Holidays: I Don’t Think It Means What We Think It Means

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I don’t really enjoy the holidays that much anymore. I’ve identified 2 main reasons:

1.)  It’s been 5 years since we’ve spent either Thanksgiving or Christmas with any family other than our kids. My kids are growing up with even LESS memories of their grandparents than I did. That hurts deep. And -every- holiday is just a reminder of this year-long fact.

2.) The more I think and observe just what really, truly gets celebrated at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the less I want anything to do with any of it. Thanksgiving has become mostly about gluttony and shopping. Admit it. You are, right now, thinking about what you want to eat next Thursday, or your travel plans to be with family. And Christmas… please. “Christ, the Savior is born” is about the -last- thing it’s about for Americans these days.

Think of all those things that mean “Christmas” to you. At best, you might say “Christmas Eve service candle-lighting” or “Midnight Mass” or “Seeing the Living Nativity”. Scary honest: -I- thought of presents, the tree, carols, cookies, decorations, and Christmas lights ALL before I thought of a poor, traveling couple trying to find a warm, private place for the wife to give birth in. Before I thought about a HOST of angels shocking some shepherds on a mountainside with news that never happened before and never will be repeated. Before I thought about God humbling himself into human, fleshly form – trusting Himself to young, fallible, human parents to be under their authority, patiently waiting 30 years until it was the right time to start preaching for 3 years for people to believe in and follow him… all to die a seemingly pointless death on a cross.

Thank God, ONLY seemingly. BUT… I thought about presents and “sweeties” before I remembered that. And that disturbs me. I feel conditioned to desire something other than Jesus by these holidays. They don’t promote contentment. They promote the opposite. If you don’t have the conventional celebration for either, it means feeling like a forgotten lesser-than. How many of you, if you don’t have turkey, or pumpkin pie or watch football on Thanksgiving or aren’t with family and have presents under a tree this Christmas will feel sad? Like the holiday is pointless?

I know I would. And I HATE that. Because if a holiday celebration is one WORTH celebrating, it’s worth it regardless of our personal circumstances. What could be more pointless than giving lip service to the eternal (if even that), while putting all our hopes for the holidays in the temporary. I’ve spent years doing that, only to end up depressed on the other side, come January.

The pilgrims celebrated a thanksgiving feast because through a lot of BAD decisions and horrible circumstances, a lot of their people had DIED. A. Lot. They were grateful not to be dropping like flies that year, and felt they had God to thank. Most Americans can be grateful for that, too. Even at a homeless shelter Thanksgiving meal, or just eating some fast food on the 28th rather than having nothing, you aren’t starving. President George Washington wanted us, as a nation, at the request of the legislature, to spend a day thanking God for His special mercy, provision and favor on our nation. It had nothing to do with turkey, football, shopping or even being with family. And it’s ALSO something we can be grateful for every day. (Because despite our nation-wide efforts to dismiss our dependence on God, He has still been merciful and gracious to the USA – for HIS Name’s sake, not ours, I have to think.)

Mary and Joseph were separated from their dearest family on Christmas! She gave birth in a freaking stable surrounded by the presence and smell of animal crap and urine. They were so poor than had nothing but some strips of cloth to wrap their newborn in. But unto HUMANITY, that day, an eternal Savior was born. Ancient prophecy finally “came to pass”. And the fulfillment of God’s promise to personally save not ONLY His chosen people, but ALSO the gentiles, was REAL. That is something we can be grateful every day of our lives, regardless of how much the rest of our lives go to crap.

So I find myself constantly re-evaluating what I’m passing on to my kids. Questioning my own heart’s desires. It’s painful. It’s hard. It’s completely counter to what almost my entire nation is gearing up for. A part of me wants to give up and just go with the flow. But more desperately, I want to pass something true and lasting on to my kids, even if I have to put aside the “fun” stuff so that the REAL can have it’s place.

Even if most -Christians- think it’s unnecessary and I’m “ruining” the holidays for my kids.

Because Thanksgiving is becoming just the day before Black Friday. And Christmas is the day we get our gifts that were bought on Black Friday. Forget Lucy’s pulling of the football every year from Charlie Brown. Our nation practices a more massive bait and switch each holiday season.

My Just Desserts

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Before my husband left for work, he had to wake me up because one of our kids was trying to steal ice cream, AGAIN. This whole past week featured regular thefts of ice cream, cookies, graham crackers, etc, usually obviously stolen by my not-clever-enough-to-hide-his-tracks 5 year old son.

This time, there was a chair pushed up against the fridge, and an entire tub of ice cream was missing from the freezer, but not in the trash. I found it, partially melted, with spoon still inside, behind our dishwasher (It’s a portable – not fixed under a counter). Someone got caught in the act by their daddy, but I couldn’t find enough evidence to convict a particular child. The thief’s need for a chair means not our oldest, and the baby is automatically out, so that leaves the two middle kids. Both of which acted sound asleep and had no tell-tale smears of ice cream on their hands or faces.

So, baby gates are back in force in our house: One blocking off the kitchen, and another blocking off the mudroom where the the ice cream is now hidden in the big freezer. *SIGH* And I’m wondering how the heck my kids got to this point.

What bugs me most is that my children lie to me. A lot. And they steal/take things they shouldn’t in our house, A LOT. I don’t really care about the ice cream. I care about my kids’ character. And right now… it’s not looking so hot, and I’m not feeling so successful as a mom.

I feel like it’s my fault, my parenting failure leading to their bad character. Or, more accurately put, like I am getting another taste of what I was like as a child. Because I lied a lot as a kid. And I stole a lot as a kid. I would even lie for no reason sometimes. The food, I stole that either simply because I wanted it, or because I was seeking comfort the only way I knew how back then.

Which makes me even more concerned about this. Are my kids following in my footsteps emotionally? I REALLY don’t want that. Much as I deeply love my parents, my childhood wasn’t one whose pattern I would recommend to anyone.

And how am I responding? What am I focusing on – as in, what are my kids taking away as a lesson learned from how I’ve responded? Are they learning that I’m concerned about ice cream being stolen? Or that I’m concerned about their character, because I love them?

Right now, I think it’s the first one. And it’s my fault. Not theirs.

What is “Scary Honest”?

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Ever since I was a kid, I can remember 2 key things about myself:

  • Of my being drawn to taboo and controversial subjects.
  • And of feeling an intense desire to hide myself and live unseen.

I’ve always been an odd mix of usually opposite personality traits. My passions and convictions are as such as demand that I put myself “out there”, in order to be an advocate, a defender, an activist. But I don’t really enjoy being the center of attention. Even at my own wedding, I felt a little embarrassed by all the attention. If a cause is a good enough cause, I put myself forward, but otherwise, I very much prefer to be just a member of the crowd.

I always tried to be honest in the past. Anyone who has ever known me knows that I’ve pretty much always worn my heart on my sleeve. But I still had my little areas of conversation I avoided. Topics I would allude to have personal knowledge in, while never going into detail.

But something in me has recently changed. Over about the last year, I’ve taken to using the term “scary honest” to describe myself. Because that is what has changed. I’ve become honest about the scary stuff. And not just with God, or my husband. They are stuck with me, after all. *smile*

I made the intentional decision to start sharing the scary parts of me with women I felt I could trust. I don’t mean trivial stuff (by comparison) like how much I weigh, losing my temper with the kids, or the fact that I almost never get my bed made until it’s time to sleep in it again.

I shared deep things. The stuff that comes back to haunt people when they get famous. The dark thoughts, the hidden actions that make a person feel like they are alone even in a crowd, and no one could ever love them if they -really- knew them. Not just what I thought would scare others, but the stuff that scared me about myself.

But something beautiful happened. My risks paid off. The women I chose to be scary honest with were scary honest with me, and together, we found freedom. Freedom from fear, rejection, derision, hate. We gained mutual strength. And we didn’t feel so alone. Those women I chose to trust… they were just like me.

This new knowledge has been reverberating in my soul ever since. And a new desire has been birthed in me. The desire to see other women (and men) FREED from what scares them, too.

I now have the desire to be scary honest. And finally, I feel like the crazy mix that is me – the bold, no-holds-barred me, AND the sensitive, introverted me – makes sense. My confusion has forged my cause.