i began a new thanksgiving tradition this year. i realize some of you might think that at age 43, i am not allowed to do this. that i can't do this. but i can. and i did. it is true my children are no longer babies. in fact, one of them will be out of the house in just a matter of years. all of them growing up fast and furious. they already have memories of past holidays imprinted in their minds and etched across their hearts. we already have our traditions set. formed. but it is never too late to begin something new. it is never too late to create a tradition. i used to think that might be the case. i used to think if i didn't start something when the children were still small and toddling, then it wouldn't count -- like i had missed the boat or ignored the opportunity. i used to believe that if i didn't start something at the very, very beginning then it would just be one of those last ditch efforts of desperate parents --- a final attempt to pour deeply into children who are halfway out the door.
but this is wrong thinking -- it is never too late. the time to begin a tradition is now. perhaps the fact that i faced cancer this year has something to do with my shift in perspective. when stopped in your tracks, you tend to look hard at life and the living and the loving. and it is just natural that a new appreciation for ticking time will follow. it is only natural to consider what else can i do...what else can we add...what else can be done. life is short. we get one chance. one pass. we aren't walking this same road again. not ever. i think when we are healthy and comfortable and everything is normal we forget. we just do.
so this year, i did something i've always wanted to do. something simple and small, but something i plan to make a part of our thanksgivings from here on out. i gave everyone at my dinner table a christmas ornament. i wrote in my last post that thanksgiving is the perfect precursor to christmas. i've always felt it to be kind of a wonderful kickoff to this most beautiful season. some people look at the month from thanksgiving to christmas as a time to gain weight. i believe it is a time gain joy. a time to fill up on beauty. a time to drink in God's grace. the ornament was nothing special -- brown. round. a run of the mill ball. i attached (modge-podged, to be exact) the verse that has been rumbling around in my thoughts this past week. i mentioned it in another november post. "if you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward Him." ~ job 11:13. prepare. have i overwritten this topic? perhaps. but just in case you missed it in the other november posts: are you prepared? i don't mean do you have enough strands of lights or sufficient ribbon and scotch tape. i'm not asking if you have hung your evergreen wreath or ordered your christmas cards. i am not worried about which day in december you choose to trim your tree or hang your stockings with care...but, is your heart prepared? what are you doing to ready your heart for the birth of a king? the birth of The King? i'm just asking.
i'm asking because i have spent plenty of christmas seasons wrapped up in the tinsel and trimmings of december. i have wasted an incredible amount of time worrying about the shopping and the sprucing and the swagging and the cooking and the mailing and the hanging and the arranging and the lighting. i am not a woman who drags home a tree and calls it christmas. i adore detail. that won't surprise most of you. and there is nothing wrong with this...absolutely nothing wrong with making our homes special for the holidays. BUT. BUT. BUT. i have no doubt, it is wrong if we lose sight of what really matters...of what we are truly celebrating.
a few years back, i had an especially unprepared season. we had just bought this house and i was swimming -- no, honestly, i was drowning -- in getting everything pulled together. we had moved in at the end of october and we were up to our eyebrows in house projects. and then came christmas. it was a new house. a bigger house. and of course for me this translated into more to do. more to decorate. it also turned me into a nut -- and a not an especially fun nut at that. i was wild. crazy with the need to make it all happen. to make it all magical. we had also decided to host a big christmas gathering in our home that year (please don't ask what was wrong with us...we just did). so you can imagine. i made a million lists and spent too much money and was completely missing the true meaning. i mean i kind of pretended i was doing the right things...thinking the right thoughts...but i wasn't. i know i wasn't. i was a hustling, bustling holiday disaster... a big old christmas time mess.
after about four weeks of arduous labor, christmas eve arrived and off we went to our church for the traditional candlelight service. the finish line was in sight and i was exhausted. i sat there kind of glazed over as our pastor spoke, but nothing penetrated. had i closed my eyes i am sure i would have started to snore. the message ended and the the lights dimmed. one by one, over a thousand candles were lit. and in this beautiful glow we began to sing silent night.
silent night, holy night. all is calm, all is bright.
and it was like someone had pulled the plug of my emotion. the tears began to trickle down my cheeks. i was so overwhelmed in the true beauty of it all for a minute, i was worried i might start sobbing and hiccuping and doing what i call my "ugly cry." i did finally pull myself together, but not before i felt the wave -- tidal wave -- of shame slam over me. i thought about all the hurrying and the hustling and the snapping and the fretting i had been doing for the past month or so. i was ashamed. but as the song continued, i was reminded of God's grace. if nothing else, the birth of Christ reminds us of God's incredible, incredible grace. and i knew it was not too late. i had messed up the past month, but it was christmas eve and we were singing silent night and it seemed for those few minutes almost holy.
i learned my lesson that year. and in the years since, i've been much better behaved. but i still need to be reminded come that first week of christmas. these brown ornaments at the place settings of my family aren't the answer. but maybe they will serve as another reminder. just a simple reminder to remember we are celebrating the birth of our king. it won't be perfect. but i want to be prepared. i want to be seeking not hustle and hurry, but holy. to desire not a perfect home, but a prepared heart.
this morning, in church, our pastor quoted the following:
"the act of offering thank offerings to God ---even for the bread
and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion--this prepares the
way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry,
resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.
.... thanksgiving--giving thanks in everything--is what prepares
the way for salvation's whole restoration." ~ ann voskamp one thousand gifts
thanksgiving has come and gone, but as we move into the christmas season, i hope you hold it tight in your heart. it is no accident we give thanks before we are given gifts. fill up on joy. celebrate gratitude. give thanks. gain joy. and as you prepare your home, my prayer is, you'll prepare your heart for the birth of a king. The King. and see all that is holy.