Every year this happens. We celebrate a nice Thanksgiving with family; I think how close to the end of the year we are again, and our neighbors put up their Christmas decorations. About two weeks later I look up and realize Christmas is only 2 weeks away.
I should remember that after Thanksgiving it’s a downhill slide to Christmas. Every year, Emma. Every year. Our house is not decked out for the holidays. No tree. No lights. We look like grinches. When you have a retail store, that’s where the excitement happens: Christmas handmades, classes, cheerful customers, bright and happy children. I’m busy making things to sell and to give. Too suddenly time passes and all this busy-ness will slow.
One thing Robert and I love to do in the days before Christmas is attend the concerts at St. Louis Cathedral. This year we have several such events on our calendar. As long as the temps are not bitter cold and there’s no rain we intend to go. The Luna Fete is another draw for us. Gotta see those lights, just in driving down St. Charles.
And if we have the time and assistance we may be able to retrieve our holiday decorations from the attic. And we may even put them up before Christmas. This may be the year. This may be the year! I’ll keep you posted.
How do you find time to decorate and make?
On Dec. 23rd I left New Orleans around 4pm and entered a driving rainstorm on I-10, just as I got to the Huey Long Bridge. Cars were going about 25 mph because you could not see anything. The blackest clouds I’ve ever seen hovered above. I thought about turning back, but was caught in the line of traffic, so I drove on to I-55 up to Jackson MS to stay overnight with one of my daughters. I planned to go on to Memphis the next day and spend Christmas with my husband. Anyway, after 4.5 hours on the road in the rain and lightning (and I forgot to say I had a psychotic dog with me), I finally arrived at her house around 8:30pm. She had left the door unlocked for me and said she would be there in about an hour or so. I helped the dog, Abbey, from the back seat and grabbed my bag. The front door was indeed unlocked, so I walked through with my dog, dropped my bag on the chair, and let Abbey out into the back yard – after all, it was a long trip. She refused to go out in the rain so I had to force her out and go out with her. Suddenly the wind blew the back door shut. I reached for the doorknob in panic – yes, I was locked out. I am usually quite resourceful in times like these, so I looked for a way over the fence. I can knock on a neighbor’s door and ask them to call my daughter, I thought. No luck. The board fence was too high and I could not get a foothold on the narrow boards. I even dropped a table from the deck over the fence thinking I could drop over and land on the table. Well, I’m also 65 years old and the possibility of my breaking something is real. I had no idea where a gate was. It was on the other side of the yard, in a very dark corner. I fiddled with the gate latch and tried several times to open it. No luck there either. Lights were on in the backyard neighbor’s house. I grabbed a plastic paint lid, climbed on the narrow fence rail and peered over, then threw the lid so it hit the window of the family room in that house. Apparently no one was home because no one came to inspect the noise. Next I found a fire poker on the deck and pried off the screen of a window that looked unlocked. Trying hard as I could, I could not get the window up. I gave in to the fact that I was stuck outside in the rain and lightning with a panic-stricken dog. We hunkered down against the back door, getting soaked and cold. The dog shook with fear. I held her tight. I prayed. I thought. I wished and I cried with frustration. Temperature was dropping. About an hour and a half after I first arrived, my daughter and granddaughter came through the front door. At first they did not understand why I was outside knocking. When they opened the back door and saw Abbey and I wet and sad, they knew. My daughter made me hot tea while I took a comforting warm shower and put on dry clothes. I dried off Abbey and she flopped down on the carpet to sleep off the episode. Another day in the life of a fallible human, I thought.
I’m home in Memphis this Christmas Eve evening. We plan to go to the 11pm service at Saint John’s. While I was stuck outside last night I thought about the Christmas story. No room at the inn. A warm trough. I thought about my life over the past year. Living in two places. Taking a risk. Despite everything, I am grateful. Grateful for hot tea and warm clothes and a warm bed. Grateful for my family, my friends and my life.
What are you most grateful for?
This year seems like it has flown by like a “galloping group of giddy greyhounds” (term borrowed from Anne Lamott). As soon as I’ve become accustomed to writing 2014, in about a week it will be the year 2015. Where does all the time go? My mother once said that time goes faster the older you get (I think I was about 15 years old at the time, and probably whining about waiting for something to happen). She was exactly right. I can only imagine that she had a few regrets in her life. I remember asking her once about the one thing she never did that she wished she had. “I always wanted to be a dancer,” was her answer. The only dancing she ever did (of which I am aware) is that she and my father danced to the Mitch Miller Show dance tunes on Friday nights in the 50s or 60s. Two months have passed since I made the decision to jump off a cliff with no financial net. Things are progressing at the shop. Each day there are new visitors who say they are thrilled that the shop is there, and that they love what we have – fabrics, vintage items, workshops, handmade things. I enjoy meeting each person. And each person has a story. Most of the customers are locals and live nearby. Several older women have come in and we’ve had some great conversations about what I’ve done. And I’ve said to each one that I did not want to be 80 years old and regret that I never took the leap to open the shop I have now, and that is one reason why I made the decision to take the risk. So far so good. I love the location and the physical space of the shop. It is really beautiful. Please keep me and my family in your prayers. Merry Christmas!
And please share the thing that you are most afraid of doing, but you know somewhere deep inside that you really want to because it brings you such joy.
“There is room for all at the manger.” ~ Beth A. Richardson
I ran across this quote this morning in Weavings magazine in an article on holiday grief. There’s something very comforting in the knowledge that every single one of us could crawl up in that manger with the baby Jesus and snuggle against him while his mother and father look on. Accepting. Loving. Soothing. The image of this idea would make a good sermon piece. As a clergy-preacher-type person, I can envision how this might bring comfort to those who mourn, are ill, homebound, or lonely. This image also brings me great comfort. This time of year, I find myself going in circles and trying to keep up with myself. Naps help. I had a three hour nap this afternoon that I believe was a catchup from this past weekend and a marathon of Lessons & Carols and outreach projects and home visits and pastoral conversations and cookie making.
Ministers are not immune to holiday blues. We try to visit those who are ill, homebound or grief-stricken and we come away a mite gloomy ourselves. Not from the visits mind you, because most of those I visit are quite uplifting in spirit! But from the sometimes overwhelming schedules as we keep our personal commitments to serve others. Some clergy say it’s a “time management problem” when others of us get that feeling of exhaustion that creeps up on us this time of year. I say balderdash to that. If ministers are not visiting those who are hungry, homeless, imprisoned, sad, sick or moribund this time of year I say they are not living into their calling.
No, I’m not saying every single one of us, people pleasers that we are, must overwork ourselves to fill some psychosis or unconscious need. What I’m saying is that the job of a minister is a hard life. So after all the baking, the shopping, the visiting and the church services, crawling up into that manger, resting in the feathery comfort of the lamb’s skin, is an image I will keep close. And this time of year, I am relieved to know that the hope of Christ will be born anew in every heart. Including mine.