Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Celebrating from the Inside Out

This time last year, I had checked off every item on a thorough cleaning/decorating/baking/shopping/gift wrapping list. It was a little bit crazy, and included things like, "Finish Christmas shopping by December 1." We were hosting Christmas for both sides of our family, and I wanted it to be really special. My husband and I both love having people over and providing a place for people to relax and recharge, and I thought I could make things "perfect" for everyone.

It's amazing how much things can change in a single year, isn't it? This year, while I still like making things with my hands, my shoulders slump under the weight of so much grace. I am undeserving. Yet here I sit, happy heart in my home, with a new understanding and insight about what it means to celebrate this season.

What would I have said, I wonder, looking at pictures of myself at Christmas last year, if I could tell her that soon, in just a few months, she would learn what it is like to lose? What if some magical visitor from the future had touched my shoulder gently as I served my homemade cinnamon rolls and said, "Next summer you will bury your baby." I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me that I'd lose a second child in the fall. Two in one year.

But here I am, these things came true, and still my cup runs over. He gave me enough grace. Grace enough to get through it. Grace enough to see with newly washed eyes. As beautiful as handmade gifts can be, as inviting as the smell of freshly baked pastries, perfection on the surface is just that. It's on the surface. It can be scratched away.

This year, we are only half-finished painting our house. You should see our guest room: it's like a craft supply bomb exploded in there. I haven't made those cinnamon rolls yet. But I wish I could show you my heart.

It's a garden of Eden in most ways. Like all the love and grace and tender care I never knew I would need left seeds when they rolled through my life this year. Laid seeds and tilled the soil and harvested the crops and cultivated heirloom roses, too. Two deep cracks can be seen running through it, my heart, but they are cracks out of which lilies grow. The kind of cracks that break in the soil of the soul before bulbs can shoot forth into flowers, or vines into fruit. Wellsprings of longing and joy.

This year, in this season of advent, I let the shopping and the decorating and the baking fall gently to the bottom of my list. Like the cream rising to the top, what is most important to me now is clear. I teach my little one about the truth, the lamb, the word, the grace God himself has given me and Don. "Where does Jesus live?" I ask William. He points to the sky, "Yee-sus," he says. Then he takes his hand and pats his little chest. "That's right," I tell him. "He fills up our hearts, too."

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