Monday, December 28, 2009

And It Came To Pass!

And a very Merry Monday Mourning to you all! It's time for the post-Christmas wrap-up. I actually winced a little as I typed the word "wrap". PLEASE! No more wrapping! This year our Christmas tradition changed quite a bit. I have entered the empty-nest stage of life (almost) with two of three children married and moved out of state. So the unwrapping stage of the holiday now takes 3 days instead of one. I'm not sure I like all this change. I am pretty sure that my not liking it isn't going to make it stop anytime soon so I best just "suck it up" and adjust.
Well in spite of the three-day process and the general exhaustion that comes with it the Payne family managed to all get in the same room at the same time for a little food and a lot of laughter not to mention some serious unwrapping. OK. There was more than a "little" food. We will be eating left-overs for several days. So before I make that mental shift and look forward to the new year and the promise that it holds, it seems appropriate, if not necessary, that I pause to reflect and give thanks.
Thanks for the joy of family - together - healthy and employed - loving and supportive. Family is good (even the gnarly parts) and God surely knew what He was doing when He dreamed up the family. I am thankful for three kids (now 5 due to marriage), one sister and a father-in-law. God has been good to me this week. Even in the midst of changes I'm still not all that happy with (two of three children live out of state and my husband now resides in heaven)I am blessed.
And in this little exercise of expressing gratitude for the blessings I have I think I just might be finding one of the keys to surviving loss. Perhaps it really is important that we give expression to what is "right" in our life at least as often as we stew about what's "wrong". My post-Christmas play-by-play will consist of the joys that I shared this past week instead of what was missing from the holidays. Yes, I missed having my husband with me as the kids opened their gifts. Yes, I missed sharing long-held family traditions now changed due to death and distance. BUT - I had a great time this Christmas and on this Monday Mourning I'm choosing to bask in the glow of "Christmas Present" instead of wishing for "Christmas Past". "Christmas Future" is next week's topic. Are you ready for New Year's resolutions and a fresh start? Yeah, me neither but it's OK. Just like Christmas it will "come to pass" and we will get through it just fine. Especially if we give more thought to the good and to what we have than to the wrong and what we've lost. God has been good to me. How about you?
Well this week we will all be busy - the tree needs to come down and the presents put away. The refrigerator will need to be emptied of all its contraband and more healthy stuff put in its place. But for today - I'm basking and having another sugar cookie! Go ahead. Bask. It will do your heart good. "Whatever is good...think on these things."

See you next year,


Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's Monday and so I've managed to drag myself out of bed after a very busy Sunday of ministry at my church. I'm feeling a bit scattered so I'm doing a quick checklist of the necessary tools to complete the task of talking with you:
Coffee- check. Pink mini laptop- check. Favorite booth at the diner- check, almost. I got here late and someone is sitting in MY booth. I'm sure the one I'm in will still work so after a few gulps of coffee.... here goes.
You'll never guess what happened this week! I was finishing up the last of my shopping- now there's a funny statement. I have decided that there is no point to getting the shopping done "early" because I will continue to think of more things to pick up right up to Christmas eve. So I should really just wait until the last week to get it done. Perhaps then I would spend less. Well, perhaps. Anyways, I was at the checkout counter and the clerk was ringing up my order when she looked up at me and chuckled. It wasn't until I saw her response that I realized that I was singing along with the Christmas music being played in the store ---- OUTLOUD. It was WinterWonderland and I was singing the harmony part and kind of swaying with the music. I stopped.She stopped. Then I laughed and said to the clerk, "Come on you can sing along too, 'walking in a winter wonderland'." She didnt sing but she did at least smile. She also seemed to pick up the pace at the register. So if you're in a hurry today I would recommend you sing- outloud.
The reason this is so amazing, at least to me, is that up until that moment I had been unable to truly enter into the "ho,ho,ho" of Christmas. Grief seemed to still be casting a shadow on the festivities. So when I realized that I was actually singing along and smiling I was quite pleased. I whispered a "thankyou Lord" under my breath and rejoiced that the "grey" was lifting just in time. The kids are coming home this week and I'm in charge of "ho,ho,ho" for the whole family. It's hard to be responsible for something your heart's not in it so I have been rejoicing that God is surely helping me to "get it together" for Christmas.
Isnt that just like Him! God seemed to know just what I needed for Christmas. That makes Him better than Santa. Besides God is always on the job and Santa is a merely a seasonal employee.
The next song played in the store was "I'll have a blue Christmas Without You" so I fled for the car before it did any damage to my newfound jolly. Grief has this way of sneaking up on you. You're fine one minute and the next some sound or smell will jog a memory and you're in tears. At least that's how it is for me. Three years after David's death and I still have those moments. Not as often as at first but it's still an "iffy" thing, especially during the holidays.
So, let's just say I've found my "ho,ho,ho" - well perhaps just "ho,ho". But I've decided to give myself a break. Two out of three 'hos' aint bad. It's two more than I had expected. So today, with God's help, I am wishing everyone I meet a Merry Christmas and singing along whenever I can. I've changed the radio station in the car to the "all Christmas all the time" channel and I'm getting with the 'program'.
How about you? I know it's hard so give yourself a break. Perhaps this year only one "ho" is all you can do. It's OK. God will help us through this season of Christmas and through this season of grief. He's on the job! year round! I remind myself that Christ said that He came to "heal the brokenhearted" and "trade their mourning for joy". I am so glad He came. I would hate to think how hard this would be without Him here to help me. I am celebrating His coming this Christmas. He came... for such a time as this. He came ... for me. (and for you!)
See you next Monday. We'll do the "post Christmas" review and look ahead to better days. Merry Christmas and Ho,Ho,HO! (Look at that! I do believe I may have found that third 'ho'- at least for today. YEAH!)


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tis the Season

Well, here I am at my local diner with my coffee and my free newspaper sitting at my usual table for one. You can find me here most every Monday. The coffee is good and the paper is free. I know that makes me sound a bit like a senior citizen (which I am NOT) but it doesnt worry me enough to make me change my ways. Did I mention, the paper is free!
So I've read the news and downed two cups of coffee; I've read God's Word to get me in the right frame of mind to face the week ahead and I've turned on my lap top to spend some time with you and talk about... well what should we talk about in this, our first Monday Mourning together?
It's Christmas time. Tis the season of HO HO HO and Holly Jolly. I used to love Christmas. I would decorate everything and bake up a storm. I'd sing along with all the carols playing in every store- outloud. But these days I find the music mostly painful and don't seem to have the desire to decorate anything. The cause for this shift in mindset: GRIEF. My husband, David died of cancer 3 years ago after 26 years of marriage. I am now learning to live without my partner which I imagine feels a bit like trying to learn how to walk after losing a leg. It's doable but not preferable. But, like most events of our lives, I was not given a vote. Life happens and loss visits us all eventually. Mine just came a lot sooner than I expected.
Dont get me wrong. I still celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. I whole-heartedly express my gratitude for the birth of Christ. I am glad He was born in our world and in my heart. It's all the other stuff of Christmas that I find so difficult.
Shortly after David's death I went to a grief support group. They were pleasant enough people (as pleasant as grieving people can be at the holidays). The counselor seemed to be competent and compassionate. Then she said something that caused me to never return. I realize that is probably an extreme reaction to an isolated comment but when you're grieving you just dont have the nerves for foolishness. She said to this grief-stricken group, "It's only ONE day. Christmas is just a day and you can get through One day." It took every ounce of self control I had (another thing in short supply when you're grieving) not to jump out of my chair and shout, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? Christmas is not just a day - it's a season. It starts the day after Halloween and lasts until Jan. 1st. You cant go anywhere or turn on your TV without being bombarded by "the season". I could get through a day. It's the season that's getting on my very last nerve!" And speaking of TV - if I have to listen to one more jewelry commercial where the couple fall into each other's arms and pledge they will be together...forever I'm going to SCREAM!
Do you know you cant even pump gas into your car without having to listen to those carols? Have you ever really listened to the words? Not the religous ones - I'm OK with those. It's all those secular "carols" that I find particularly brutal. There's, "I'll have a blue Christmas without You", and "I'll be home for Christmas", and my least favorite, "All I want for Christmas is You."
REally, what were those people thinking when they wrote those songs?
Tis the season! I am so thankful for the Christ of Christmas. He gives meaning and purpose to the season for me. I was reading today that familiar narrative of the first Christmas and I found a passage that has become my favorite scripture during these days. It starts off the story which seems to me to be an appropriate way for us to frame "the season". Luke 2:1 says, "And it came to pass in those days...". Jesus came in those days of oppression and poverty and taxation not to mention no indoor plumbing - and walked right into our mess - to change our mess forever. If it were not for Christ "those days" would never pass. Endless, meaningless days of loss would be all any of us could hope for. But because of Jesus and all the purpose and hope He brings into our world and into my life in particular we can face this "Monday Mourning" with the calm assurance that "it will come to pass." This season of mourning will pass just as surely as the season of HO HO HO will be replaced by a new year. And it came... to pass. Thank you Lord for the hope of brighter days. Perhaps next year I will be able to sing along with the "holly, jolly" crowd. I almost got out a HO HO HO while pumping my gas yesterday. So I will celebrate the reason for the season and look with great expectation for joyful days to come. God is good and I'm OK - most of the time. How are you doing? I'd love to hear from you- especially if, like me, your in the season of grief. Take a deep breath, give yourself a break. If you dont want to decorate or bake or sing along - it's OK. I understand. So does God. That's why He came. Tis the Season.