This is the time of year when we drag out the Christmas decorations, glam up our house, bake our hearts out, and try to find the perfect gift. If you are like me, you look forward to Christmas, and love the music, and think there is nothing more beautiful than the Christmas tree lit up at night. And you are exhausted. A lot. I have a friend who declares every year that she is tired of being "the sole provider of Christmas joy" in her house. She's exhausted. I have a husband who is wonderful about decorating and "doing" Christmas. And we are both exhausted. How are we missing the point so badly? What is it that makes it feel like such a race?
In a household of seven, there are very rarely moments of quiet. There is noise, chaos, fights, crashing of cars, electric guitars, music of every different style, barking, meowing, and phones chiming. With work and graduate school, daughter to gymnastics, son to shooting club, son to doctor, son to youth group, daughter's car won't work, rooms to clean, dinners to make, laundry, laundry, laundry...there is never a moment of silence.
These moments. This life. This is what I will miss when it is silent again in our home. When I have hours of free time to decorate my tree, bake my cookies, shop for gifts. This mad chaos that is our life right now, these are the moments. How do I hold on to that?
There is a quote in a Jodi Picoult book which sums this up....
"Life was what happened when all the what-if’s didn’t, when what you dreamed or hoped or – in this case – feared might come to pass passed by instead. "
— Jodi Picoult
I don't want to miss this life. I don't want to miss the joy of Christmas because I am so concerned with it being perfect. My beautifully messy life is perfect.
Life is pain, Highness...anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. Yes, life is pain. There is intense pain. Moments when you think another breath will be your last. Moments when you clutch at your chest or gut, doubled over, the tears dripping off your face, thinking this is it...I can't do this anymore. Moments when you look around at your life in desperation, thinking this can't really be my life. There are moments when you hear the dreaded word, moments when you lose the one person you can't imagine living without, moments when the door closes and you see no other way out. Those moments are life. They are pain.
For anyone who has come out the other side of that pain, you know that life is pain. That pain is a part of you now, a part which will never leave. It is your story. It is a scar you carry with you.
It is beautiful.
When you can once again look at the sky, once again laugh over coffee, once again smile at a stranger, once again take joy in a good book, once again hug, once again think on that painful place...then you know true beauty.
Out of the ashes, beauty.
This picture was taken a few years ago. Two months after I left my marriage, with two children, and a 10 year old van. No money, no job, no idea how it was all going to work out. I had no way to make a Christmas that year. And friends, family, and strangers stepped in and blessed us in ways I can't even express. Gifts, food, clothing, a place to live, money, a haircut, cards and encouragement, prayers, and constant reminders that I was not alone. Beauty, from ashes.
Christmas. The ones growing up when we didn't have enough money. I was mortified to be given handmade rabbits by my mother once Christmas. Everyone else got the latest and greatest. What I wouldn't give to have those rabbits now. Knowing that she spent hours on them. Knowing that she was in full-time graduate school herself, then. Knowing, now, how busy she was and how hard she worked on them. I can appreciate the work my parents have done, now, because of the messy chaos of my life now. I can appreciate the gift of four children, brought into my life by my husband, because of the pain of losing a baby. I can appreciate the joy of spending time with my best friend, my partner, my husband, because of the devastation of divorce. I can look back and see that, yes, my life has been shaped by pain. Life is pain. And it is beautiful.