Are plucked from their precarious perch,
On thin branches who strain with the load.
Fall comes and the used trees
Their brown and dirty leaves and
Stand naked
In the brilliant orange harvest moon,
Making dancing black shadows
On crisp grass below.
They are mournful,
Sad and lonely in the darkness.
But winter comes and soon
Clean pure snow has covered the brittle grass.
It lands gently,
Silently on branches,
Covering the scars of harvest
With its soft blanket of white.
The tree sleeps then,
Prepares itself for another season.
It strengthens its heart
And pushes its roots deeper
Into the healing, nurturing soil.
After many, many cold, rough days,
The snow begins to melt away.
It seeps into the rich, dark ground
And disappears.
The little tree stands taller now,
Fresh new leaves bud from its soul.
I am like the tree ~
And so thankful for new beginnings.


Tough Stuff

Have you ever learned something and immediately wished that you could turn back the clock just two minutes? Back to when you didn't know? Back to when life was uncomplicated and mostly good? It is true that ignorance is bliss. And yet, too often, the secret is out before we realize that our lives are going to be irreversibly changed forever. My dear friend learned just such a truth this week. She was going along with her merry little life; chasing kids, selling a house, building a new house, spreading joy and sunshine like she always does. I think she was probably like me; fretting over little things like what gifts to give for Christmas and how to find time to clean her house before the holidays and what she was going to make for dinner. Suddenly the "secret" surfaced and now she is worrying instead about her darling little girl and chest ports and IVs and spinal taps and chemotherapy and hospital recliners that never let you sleep. Instead of baking for Thanksgiving, she is struggling to put on a happy face for her little daughter as she brushes her long gorgeous hair and tries to find a way to tell her that all this beautiful hair will soon be found in big clumps on her pillow each morning until there is no more. Now she is curled up and crying in a hospital room by herself in the dark, wee hours of the morning only when she is sure her daughter will not see her fear. She is far from friends and family, worrying about her other children farmed out among relatives, worrying about what the next months and years will hold. And I wish that there was some way to take it all back, because, trust me, the road back to before seems so very much shorter than the long, long road through. And my heart breaks for her.

Then I think about the "secret" that I just discovered and wish that I, too, could go back. Back to yesterday when life was great as I knew it. And yet, the secret was still there. Not a menace that could hurt me physically, but an ugly monster just the same. I was blissfully oblivious but that doesn't mean that the damage wasn't done. It just means that the stench was not yet apparent, like the dead mouse under my freezer in the basement. Just because I couldn't smell it, doesn't mean it wasn't there, preparing to knock me down with its odor the next time I opened the door. And I have to wonder which I hate more, secrets or surprises. Then I realize that there is no reverse button on this roller coaster called life and that the only way past is right through the murky middle. So, my friend, I will gather my courage and brace myself for the journey, praying for angels for me and for you. Angels to carry us through.


Prunes and Windex

My favorite joke of all time says, "I suffer from CDO. It's like OCD except all the letters are in alphabetical order like they should be." This makes me laugh so hard because it is way too close to home for me. For example, each of my housecleaning tasks are assigned a day of the week. The bathroom gets cleaned on Tuesdays. However, last night I put my littlest ones in the tub and, as I stood in the bathroom, I noticed a little lotiony handprint on the mirror. So I got out the windex and paper towels and washed the mirror. It was getting steamy in the bathroom, so I opened the window. It was looking dirty, so I grabbed my windex again and washed the window. As I was washing, I saw that someone had dribbled toothpaste in the sink. Putting away the windex, I reached for the clorox wipes and wiped down the sinks and countertop. Then, because I already had the wipes out, I wiped down the toilet. Meanwhile, my poor kiddos are turning to prunes in their tepid bathwater.

Why can't I channel this compulsive disorder to work where it needs to? Why do I not feel compelled in areas of my life that really matter? Why doesn't this same disorder work when it comes to being physically fit, or serving my neighbor, saying my prayers, or preparing meals for my family? Instead, it seems that things that really matter (kids in the tub, perhaps) get sidelined for details that are so insignificant. I'll work on that. For now, I think that the pizza delivery boy is here, and is that a spill under the kitchen table?...


confessions of a poser

As I showered this morning, I started to think about my body. Hard not to, in the shower. Thanks largely (no pun intended) to my heritage, my body is the baneful shape of a pear -- or a weeble-wobble. And, as the mother of four, my children have given me, along with many joys, five pounds each that are impossible to lose. I tried, this summer. In a show of rare self-discipline I awoke every morning this summer at 7 a.m. to walk -- sometimes briskly -- for three miles. Along with healthful eating (only a small bowl of ice cream at 11 p.m.) I was able to lose 15 pounds...It was all from my chest!! And what is most amazing about that is that I am sure I didn't have 15 pounds in that region to lose.

So, this morning, I was realizing how deceptive I am, or try to be. Why am I not content with the body God has given me? Instead, I try to alter or conceal every inch of it. I paint my toenails. I shave my legs, under arms and, on the rare occasion that I am convinced to venture into large bodies of water, other areas. I use magical lotions that turn my milk white legs into bronzed, shimmering appendages. I love nylons because they can make me look 10 pounds slimmer instantly and, when I don't wear nylons, I wear a girdle with my skirts. I have been accused of false advertising in reference to my heavily padded bras. I color my hair, wear 10 minutes of makeup and use a lip gloss that plumps my lips. And I secretly wish for a boob job. But rest assured that my nose is my own -- I have never altered my nose.