i think i spotted the first christmas ornament in august. i'm sure it was at least pretty close to labor day when i walked into the craft store for some ribbon and came face to face with garland and miniature trees. nose to nose with candy cane ornaments and a reindeer display. it wasn't a particularly hot day, but i began to sweat. profusely. oh, here we go, i thought to myself. we weren't hardly out of summer's heat... nowhere near halloween or thanksgiving and yet the shelves were piled high with christmas supplies. every crafty item imaginable was at my sweaty fingertips. if i started immediately and worked around the clock, i could have a bona fide, 100% homemade, old fashioned christmas by december 25th. even fake snow was available.
i couldn't believe all the people pushing carts already loaded with things red and green. women stood, carefully scrutinizing every sparkly bauble. they had that glint in their eye. i could see the wheels turning as they mentally decorated their homes and created christmas crafts in their heads. i have to tell you, i turned on my heel and ran. away. in the opposite direction. far to the other side of the store i ran looking for my brown - yes, brown - ribbon. i was not going one step closer to that premature christmas commercialism. they could be giving the stuff away - i assure you, they weren't - and i wouldn't have touched it. i was a woman still waiting to put on her first cool weather cardigan. a woman still longing for the leaves to turn gold and red and orange. i wanted pumpkins and gourds and hot apple cider. for heaven's sake, it was 85 degrees outside, how could there be fake snow on the shelves? i'll be honest, it seemed silly.
for weeks after, i would enter this store and purposefully not look, deliberately averting my eyes. (that sounds so dramatic, doesn't it?) i was in rebellion, refusing to entertain christmas thoughts so soon. i don't even like to shop ahead. i know i should. i know it would be so much more economical of me to budget our christmas gift gathering throughout the year, especially for a family our size. but something in me says, no! maybe that is just my cop out for not being organized enough to do so. probably.
we are well into november now -- this week thanksgiving. in my neighborhood, i have watched evergreen wreaths hit front doors and strands of lights wrap around bushes. i am still in rebellion. my pumpkins and cornstalks and fall colored wreath will adorn my front door until the thanksgiving turkey has been carved, consumed and properly digested. i have to tell you though, even my seasonally rebellious self has been a little bit distracted in these past few days. i am doing everything i can to focus on thursday--on giving thanks--but my mind is doing its best to wander ahead into december. on december 1st we are hosting a christmas dinner. this means all the christmas cheer needs to be lined up and in place by day one. i suppose it truly doesn't have to be all ready and all done. but seriously, would you throw a christmas party and then decorate afterwards? no, of course not. so you know i will be in a decorating frenzy the very moment the turkey platter returns to its shelf.
i woke the other night with christmas preparations and plans running through my head. 3 am and i was wrapped up in how to arrange 25 people for a sit down dinner in my home. i was thinking centerpieces and place settings. i was thinking garland and greenery. 3 am and, succumbing to the creative turbulence within, i finally got of bed and went in search of paper and pen. i hoped perhaps i'd feel better if i could just write down my thoughts - my anxious, irritating, middle of the night thoughts. well, the truth is, i didn't feel better. in fact, i got myself more and more worked up with every word i wrote.
the next morning, i came across a verse in job. "if you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him." job 11:13. even with my lack of sleep, i felt the message was clear: prepare my heart. stop worrying about all my lists. stop fretting over the fluff. this upcoming season isn't about preparing my home, it is about preparing my heart. and i was more certain than ever, thanksgiving was an important part of that preparation.
now, i won't for one minute deny that i love decorating. and i especially love decorating for christmas. each year, the weekend after thanksgiving comes, and all seven of us are chomping at the bit to go hunt down a tree and begin decking the halls. i pretend mightily to let the kids do everything -- and then i go back and fiddle and fix. i won't deny it, i am one of those. i mean i really do treasure every christmas craft and hand painted ornament the children have brought home over the years...but with five kids and all these years, i cannot possibly display every last one of them. our house would look like some kind of santa's workshop or holiday garage sale if i faithfully brought out each pipe cleaner candy cane and every popsicle stick star. so we are selective. discerning.
but i am getting too far ahead. we aren't yet to thursday. the turkey is still thawing in the fridge and yet i sit here tonight writing about christmas. geesh! i feel it strong this year. i don't know if it is because of that december 1st christmas gathering or if it is because every year the rush toward the season seems more intense. i ran into the grocery store today for a few last minute items and i was struck with the poinsettias and mums...side by side. it was all too confusing for me. pretty soon, someone will think of orange colored poinsettias or pumpkin scented christmas trees. the two holidays just seem to be blending. i think if you asked my kids they would almost skip right over turkey day and begin stringing lights. but not me. i want to savor this week. i want to bask in these next few days. i want to linger a little in the grateful places. i want to hold the hands of my children at the table and speak words of gratitude. i want to give thanks.
if you ask me, (i'll just go ahead and pretend you did), it is no accident that thanksgiving comes as the precursor to christmas. i think it is absolutely perfect that we sit down at a full table with family and friends and take note of all we have prior to making our lists of all we want. in our thanks giving, we begin to prepare our hearts. our homes...well, those will come too...but first comes the heart. give thanks and prepare.
christmas is coming.
thanksgiving is here.