Thursday, December 20, 2012

christmas cards and shattered things...

what do christmas cards and shattered windows have in common?  nothing.  absolutely nothing.  or at least that's what i thought last week.

christmas cards. just saying those two words together makes me smile. you too? yep, i thought so! i love getting them. studying the pictures ...seeing the changed faces...the growing kids...the captured history. it is pure pleasure for me to sit down in the evening, a fire at my feet and a stack of cards in my lap. i pour over your letters and catch up on your news, relishing, savoring, downright gobbling up the bits and pieces of your lives.  really, i have no idea who started this tradition, but i am so glad someone thought it up and i'm so glad we busy, crazy, technology-captivated people continue it. in a strange way, i think the cards mean more now days in our new world of immediate communication than ever before. we can send the same message in a text or an email, but it's not really the same, is it? it's not the same as seeing a card or two each day in our mailbox or sitting fireside with words and photos from old friends.

i mean, i know sometimes it's okay to miss a year here or there, but most of us come back to this great, december tradition. no one is ever sad to see an extra card or two mixed into the pile of bills at the end of the day. it is this little assurance that we are connected to people -- real people -- no matter where they live or how we've changed.  we want to connect.  we want to touch base and celebrate in this one season of christmas, the many seasons of our life.

i delight in the process. i do. i am one of those who enjoys planning the card and typing her letter.  sure, some years i barely get it done or i blast it out in my busy-ness -- some years i fit it in between dinner and dishes. but i enjoy it, nonetheless. my family has learned to accept this christmas season obsession. they've learned to smile for the camera and assist with the stamping and stuffing of envelopes. they understood, years ago, it is a task non-negotiable.

this december, as usual, it was all hands on deck. over the course of several evenings, sarah and connor stuffed letters and cards, attached address labels and affixed stamps. perfect jobs for a 4th and 7th grader. and i am pleased to inform you that, this year, bella was promoted to chief-envelope-licker.  she licked most of the envelopes and pressed them closed.  at one point, i insisted she go get a drink of water, she's not quite 30 pounds yet, and i feared she'd just dry up and blow away with the amount of moisture each envelope required. i wish i had taken pictures of the kids helping. i'd have posted them RIGHT HERE. but, we were in process and there was sort of a deadline, and believe it or not, for once, i didn't think to photograph something.

connor has been a little concerned that since we had moved, we wouldn't receive a single card this year. he knew it was important that we send ours out early so people had our new address. he's been bugging me about it since before thanksgiving. that's just how my little guy is wired. in fact, that's the story i begin our christmas letter with. "mom, do you think we'll get any cards this year? i mean, do people even know we've moved?"

we didn't really get our letter out early -- no surprise to me. but, still, it was sent in a somewhat respectable time. there have been some years where they didn't get out before the holiday...and i have to tell you, that's perfectly okay too. there's this one dear family who i have known since i was a young girl,  and they send their card sometime in the first week of february -- every year. and i think that's absolutely brilliant!

i want you to know though, your cards came with a little something extra this year. not just bella's cute little lips kissing the envelopes closed. but there's a story of sorts with their sending.

we were on our way to bella's ballet class and at the last minute, i thought to throw in the box of cards and drop them off at the post office on my way. the roads were clear and dry and the day was sunny. i loaded my ballerina and my box of cards into the car and off we went. bella behind me in her car seat with ballet bun and pink leotard. christmas cards cheerfully on the seat beside me. blue skies and bright sun above.  bella and i sang along to christmas carols and everything felt perfect. christmas time perfect. just the way this woman likes it.

and because i can never pass up the opportunity to accomplish an errand via the "drive-thru" i decided to do just that: drive up to the drop off boxes and throw in the remaining cards.  fast and efficient, it would give me five extra minutes to stop at starbucks.  but fast and efficient turned quickly into mini-disaster and messy.   my words will not be able to fully do justice to what occurred at that mailbox last thursday, but it went something like this.  i pulled up. hit a small patch of ice on an incline. and my yukon xl began to slide sideways. in fact, it slid sideways on the ice and slammed right into the mailboxes. and because the mail shoot is up high on those boxes (for quick dropping, of course) that high shoot smacked my rear side window.  it not only smacked it, but it shattered into a zillion pieces, sounding just like a gunshot. i was stunned.  absolutely stunned.  i was only dropping off christmas cards.  happy, lovely, friendly christmas cards.  how in the world did i just end up with a shattered back window on a sunny, blue-skied day? we were on our way to ballet class -- pink leotard and tiny ballerina in my back seat.  this shattered back window just didn't fit the picture. it didn't fit the christmas-time perfect.

you can't tell, but the entire window is shattered in tiny, tiny pieces...
i pulled away and watched the lady behind me pull up and do exactly the same thing in her mini van.  (her window fared better though). as i maneuvered my suv away from the post office and into a nearby parking spot the movement caused the window to implode even further. the mid-section gave way and glass began to fall inside and outside the vehicle. it was the craziest thing ever.  remember, i was dropping off christmas cards on the way to ballet. the yukon looked like it had just driven through a war zone, not a holiday post office. bella and i were both pretty shaken up. none of it made sense. and how in the world was i supposed to call my husband and explain what had just happened? i wasn't even sure what had happened exactly. "umm honey... i was mailing our christmas cards and the back window kinda broke...ah, yeah."

oh these things do happen though. even in the midst of all this merry and in the midst of all this holiday hooray-ing...broken windows occur.  broken things happen. broken people shatter. things don't make sense.  there isn't really any good explanation.  after hearing about the loss of precious life in connecticut, we certainly have felt like that this past week, haven't we?  my broken window was nothing. we got if fixed the next day and we'll forget about it by next month.  but there are other broken bits to this december of 2012. there are other things which don't fit into our perfect christmas card picture. other awful things which have snuffed out the twinkling lights and stolen the comfort and joy. somehow we think december should be immune from the devastation and disaster of our broken world.  somehow we believe this holy month should put all things horrible on hold. but we've been tragically reminded this year, that there is no immunity. there is no hiatus. there is no pause from great pain -- at least not on this earth. oh, the unbelievable grief of it all.

and here we are just days before celebrating the birth of the Holy Christ-Child...and though we may not have our cards mailed or our lives perfect or our hard questions answered, we can have hope.  it is this very season which gives us the gift of hope.  we have hope when we keep our eyes not on the magic of christmas, but fixed on the manger of the Christ-Child.  the magic blows up and disappears with the broken pieces of living.  candy canes and christmas cards mean nothing when children are buried the week before christmas. but the manger means everything. the manger produced a perfect Savior.  and it is that same Savior who will come again and redeem this broken, broken, broken world. and though i cannot begin to understand or explain what happened in connecticut last week, i am certain, we are all more desperate for real hope than ever before.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~ psalm 147:3

and that, my friends, is really the only message worth mailing this year. glossy photos and clever letters are kind of nice to read fireside on a cold winter evening, but the only thing truly worth remembering is the Hope of Heaven, come to us as a baby, lying in a manger.

"Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: 
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  ~ luke 2:10-12

the perfect babe. swaddled as an infant. broken as a man. resurrected as a redeemer.
and, someday, returning as a King. the only message of hope. our only hope.  hope.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

* * *

shattered window or not, we made it to ballet that day.  i wanted to close this piece with a few sweet pictures i snapped just an hour, or so, after my run in with the mailbox.  
a little beauty after brokenness.



Anonymous said...

thank you for writing brighten our days.
Merry Christmas to you & yours.

Lofty Ideas said...

Beautifully written - the mix of the everyday-dullness, the moments of carefree joy and the joy-stealing moments of tragedy. It's called life. We are all living it. Thank you for taking the time to catalog it - reminding us that we are not alone. Thank you for reminding us of hope.
Merry Christmas McNatts!

Rebekah said...

Oh, Jody!!! How precious to be able to hold and love our children!! To watch them lick the envelope, stuff the envelope, or just fuss with their siblings!! The joy of noise, any kind - happy or bickering!! Can you imagine the silence in those Connecticutt homes??? Having six children of my own, (the oldest is 40), I just want to hold them all so close and never let go!! I am so thankful for our sweet Jesus, and knowing all will be well one day!! Until then, we just need to love a little more, forgive a lot more, and pray, pray, pray!!
p.s. - I also have seen a mailbox jump out at me!!

Aus said...

Beautiful Jody - well - the child - not so much the window! Ah yes - the joys of living in the deep north - where sunny bright days make for more dangerous driving than the snowy days do! Black ice is a killer!

Glad y'all are in the Spirit of the Season!

hugs - aus and co.