Month: November 2014

Maybe It’s HIS Hardest Time of Year

First Christmas Tree

Our first Christmas tree

Last week, due to circumstances beyond my control, I spent my first holiday without any family.

To get ahead of the pain, I sought wisdom from a friend who, due to her work, often spends holidays without hers. Even though she assured me she’s used to it, I could feel the hurt. The yearning for things to be different.

During the holidays, it’s difficult to not feel the loss of a shattered family. Be it death, divorce, or simply logistics, everything seems to point out our brokenness.

For years I ran myself ragged pursuing Hallmark worthy holidays. I stuffed Easter baskets, hung rows and rows of garland, I woke early to baste many a turkey. All the while feeling privileged to have my family intact. Blessed to live in a home that when decorated, could shine. Surely, I convinced myself, God was pleased with the life I’d built.

At the same time, the last thing I ever wanted to think about were the folks waking up the same way I did this Thanksgiving.

Christmas Tree

How our trees evolved

Now, I’m grateful for friends that would never leave me alone on a holiday. That reach out and embrace me like one of their own. Who go out of their way to make sure I fit in. But it’s never the same as your own family.

These past few days, I’ve thought a lot about the popular worship song, Hosanna. How in churches all across the world, we Christians love to raise our hands, and with tears in our eyes sing:

Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

But, I wonder if I’ve ever fully grasped how God would answer such a request. And perhaps this Thanksgiving might just be it.

So, this Christmas, as I remind myself that, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I’ll also consider this:

Maybe, these holidays are the hardest time of the year for Him.

Burdens are Meant to be Shared

He sat across from me in a leather chair. His legal pad balanced on his crossed knee. As I spoke, he took notes. His pencil making that light scratching noise as it scraped across the page.

I’d never been to a therapist before, but I knew I needed one. So there I sat, running down the list of my thirty some years. My father’s death, my teenage pregnancy, my troubled marriage.

When I finally stopped, Tom lifted his pencil, looked at me and said,

“Wow Ellen, that’s a lot. And it’s a good thing you’re here. You’re at that age when the tools you used to survive your childhood no longer work. Now you have a choice. You can cut off the pain, or you can choose to feel it. But I must warn you, if you cut out the bad, you’ll also cut out the good. You can’t cut at one end without cutting at the other. If you don’t feel the bad, you won’t feel the good either.”

Without taking his eyes off me, he paused and let his words settle in.

Super Gift from HeavenI sat silently for several seconds pondering my decision.

All my life, I’d been in pursuit of joy. I relished the simplest pleasures – My children performing in a school play. Overhearing our young daughter read her little brother a book, using the same inflections as me. Seeing my children curled up on either side of their father, watching TV. The hours of laughter at the dinner table.

And what about all those unexpected moments? The ones that catch you off guard, that years later, still send warmth through you.

A chill came over me at the thought of missing those tender moments.

“Well then,” I responded. “I’ll just have to feel the bad because I want it all.”Kelly, Chris, and Daniel

Now, twenty some years later, I better understand my therapists wisdom. I see how easy it is to build walls around our hearts to shield us from the pain of sometimes our own bad decisions. And how that padding can become a large barrier between us and those we love.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the purpose of pain. But I know I must feel it. Not just mine but yours as well. I know intrinsically, it’s the narrow path to a rich life. One that’s lived in spite of its circumstances.

So as we begin this holy season, I encourage you to pick up someone else’s burden. Maybe you need to make a donation, or participate in an act of service. Maybe you need to just spend time with a friend. Whatever it is, I challenge you to hold it, and feel it.

Then when you kneel at the manger, share it with Him. He’ll be glad to help you carry it.


I Knew Him Intimately

DSC00985A few weeks ago, I was putting together a photo collage of my granddaughter Juliette to post on facebook for her fourteenth birthday. As this picture popped up on my screen, I was first drawn to Jules’ image. All our grandchildren loved their Papa’s toys, and it was always a treat when he took them for a motorcycle ride. It was a perfect choice to add to my collection.

But for some reason, I became fixated on the image of Tim. I enlarged the picture and slowly absorbed every inch. I noticed how his thumb was resting on the “start” button. How focused he was on what he’s doing, and not on the photo being taken. And doggone it, there had to be one of those blasted cigarettes dangling from his lips.

The picture made me realize how well I knew every inch of that man. The way he pushed his sunglasses on the top of his head. How that vein in the crease of his elbow always protruded. And all those lines on his face – I could map each one. Then I laughed out loud remembering how much I loved the tiny little white hairs that covered his earlobes.Tim Barbados

On and on I went marveling at how intimately I knew Tim. And how there’s not just emotional or sexual intimacy, but physical intimacy as well. And how grateful I am to have experienced all those levels with him.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me,” the Psalmist says. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place…”

Oh, how many times have I read that without fully grasping its meaning? How easily I brush aside the reality that God does know how many hairs are on my head. How interesting that an ordinary picture of Tim could provide such a vivid image of how well God knows me.

I will never get over the loss of Tim. And maybe I’m not supposed to. For I believe, God did not create us for temporal relationships, but for ones that never end. And in that eternity, we were to know and be known by all. Including our God.


The Love of a Boy and Girl

IMG_3631Last week I feasted at Aunt Jeanne Marie and Uncle Eugene’s dining room table. At eighty-seven, it’s a struggle for them to entertain guests. But they were delighted when I came, bringing two friends along with me. For over an hour we ate great food and drank fine wine. And as we did, the conversation became richer and richer.

Finally, I pushed my chair away from the table and declared, “This is the best.”

“No,” replied Aunt Jeanne Marie, “The love of a boy and a girl, that’s the best.” Then she turned to Uncle Eugene and tenderly tapped him on the shoulder.

The moment froze. For a few seconds, years of photographs flashed in my mind. The young bride and groom. The two of them in their forties, fifties, and sixties. Uncle Eugene so tall and handsome, usually with his arm around his stunning wife.How to get Mojo

Sitting there, I felt honored to have witnessed such a great love story.

And, once again I realized how distorted my view of love is. How too often my heart gets sucked into a Hollywood romance because the couple is young and beautiful. How I’m easily impressed by wealthy celebrities declaring unending love for one another.

But true love sat in front of me last week. And it was quiet and reserved. Deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced. And it didn’t need words. It shined through in the simplest glances. And spoke volumes in the gentle tap of a shoulder.

If we lived in a right side up world, there would be a line outside Aunt Jeanne Marie and Uncle Eugene’s door. People would come from miles in order AJM & Grandfather 1to soak in their wisdom. Talk show hosts would compete to book them on their shows.

And they would be the celebrities of the day. Their faces beaming on the cover of the magazines in the check out line. And our young men and women would clamor to be just like them.

Ahh, what a wonderful world that would be.