I haven’t been able to put my finger on it – the blanket of heaviness quietly settling over me sometime between dancing in the kitchen mashing Thanksgiving potatoes and the start of Advent. It could simply be the suffocating pace of the season, another December birthday screaming at me from somewhere there in the back- something about one more year of time and talents slipping away…Or maybe the flood of memories as I pour over Christmas cards is culprit – the missing of champions and friends who have graduated from this world, and the list growing daily of beloveds battling trials of great pain and illness. I could blame the headline news from around this creaking, caving-in globe – stealing breath from lungs and clenching jaw tight against the depravity we humans seem bent on showcasing to one another. This sadness- could it possibly stem from that Christmas three years ago when we were stuck, mired in an excruciating adoption process – an empty crib, wrapped gifts untouched, our baby girl on the other side of the world alone while we sang carols? Past trauma just showing up one festive day, snaking its grip as I tighten garland and wrap twinkling lights…Broken relationships, the buckets of parenting mistakes made this week alone, the constant ache for that some day, that one day, when every tear will be wiped away…No, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it.
Our church’s annual Christmas production is this weekend and I am participating for the first time – interesting how God weaves our lives even as we are busy unraveling the ends. Last night as I stood on a choir riser during dress rehearsal tears stung my eyes several times, threatening to spill out over lashes, splash and pool atop my polyester costume. The production tells the story of a traditional Blue Christmas service turning into a very untraditional evening of honesty and ministry. One by one as each character took the spotlight, they all spoke my story or sang my song in one aspect or another. And the thing is – I am not a unique case. The twinkle and flashes of glistening eyes all around me on stage representing the collective ache so many of us seem to be walking around with this December.
“I think if the year were to have a “dark night of soul” moment- for many it’s this season, when the nights are longest, and our surroundings are coldest, and our hearts are actually more susceptible to being broken.” – Christmas Blue
The line in rehearsal causing me to catch breath and in the still of a delayed exhale, the Holy Spirit so kindly speaks to me:
‘Broken, susceptible hearts are hearts, ready, desperate for a Savior. I allow the sharp wounds of this life to drag across your fragile soul so you more fully recognize and know my acute, abundant Peace. Do not wear shame for your brokenness, it is the brokenness that pulls you close to my manger, wraps you tight to my heart and lifts your head to see the Star of Wonder shining bright through all the night’s blue.’
A week or two ago, I drove along with my kids listening to carols and one of my absolute favorites came on. As the song built, my voice cracked with emotion. “I have never been able to make it through this song with out crying,” I say to my oldest. “Even when I was your age.” “Why?” She asked with a 9-year-old’s curious tenderness. I turn the volume up – “be mindful of the words.” Be mindful of your tears….
“Truly He taught us to love one another…
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name, all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever
His power and glory evermore proclaim”
Again, Artist diligently about His work – weaving a gorgeous and lovely tapestry from my messy and often ugly threads. From all these blue, heavy December threads – Divine beauty emerges.
I had the sweet opportunity to attend The Greatest Christmas Tour with some friends, and would you know the evening was capped singing “my” song. Hearing voices fill the sanctuary with sweet hymns of joy left me full and aching for Home evermore. I thought I’d share the video (as rough as it may appear) so you too may let the choir of brother and sisterhood sing over you and your Blue Christmas. Merry Christmas, friends. Emmanuel, God is With Us…Always.
p.s. If you happen to be in the Nashville area, please please consider coming to one of the Christmas Blue performances – I am so confident it will speak to you. Feel free to message me if you need more details, but they can also be found here: Christmas Blue
The minis and I were stuck in terrible traffic for over an hour earlier today. Hungry and tired after hashing out some challenging behavior from a member of my brood, I was just grateful we had plenty of gas in the car and no one was screaming for a toilet. Later, safe at home, fed and taking a moment of rest I start to read about Christians in Iraq- mamas with minis just like me, who believe in the One true God, just like me- being driven from their homes, brutally assaulted, and stuck in the wilderness with no food or water. The ferocity of our polar realities is almost too much- I have to walk outside, try and catch my breath in the August heat, let tears fall to the grass as I walk. I don’t know how to reconcile it all- the traffic jams and the terrorists, the fighting siblings and the fight to survive- all of us walking the same planet, crying out to the same God, but such vast difference to our individual worlds. And whether it’s the prayers from these Tennessee hills, or the desert mountains of Iraq, I know He hears us; I know He never abandons us on any hillside or any mountain. I know it. So even as I can’t find a way to see it, I say it, and I stand on it. As I walk back to the house I find myself imagining a mama on the other side of the world hearing my voice, my tears, mixed with her’s in prayer and hoping she knows she is not alone.
It always pains me to take Lu’s braids out- thinking of all the work they are to create. Most often the majority of the style remains intact and neat, but the wear and tear in other places gets to a point where all you see is the messy surrounding the beauty underneath all that frizz.
As I sit and gently undo each cord of three- so not to damage the individual strands- I can almost see Jesus standing over watching my work. His words acknowledging my thoughts like a kind squeeze to the shoulder.
For several days now I have been grieving a similar undoing in our family’s life. As with these simple braids, there is a mourning after the effort and time we have committed to building something beautiful but over years has become messy around the edges, dull from the stresses of living. Those stray pieces detracting from the canvas as a whole, we commit to a change – to a new design for our life for a season.
The only way to build again is to first undo.
So with care- and some tears, the dismantling of what was commences; not to leave us wayward and wild, unbraided from His vision, but to clear the grounds, wash us clean and strand by strand create something new. something beautiful.