Posts from the ‘Room for Christmas’ Category

Wishes come true.

Today, I am making room for surprises.

Merry Christmas, all.

I am a list maker.  I make presents long before people put out lists, but also try to get my list out early because I know I am hard to shop for.  This year my list had three items on it: brakes for my car, a Hanukkiah of my own (long–good–story), and gift cards to places I go frequently.

One item I wished to put on there, but did not because I am an adult and I have things in my life with a higher priority, was a certain lamp.  It’s made by Rolf Lidberg, a favorite artist.  I have two of his statues, but this lamp was more than just a decoration or a nice thing to have around: it was perfect.  It looks a lot like a scene from Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow.  I was raised on Swedish faerie tales.  I have a great fondness for them.  When we went to Sweden last year, I was able to branch into children’s books and that was one of my favorites.  I already wanted the lamp at that point, but this made the want much stronger.

However, this lamp was very expensive.  I have been looking at it for three years.  Each year, I have been encouraged that all others seem to be put off by the price, too, though that did not mean I had the means to get this beautiful lamp.  I daren’t wish for the lamp, as I had quite the expensive necessity on my list.  This year, I was sure the lamp would sell.  I went to stare at it for a time and cried a little that something so beautiful that I had tried to budget for just could not be had.  But, I wiped the tears and focused on the fact that I was going to get brakes that would keep me safe.  My life is much more important than a lamp that barely shines enough light to read a book by.

But Mommasan and Papi are pretty wonderful people and found room in their budget for the lamp AND a good portion of my brakes.  I didn’t ever think I would get that lamp.  It’s all the more beautiful because it is SUCH a surprise that it ended up under the tree.  I need to learn to expect more surprises–not of the world, but of the people around me.  People are strange and wonderful and surprising, but I am apt to miss that if I don’t pay attention.

Christ taught us to see the greatness in people, the surprise.  He taught us to see the faithful woman in the wretch, the pure woman in the fallen, the living soul in the dead, the listener in the busy worker, the testimony in the  uneducated.  He teaches a people-centric gospel.  I can make room for that.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.  I love my little lamp.

This much cuteness must be shared.

Long, long ago . . .

Today, I’m making room for the written word.

It’s been a busy season, as I’ve mentioned, and I really haven’t had a lot of leisure time in which I could sit down long enough to concentrate on something to read.  It’s a pity, because I have some pretty strong traditions surrounding books and scripture and stories.

#1: The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittany Ryan, illustrated by Laurel Long

I read this book every year sometime after Thanksgiving.   I love it.  It’s about a princess and a curse and a handsome orphaned boy and an evil wizard and the power of a wish.  It’s about hope and love.  And Santa Claus has a daughter.  Also, my favorite artist illustrates the book with scrumptious pictures like this:

Holly, the Princess of Forever

Reindeer!

So I love everything about it.  I think I’ve given something like three copies of it over the years to people I knew would enjoy it.  I discovered this my first Christmas home from college.  I was at a book store with KitKat and Snikkers and we were reading parts of our favorite or interesting looking books to each other.  This was the Candy Bar Kids’ time together for the holiday season.  I had seen this book a few days earlier on the shelf and thought, “What the heck?  A story about Santa Cllaus’ daughter is good for Christmas.”  Little did I know.  I opened to the first chapter and read this:

In Forever, the Land of the Immortals, the first snowflake was always silver.  Father Christmas watched it swirl and twist from the heavens.  It lay, shimmering, on the great crystal stairs that led to the palace.  And then the rest came, just a few at first, before dozens and hundreds and thousands spiraled through the air in a lacy ballet.  Soom the stairs, the terrace, and the vast gardens beyond were cloaked in snow.  The stone nymphs that lolled in the reflecting pool reached up their graceful stone arms and caught the feathery crystals in their palms.  The bronze horses at the top of the clock tower touched noses and whinnied, shaking snow from their manes.  And the trees on the avenue, usually so stiff and dignified, forgot themselves and swayed back and forth, their branches rippling in the white air.

The prose just matched the detailed and vibrant pictures.  I fell in love with the book, long before I knew it held my favorite parts of Christmas.  I bought it with my Christmas money that year and have read it faithfully every year since.  Sometimes, I’ll read it for Christmas in July.  I fully intend to read it aloud to my children when I have them.  This book is my Christmas tradition.  I tried to start it last night and fell asleep on the first page.  Thankfully, the 500+ page book has a large typeset and is a quick read.  It’ll be done before midnight tomorrow.

#2: Star Across the Tracks by Bess Streeter Aldrich

This is my favorite Christmas story and the inspiration for this series.  It’s all about making room in our lives.  I got to read it for the women’s Christmas activity last week, and tonight one of the others in my family will read it for our Christmas, along with other stories.  I love story time on Christmas Eve–there’s nothing quite like hearing everyone in our family share favorite stories that we’ve collected over the years.  I’ve not really been able to read a whole lot of them this year, so I’m very much looking forward to tonight.  It isn’t Christmas without stories.

#3: The account of Christ’s birth in the Gospels

I’ve been struggling keeping up with my scripture reading this season.  I’m going to be doing some sprinting reading this coming week so I can be ready to start my new year on the right foot.  It’ll be fun and good and it’ll get be back in mind of where I want to be for the New Year. In my family, after we read the stories, either my dad or one of my brothers gets out our large red letter family bible and reads the account of the birth of Christ.  There’s something wonderful about ending a night of food, singing, and story with the account directly out of the scriptures.  We hear summaries all through out the season, but nothing compares in impact or the bringing of the Spirit to the scriptural account.  When I was a kid, we had a box of costumes that the children would put on and act out the play as Dad read.  Now, things are simpler, quieter, and a little more beautiful.  It’s our time to reflect.

I love the Christmas season.  I love the stories that have shaped each season as I have grown.  I love my family for making sure that my Christmas included hope and love and making room and a touching series of moments with the scriptures.  Today, for my Christmas Eve, I’ll be reading.

Gratitude.

I know, I did a whole blog series on gratitude in November.  I think you got the point.

Still, today I need to make some room for gratitude in my Christmas season.  It doesn’t end with Thanksgiving and I’ve had some seriously awesome experiences the past couple days.

Yesterevening (that’s a word, right?), I was pretty lonely.  I decided to solve that problem by going to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey again.  No, it would not change the fact that I was going by myself, but at least I would be around people.  It felt like the right thing.  I got everything done that needed doing, practiced the text for my introduction of a musical piece obsessively, and got in the car thirty minutes before the show.  As I got closer to the theatre, I started feeling like this wasn’t the right thing to do, but that going home wasn’t an option either.  I was a mile away from the theatre when I saw the sign for a tree lot.  It sported the name of an old friend who–strange as this sounds–I had never met.  He had told me mere days before that I should come pick up a tree, that even though I live in a TEENY-TINY, NO ROOM FOR TREE apartment, he’d have something for me.

After some nice internal debate (a surprisingly small amount, actually), I decided that meeting an old friend in person was what I should be doing last night–The Hobbit could wait.  I went to the lot and spent an hour and half chatting with my friend’s girlfriend–who is absolutely wonderful–and then another hour chatting with the two of them.  They really have no idea how much better my night was because of their friendship.  I had chosen the ABSOLUTE WORST way to solve the loneliness problem (mostly because it was the only option I could make happen)–I may have even made things worse, had I chosen to go to the movie.  Often, being in a sea of strangers can exacerbate feelings of being alone.  But, because a kind woman welcomed my friendship, I was able to hang around and meet my friend.

She even gave me a tree.  I had known her for an hour, and she gave me a tree.  That enabled me to set it up and decorate it as a surprise for my frazzled, retail-working roommate.  Mikki has had a heck of a season at her store and I knew last night was going to be just as bad, if not worse.  Because of the kindness of friends, I was able to make sure our last night at the apartment before we went to our families for Christmas was happy and full of the holiday cheer we had managed to find on Thursday.

Today, I went to church with no small amount of trepidation.  I had spent five weeks preparing, with another young man, a joint sacrament service for the two congregations in our building.  We had practiced the two congregational choirs separately, and this morning was our only joint practice.  Due to sickness, I had not had the opportunity to practice with my own pianist.  During the actual sacrament part of the service, I sent a desperate plea to my Heavenly Father–I had done my best and I knew it was just not enough.  I told my Father that I was giving Him this program, and I asked Him to make up the difference for my inadequacies.  He did.  The choirs sang beautifully and everything went smoothly and according to time.  The Lord perfected our humble offering.

I would be ungrateful, indeed, if I were to say that it was my idea to go to the tree lot or my huge amounts of preparation that made the performance happen.  It wasn’t.  I thought to go to a movie.  I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for five weeks.  In the end, it was the divine intercession of the Lord that allowed me to have these two wonderful days.  If it were left up to me, I think my Saturday and Sunday would have been empty and hollow.  Instead they were full of friendship, light, and the Christmas spirit.  How blessed am I?

Without measure.

Sleeeepyyyy

Today, I believe I was obligated to make room for rest.

Perhaps it would have been prudent to do this on Monday, when I woke at 1:30 in the blessed AM with an allergic reaction to I-don’t-know-what that put me out for the rest of the day and part of the next.  I would dearly love to know why my body felt that I must take the day, for certainly I had no wish to and I wasn’t convenient for my work schedule.

And yet, I somehow managed to push on for the rest of the week.  That is, until today, when again my body decided that it would have its way—whether I was amenable to a break or not.  That’s pretty much the state of things when I’m ill.  I stink at self-care, taking the time to pay attention to small signals that are, clearly, lost on me.  Perhaps, there was something to CD’s observation that my health is less than satisfactory, but—by my admission—it would be my own fault.

It’s not been a calm Christmas season.  I’ll admit to the regular frenzy of holiday time—it’s a bit inescapable when you’ve a large, widespread family and set of friends.  But, despite being accustomed to a happy sort of chaos around the holidays, this one has taken the cake for stressful.

I mentioned back in November (quite grumpily, if you’ll recall) that I had two callings (jobs) in my congregation that required me to be very involved in Christmas preparations.  I’ve been busy, entrenched in planning with women in my congregation trying to create an activity that allowed them to feel at home where many of them were far away from family.  I’m glad to report that one week ago, the activity was a success and many girls made sure to tell me they had a wonderful time.  I’m sure I had very little to do with it, except  for providing a wealth of food, as most of my efforts had been towards getting congregates to participate—to make a family-style Christmas that was unique to our group of women.  But I’m grateful to know that those efforts, as well as the efforts of those who volunteered were appreciated.

In every spare moment before and since, I’ve also been working with a valiant young man in the other congregation that shares our building to create a musical Christmas program.  We didn’t know we were to combine congregations until about five weeks before we needed to be ready.  Thankfully, all parties adapted—if a bit clumsily, but certainly with a desire to work towards a finished goal.  We’re to perform tomorrow, hopefully it will go well!

These things have certainly made my Christmas season more stressful, despite the fact that I have done my best to get all my gifting and card delivering done early in the season.  The advantage to having a big family is, and always will be, that you are never far from informed about how much work you must do and can therefore plan accordingly.  With quite enough planning and more than enough preparation, I was able to get all my presents and cards made, wrapped, and sent to the various continents (yes, continents) and cities of the world in which my loving family live.  But, as ever, the home front is where things get messy.

I think this is what was making it so hard, as mentioned on Thursday, to feel the season.  I’ve worked so much to make Christmas, I forgot to take the rest for myself required to feel the spirit of the season and let Christ in.  Thankfully, the Christmas miracle of Thursday opened doors I hadn’t realized I had closed and led the way to the missing Christmas spirit.  But it wasn’t just that: later that night, Mikki and I had scheduled Roommate Christmas and we took the evening to relax.  We pulled out sparking juice, Christmas music, and dinner then talked for I think a good hour and a half.  I haven’t had such a relaxed Christmas in I don’t know when.  The happy chaos of my family is a heart-warming event and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I loved this new kind of Christmas and hope I’ll find a way to include it in my life in the future years.

The peaceful atmosphere of being among loved ones, with the music and food we both love, was restorative.  My heart had been opened to the Christmas season by the appearance of a seemingly small, but ultimately HUGE miracle, and then my roommate helped me really feel it through a calm evening.

Then, just when I thought I had caught on, my body once again made me stop and consider.  My roommate and I took the morning to chat and laugh and watch a movie I had been raving about since seeing it a couple weeks ago.  I took the time to rest, both body and mind.  And now, after all the stresses of the season, I feel that calm that took over our tiny little apartment on Thursday in my heart.  Whatever happens tomorrow, we’ve done our best to bring the light and music of Christmas to all.

And then, at the end of the evening, I’ll take my pack to my parents’ place and spend Christmas weekend with my family.  I’ll feel the love and joyful chaos of a family Christmas, and get a letter from Elder Moose—which is almost as good as having him here in person.  I’ll rest, knowing that there is room for Christ in a peaceful heart.

Dear Santa,

I know, it’s terribly late to be writing a letter.

But the good news is that I don’t need anything this year.  Why, you ask?  Well, I ask you what more could I want?

  • I already got my Christmas miracle yesterday.
  • Giggles and Monkey got engaged.
  • I’ve been living on my own for a year.
  • Elder Moose is safely on his mission.
  • I have a great relationship with my family.
  • I have my health–physically and mentally.
  • My car, despite his age and general raggedy-ness, is in working order.
  • I’ve got a wonderful community at work and at church.

So why am I writing?

Because I need to make some room for you.  Every year, you get shoved to the side as a symbol of the commercialism and death of Christmas and entitlement.  Except, you’re really not.  You symbolize hope and faith and goodness.  You symbolize wishes come true and dreams made.  You enable children to try new things and wish for more than they might dare.

And the man you started off as, Saint Nicholas, well, he was everything we should hope to be at this and every time of year.  You gave freely and without expectation of reward.  You gave with love.  You stood up for your beliefs with passion.  You testified to the divinity of Christ.

Santa is not some symptom of a great problem–you cannot be!  No, our treatment of you is the symptom of the problem.  We have turned you from your faithful and Christ-honoring roots.  We have turned you into a giver of materials rather than a giver of love and hope and dreams.

Today, I am writing to you, Santa, because I want to say: I believe in you.  There is room for you here.

My miracle came early.

😀

My Christmas miracle came early.  And that’s what I’m making room for: the possibility of miracles.

Sometimes, I’m so HUMAN in my expectations.  It has to be now and in front of my face and tangible.  If I can’t see it coming, the miracle can’t exist.  Being human is wonderful and beautiful and full of new and exciting possibilities . . . but it’s limited.  Our understanding is so imperfect, so ridiculously small.  Why, in my right mind, do I insist that the world conforms to my minuscule understanding of the universe it fits into?

I don’t know.

But I’m here to say, definitively, that the universe is BIG.  It’s huge and so far beyond my understanding.  I don’t care if, one day, every miracle is explicable, even re-creatable.  I don’t care if it’s wonderless and a series of equations that will always be too complicated for me to process.  I don’t care if the incomprehensible power of the human intellect is realized tomorrow and the coming end of the world has nothing to do with it’s destruction, but everything to do with a perfect discovery and lack of mystery in the world.

I. DON’T. CARE.

Because they will still be miracles.  And today is still full of them.  Because of that, I finally feel Christmas this season.  I’ve been struggling to capture the wonder and sacrifice and people and forgiveness and stories of the season.  I have been struggling to find Christ in my Christmas for whatever reason.  I don’t know why–though I have suspicions that my stress level has been part of it–I haven’t been able to feel the spirit of this holiday until now.

Then something happened.  Something I never expected.  A miracle came to my life five days before the holiday I JUST COULD NOT make myself understand this year.  It’s a miracle that it happened, it’s a miracle that it came, it’s a miracle that I saw it, it’s a miracle that I got what I needed to be able to feel the magic of the season.

Today, I must make room for the possibility of miracles because I would be intensely ungrateful to the Savior who provides them and the people who enact them on the inspiration of a loving God and His son.  These manifestations of perfect godly and beautifully human love are so real–more so because they are intangible and inexplicable.  I don’t why the timing was such that it happened today instead of the hours of opportunity that were had yesterday.  I don’t know why I had to wait a long month to feel the Christmas season in this way.  But the timing was perfect, as it always is in God’s hands, and the feeling is just as real, late as it is.

Christmas is here!  It made it to my heart and home before it was too late!  It touched one or two hurting hearts and made something joyful out of them.  It was beautiful and new as it is every year.  Christmas, that wonderful beautiful celebration of the babe in Bethlehem, is not just here and not just mine, but everywhere and everyone’s.

And that, in and of itself, is it’s own kind of miracle.

I’ll keep trying.

Today, I am making room for a certain person, and for forgiveness for him.

I don’t talk about him much.  It hurts.  I usually end up crying and fretting.  He was an older brother to me at a time of great need and, while he’s estranged himself from the family, I still think of him as the older brother I never had.  It’s difficult to remember around the holidays and big events of my life that he’s not around.  I try not to remember.  I try to shut him out, to let him live on the fringes of my mind and life until he wants to come back, but sometimes he bursts in, unbidden.  Today was one of those days and a reminder that the hurting doesn’t make him less important.  This is a letter to him.

Dear you–where ever you are,

I miss you.  A lot.

More importantly, I call every six months, unintentionally on a clock-work schedule, because I love you.  I don’t call just to bug you (although, I have considered the ‘annoy him until he responds’ approach–let’s both be glad I decided against it).  I call because I want you to know there are still people out here that love you and care about you and want you to succeed.  Then, I keep my phone next to me and un-silenced for days, hoping that this is the time you’ll call back.  Each time you don’t, I swear I’m going to wait for you to come to us.  I swear I’m going to wait until you’re ready.  But I don’t know if you’ll ever be ready and what a shame it would be if you didn’t know that we’re still here.  And a further shame if you finally were ready and thought we had stopped wanting you around.

After a couple weeks of disappointed hopes, I tell myself you’re still figuring yourself out.  That to call or text would be too much.  I work hard to forgive you for every time you haven’t called or texted back.  I work hard to make sure that I don’t hate you; you know how I feel about being abandoned.  I have to work hard to convince myself you haven’t realized how badly it hurts out here.  I tell myself you’re busy rebuilding relationships more important, and I believe all of it most days.  I hold onto the last day I saw you and you were just there and even happy.  I try to remember you as you were that day, not the absentee brother you are now.

Because, guess what: you are still my big brother.  I have not given up on you and I won’t.  I have faith that someday being my brother will matter to you in a demonstrable way once more.  I refuse to believe of you that it doesn’t matter at all right now.  Someday, I’ll get the response text or call.  It won’t be like it was, not remotely.  Nearly everything will have changed.  Please believe me when I say that what WON’T have changed is how much I love you, how much I look up to you, or how much I think you’re one of the greatest guys in the world.  I know–you’ve made huge, huge, huge mistakes.  With everyone, least of those people being me.  In all reality, I’m just some kid you lived across the hallway from for a short while and helped with some emotional turbulence and a couple school projects.

However, that doesn’t change that in every inch of my heart, you are still my favorite big brother.  The one brother who was equipped to understand me best, despite having been a stranger for so much of my life.  You are still the guy who taught me to hope in a future that could change.  And I still believe in that future for you.

So, for this Christmas, my present to you is much of what it has been every year: I promise to keep trying.  I’ll keep trying to raise you via phone or text.  I’ll keep trying to forgive you when you don’t answer.  I’ll keep trying to hope in a future that’s better.  I’ll keep trying to preserve our sibling-hood.  I’ll keep trying to let you know how much you are loved.  I’ll keep trying to make room for you.  I’ll stop trying to push you out.  I’ll keep trying to understand.

One day, I just know it, this will be better–all of it.

I’ll keep trying to do my part to make this end of it so.

Love,

Sis