Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Christmas Stories

Well, so much for keeping up this blog, huh? It seems as though I only write on it when inspired. Hopefully, if you are reading this, you've found what I have written to be worth your time. If not, I'm sorry, but it's all I can do :)

I was inspired to write today because of the holiday season. This holiday season has been different for me so far, because David (my husband) is out of town. He's been out of town since October and will be until close to the end of January. Going through the holiday season without a husband is not something new to me. However, going through a holiday season without a husband, when I actually have one, is. As I go through my day, feeling bad for him that he has to be totally alone through the holidays - I have the kids, so at least I'm not truly alone - I'm having a lot of difficulty.

Navigating through life with a partner is an amazing thing. Ordinary tasks, ordinary sights, ordinary experiences are experienced at so much depth when one has a partner with whom to share life. As I navigate my way through this Christmas season, I feel as though I'm a person with a shell for a body. A delicate shell that takes only one word, one hug, one knowing look to break.

Today, I tried to do some Christmas shopping. With David away, I have to make decisions about and purchases for the kids' Christmas presents. I used to get excited when David and I would walk up and down the aisles trying to find ideas. Now, I tend to focus on the fact that I'm doing this alone. Driving home is especially difficult for me because I find my thoughts straying to "as soon as I get home, I'll tell David" this, or "I wonder if David has done the dishes while I'm gone". As I turn on to our street, it hits me that he isn't home. That I can't tell him the interesting anecdote about the pickup truck I saw on the highway that was on fire, that we won't be sitting in front of the TV with a glass of wine and discussing our day with each other.

Tonight was a little different. I had spent part of my afternoon doing said Christmas shopping, which ended up cheering me up a little bit. Then I went to a committee meeting for my son's Cub Scout pack. Next, I went to a Christmas party for the Stephen Ministry at my church. When I came home, my kids were all excited. They told me there was a package on the porch when they came home from youth and they wanted me to find out what was in it and who it was from.

Let me segue here to another Christmas story . . .

This story is from the first year I was a single mom at Christmas. My ex-husband and I had an old fake Christmas tree we'd gotten from a friend that we put up every Christmas. A few years before the divorce, the basement the tree was stored in had flooded, leaving everything there covered in a thin layer of grime. He had insisted that the fake-snow-covered fake tree was still perfectly acceptable so for the first few years of our kids' lives, they knew Christmas trees to be smelly things that had brown "snow" on them. I wanted my kids to have a better tree. Spending the money on a real tree was out of the question. I was a full-time college student with no income and had to go on food stamps to keep my family fed. Buying a new fake tree was even more out-of-reach.

I was at the grocery store one day, several weeks before Christmas, but after Thanksgiving, and walking through the produce section. Tony, who was only 3 or 4 years old at the time, just had to go to the restroom, so I sent him through the double doors by the produce section to the restrooms. I waited outside the double doors for him to reappear. I waited and waited. I finally decided that I needed to go in and find out what was taking him so long. I pushed through the double doors and started walking through the "day old" and "clearance" section - that hidden secret that only the most savvy savers knew about. What greeted me there was unbelievable to me. In a shopping cart, in the middle of the clearance section, was a fake Christmas tree. Brand new. Marked $5. Complete with stand. I stood there, looking at that tree for awhile. Speechless. My eyes wide with disbelief. I inspected the tree. It was a nice tree - most likely one that had been purchased by the floral department for display purposes. Nothing wrong with it. Tony came out of the restroom and asked me what I was looking at. I told him "our new Christmas tree."

That night, as we put our tree up and decorated it together while listening to silly Christmas songs, I said a little prayer of thanks to God for the opportunities He puts before us, and I thanked him for the fact that Tony just had to go to the bathroom and that it took him so long. My little family got to spend the first Christmas of our new lives together around a brand-new Christmas tree, complete with stand.

Now, back to today . . .

I picked up the big gift bag while the kids were telling me they'd tried to find a card but were unsuccessful. I opened the bag and the sack that was inside the bag and was amazed at the gift that was within. Someone knew exactly what my kids needed this Christmas. I stood there, looking at the box -- speechless, my eyes wide with disbelief. I looked at Trevor, who was closest, and he stared back at me -- speechless, eyes wide with disbelief. As I glanced around the room, all my kids were both smiling and crying at the same time. It was just the right gift at just the right moment in the middle of a holiday season that none of us have been looking forward to, and that none of us have been enjoying. A reminder of the love that abounds in the world, and the wonderful gift that we've all been given - to love one another. A reminder of the mission we are all called to do - to give of ourselves selflessly. A reminder of the task we are all burdened with - to pay it forward.

To the mysterious gifter(s) - thank you. Not just for the gift, but for the message you've reminded all of us about. To love one another, to give with a cheerful heart, and to accept ministry from those who minister to us.

Christmas can be a season that instills dread or it can be a season that brings us joy. I wanted to share my two little Christmas stories so that we can all remember it's the joy that matters.

I'll close with a third little Christmas story. This time, it is Tony's first Christmas and we've just decorated the tree. I sat on the floor, cross-legged, with Tony on my lap as his dad turned off the lights in the room and turned on the lights of the tree. As soon as the lights in the room went out, there was a loud intake of air from the little guy in my lap and an exhaled, "Wow!"

My message? Encounter this season with and for the "wows"! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!!!