If we were having coffee today, I’d invite you in among the myriad of red and green Rubbermaid Christmas boxes stacked around, as today I’m packing it all up. I’d ask you when you usually take your tree and “Christmas stuff” down. You see, as a young married wife, I’d always have ours down by New Year’s Day. I grew up with a mother who always said it was “bad luck” to keep your tree up past the New Year, and though I never looked at my mother as a very superstitious woman, down our tree came just about every year on New Year’s Eve. And then when I married and left home, I did things the same way, as my mother’s ways were just sorta ingrained into my ways.
I was raised in a liturgical church (Episcopal) which I attended for over 50 years. It was on a Sunday morning while sitting in that church several years ago listening to a sermon, where a priest told us not to be in such a hurry to take down our trees right after Christmas. And then she talked about the twelve days of Christmas and Epiphany, and ever since then, our tree has remained up until the day after Epiphany (yesterday, January 6, was Epiphany). And I grew to love those twelve days of Christmas and getting to enjoy my Christmas decorations and the tree lights without all the hustle and bustle and stress of Christmas. I play Christmas music those 12 days to the chagrin of my husband. To sit in a darkened living room with just the glow of the tree lights while sipping on a cup of hot tea and listening to Christmas music is pure bliss.
My husband and I were just amazed at the number of Christmas trees we saw go up before Thanksgiving this year. In fact, we saw two Christmas trees adorned in windows before Halloween and I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It gets earlier every year. And then we were even more amazed to see how many people in our own neighborhood who took down their tree and outside decorations on Christmas Day, barely before the day had begun. I wondered why they couldn’t leave them up at least through the day they were intended to celebrate. I don’t get that.
I was looking at my nativity set the other day (it’s my most favorite Christmas decoration I set out). I purchased it from my nephew for a school fundraiser back in the early 90s when he was in elementary school. That nephew is now 34 years old so my quaint little nativity is showing its age. I didn’t pay much for it and I had always intended to replace it with a nicer nativity. But over the years, I’ve grown to love my humble, cheap little nativity. To me, it represents exactly how Christ chose to come into this world – in a humble stable among animals and itchy straw and smelly manure, where he was laid in a meager manger – a food trough for animals. He could have come to us in any way of his choosing, with all the pomp and circumstance beyond our wildest imaginations, but this is how he chose to come. Yes, I think I’ll keep my scrawny little nativity set. It’s so symbolic of how it really was. I sometimes look at the Mary and baby Jesus figurines and I start to ponder. I wonder when Mary actually realized that the infant she held in her arms and nursed at her breast was God, her creator? Just sit with that for a while and really think about it…. It’s mind blowing really. I wonder how Mary must have felt.
If we were having coffee today, I’d probably ask you if you’ve set any goals or New Year’s resolutions for this year. The phrase New Year’s Resolutions seem to have gotten quite a bad rap over the years. A lot of people instead choose one word to represent their year. You know, words like Hope, Love, Create, Gratitude, and Courage. I’ve chosen words before, but usually by April, I would be hard pressed to tell you what that word even was. In past years I’ve made the usual New Year’s resolutions to get more organized, declutter my basement, to eat more healthy foods, and to lose weight. And then by the end of the year I’d feel like one big failure when I realized I had failed in them all, but I’d make all the same resolutions the following year. It was a vicious cycle. So I don’t think too much about words and resolutions for the New Year. I do try to set both short term and long term goals throughout the year and just try to do the best that I can.
If we were having coffee today, I’d share with you that a friend and I are reading through a book together that was written back in 1911. It’s called Story of the Bible and it was written by Charles Foster. My mother read from this book to my sisters and me when we were growing up. It covers Genesis to Revelations and has 300 illustrations. It’s told in simple language and adapted to all ages, but especially the young. We started reading it over the phone one night several weeks ago and we both discovered that we liked doing this! We’ve had some good discussions and we sometimes have questions that we’ve had to dig a little deeper to find the answers to. We’re halfway through Exodus now and I think we’ve both learned a thing or two and that’s always a good thing. I’m grateful I have a friend who I can go on this journey with. We talk on the phone almost every day so we decided to make the most of that time and what better way than discussing the Bible. We read a section which is usually several chapters a night. I read once that the number one reason that most people don’t read the Bible is because they don’t understand it. I would agree with that wholeheartedly. So yes, we’re reading this very vintage book designed for children and we’re trying to understand and we’re growing to love it. Did I ever think I’d read the bible over the phone? Not in a million years! When we finish, who knows, we might just try reading not just the story but the actual Bible together.
If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that I’ve been thinking about the last decade and the things that happened in my life. That’s always sobering. My youngest son graduated from high school and started college during the early part of the decade. My oldest graduated with his bachelor’s degree, and then his Master’s degree. My youngest graduated with his Bachelor’s degree. Neither returned to their hometown but stayed in their college town and started jobs. They entered a major conflict with each other that turned ugly, broke this mama’s heart, and left me asking myself where I had gone so wrong. My nest became officially empty and I didn’t know what to do with myself. During that decade, I lost two of my best friends, and ironically both to tragic single car accidents which involved trees, which changed my life forever. I hated trees for a while. I lost a beloved cat and I’ve never grieved harder. I acquired two new kittens that have brought me much joy. I lost a brother-in-law who I wished with all my heart that I had known better. I watched my oldest sister get diagnosed with melanoma of her eye, lose her vision in that eye, lose her husband unexpectedly from a surgery, and a week later, get diagnosed with lung cancer. And from all that, I learned just how tough my sister is. I learned a lot about grief in that decade. I learned that while grief is different for everybody and you can’t set a time limit on grieving, it’s also not healthy to get stuck in a spirit of grief. We have to move on. I watched three nieces get college degrees and one start veterinary school. I watched a niece get married and I became a great Aunt in this decade three times. I learned more about sinkholes than I ever wanted to learn. I turned 60 at the end of this decade and I’ve never felt older. I ate way too much sugar and didn’t do near enough exercising and I’m seeing the long term effects from that now. I had a long awaited breast reduction and I had the unfortunate experience of learning just how painful a kidney stone can be. I never want to experience another one. I had classmates die which brought thoughts about my own mortality. My oldest son bought a house during this decade and did some traveling, both with his job, and independently. I learned just how hard a Mama learns to pray for her offspring, especially when they’re out of the country. I watched my youngest son say “I do” to the woman he fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of his life with. I watched my mother-in-law reach her 90th decade. I watched my father-in-law undergo a hip replacement and then be diagnosed with kidney cancer soon after. I watched him work harder at 88 and decided he’s the hardest working man I’ve ever known. I watched my husband leave the the very stressful hospital floor where he had worked as a med/surg nurse for 34 years and transfer to a rehab floor. I left the church I had grown up in and attended for over 50 years and I grieved. I retired my veterinary license which brought both peace and sadness. During this decade, I had joys and sorrows, I loved and I hated, I cried and I laughed. I taught and I learned. I lost friends and made new friends. I lost my hairdresser to early onset dementia and I’ve never gotten over it. I hurt people I loved. I tried to love people I didn’t like so much. I yelled and I stayed silent. I talked too much and then I talked too much some more. I fought self hatred and self esteem issues daily. I ended a long term therapy relationship and I grieved. I started a new one but it was not the same and I hated it and left. I battled laziness and selfishness daily. I searched hard for God and sometimes I found him right beside me and other times I wondered why in the world he had abandoned me. I survived a wreck that made me terrified to drive again, especially in the rain, and I struggle with that still. I loved this world and I hated this world. I started blogging and I’m still blogging and I hope to keep that up as hard as it is sometimes. I celebrated 34 years of marriage to a man who I would pick all over again.
Thanks for visiting and having coffee with me today. I wish for you a very Happy, blessed and fulfilling New Year.