Friday, December 24, 2010

On The Eve

I stand on the precipice of Christmas, and I can't help feeling this next step is a tumble and a trip rather than a forward leap. My faith teaches me to march forward, down a certain path, towards an end that awaits me with open arms. That path was first walked by Jesus, the living son of God, whose birth we mark with this holiday. I know my path, just like His on Earth, is not always clear, the march not always easy, and the end not always in sight. I'm with all that - dig it - I can handle that part.

My real worry is this: I'm not entirely convinced that I've headed down the right path - and now I'm now dragging my children along on this path. What if I mangled the whole path thing and now I'm skidding off to some forsaken end with no open arms and no chocolate? Ack!

If my faith is correct, this is just a test. I put my head down, fortify my soul with a good dose of prayer, and barrel on. On the other hand, if my faith is correct this could be a sign! And if I miss it I'm like the guy in the joke - the one where he's standing on his roof waiting for God to save him from a flood so he turns down an offer from a boat passing by, a helicopter rescue, and so on. When he gets to heaven he demands to know why God did not save him and God tells him -
'Wha'd you want me to do? I sent a boat, a helicopter, and you wouldn't allow yourself to be saved!' (In all my interpretations, God's a real comedian - I just have to believe that.)

What to think, what to do? Continue this life of mediocre 'success', building a little bit of goodness at a time, finding value and purpose in the few lives I touch, shrinking away from chances to do more on the possibility I might fail?

Or stop in my tracks? Find a need in the world and fill it? Really follow Jesus' path and risk every single thing in order to do some greater good? I'm chicken. I'm a total coward. I'm not sure I have the strength of character to do things like tell my kids we won't have gifts on holidays like these because we're off to Salvador to feed starving children and the real gifts for us are already here - good health, good humor, time together - so precious because we never really know when it all ends. But I'm chicken. And I like getting new slippers! Does that make me a total stinker?

I suppose it does when I know for sure that $48 could buy a desk for a child in an African school. I just saw that on the news last night.

So I'm literally lolling back and forth like a weeble wobble and I can't seem to reconcile and center myself.

But as I'm writing this I'm thinking that the whole thing is really much simpler than all this. A step back - maybe a few - and I can see that what Christmas offers me - what Jesus' life teaches me - is not the answer, but the possibility. And what I offer Christmas - what I offer God - is the genuine desire to take that chance to do more, be more, follow more closely in His steps down whatever path until I reach my rightful end - whatever that may be.

I may not get the whole thing figured out right now and that's o.k., because tomorrow I am reminded that the birth - the beginning - allows me a new beginning as well. And maybe each beginning brings me closer to the right place for me, the place where my abilities and my faith and my life all meet and matter.

So I stand on the precipice of this Christmas and I can't help feeling that my tumble forward is no accident, and not a pre-ordained step, but a choice. I choose this life and this path, flawed as it may be, with all my doubts and worries progressing along with me, firm in my belief that a faithful soul will find its way home, and so thankful for Christ's birth, because it offers me a chance, a hope for renewal and redemption and life beyond life.

Merry Christmas to you, and may God bless you and keep you always.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Hate That

As a public service and in case the post's title didn't clue you in, this is not one of my happy, warm 'n fuzzies. You are warned.

My holiday cards stunk this year. I've had a couple of good years back-to-back so the pressure was really on this year and I just epic-failed, like a slow-mow-bike-over-curb with kid-flying-over-handle-bar action thrown in to boot. I'm hoping most people won't realize it sucked because I put some extra distracting pictures of the kids on the front of the card, but chances are those who really know me will know. And I know. I hate that.

Produce shopping during the holidays should be video-taped and aired on late night t.v. as a blood sport. In the meantime, as far as I'm concerned if you're so old that you need to be bused to the store to shop with an attendant, you should be too old to ram me - intentionally - with your cart. So don't look surprised when I take your 4'2" self right to the holey-rubber mat with my own cart, sister. Two can play at that game and only one of us can win. You might want to gear up.

Speaking of - I've said it before and I'll say it again: dollar store sales clerks should receive combat pay for working the end-of-year holidays. These poor souls are so abused and hellishly overworked, they trade food breaks for cigarettes and Mountain Dew out of sheer necessity, and at mine in particular, they put up with me so many times a week I feel I should be paying rent. Of course, if I could afford that, I'd not be shopping at a dollar store, now would I?

So, as a giveaway, you'll note that I've been shopping. Ooooohhhh... spending? Garishly? Wantonly? Yes, for Pete's sake, yes! The 'holidays are too commercial nowadays' comment as a way of looking down one's nose at someone who's clearly in the throes has become so damn tired it should be comatose. I hate it! Buying gifts for people you love is not commercial, it's just nice. I've done all the modesty-adjustments I can, some re-worked things, home-made things, inexpensive things. But I'm still getting some stuff and that's it. I view it as an extension of kindness, a thoughtfulness, a gesture of acceptance and appreciation that - to me - is entirely in the spirit of the season. I'm not apologizing for it and I'm not feeling bad about it. Mostly.

Except in weak moments when I reflect on an acquaintance who has chucked his whole American life and moved to Haiti to teach children. So he is constantly blogging about the political unrest, violent weather, and other horrific circumstances that make it nearly impossible for him to get his kids to school much less teach them anything. All he asks for is prayers. GAAAACK! As I plod along the aisles at the dollar store looking for things that don't look cheap so that I can give someone some useless plastic thing as an indication of my love, I'm reminded that my acquaintance really gets it and I'm a complete clod. I hope he never reads this and realizes that I measure my own inadequacy by stacking it up against his greatness. Scratch that. I think I'll send it to him so he knows how amazing he is.

My husband's got a similar take on the whole thing - doesn't understand how coloring books and dolls and games mean we love Jesus - which intellectually I totally understand. But when he says it it sounds very scrooge-y and I hate it.

Moreover, I hate having to analyze my desire to celebrate holidays with some fanfare, some fuss and some material - shallow as it may be - pleasures.

Hating having to analyze it makes me hate the whole thing, which I really hate.

I always tell my kids not to 'hate' because it reflects poorly on them, rather than on the person or thing they dislike.

I hate when I can't or don't do what I tell my kids to do.

Speaking of which, are your kids ever quiet? Because my kids, no matter how often I tell them that movie-watching is not an interactive experience, can't contain themselves. At all. Ever. These kids talk non-stop. I've discovered this on day four of winter break. Truth be told, I discover it every time there are even three seconds of waking quiet in my house. Just thought I'd tell you. No idea where they get this gabbiness from.

So I'm feeling like this whole post is a bit of a downer. Perhaps some Nog'll fix me up.

Blech. Discount store Egg Nog is revolting!

I hate that.