“Why the heck does it have to be SO HARD?!?!” I wailed to God that Christmas Eve.
Once again, wanting a loving, Christmas Eve family experience, I attempted to force the concrete square through the circular opening and failed. We were all dressed up and driving into town to attend Christmas Eve services. The children were in their early teens by now. I thought surely we can do this! However, my anxiety was at a fever pitch and my tolerance was shot. Five minutes on the way into town, loud arguing was beginning in the back seat and I just couldn’t handle anymore fighting. So, I did what any rational parent would do. I turned the car around, drove myself back home, got out and told my husband to take them to church by himself. How kind of me. And that saint of a man did.
Back inside the house, I poured myself a huge eggnog and put on “Its a Wonderful Life” to distract myself. I fussed at God, “Why would you allow it be so hard if you know I am trying?” All of a sudden a near audible thought ran through my head, “The journey is worth it. I sent my Son into the world knowing He’d be rejected and crucified by man, but sent Him anyway bc His life on Earth mattered. Your journey is worth it too.” I nearly fell off the couch. This jolted my mindset just like George Bailey’s in the movie I was watching.
Ever since that moment I’ve quit expecting things to be easier. I realize it’s not about comfort or lack of conflict. This life is a gift with all the good, bad and ugly. It’s a process. But if God loves me enough to send His Son even though He knew we’d reject and crucify Him, I suppose I can handle some conflict and difficult circumstances myself. Praise the Lord for His infinite goodness where a worn out mama can belly ache to Him and He will answer our prayers- just like He did for George Bailey in the movie “Its a Wonderful Life.”
Christmas Eve was always action packed with high expectations. Somehow, I’d blissfully forget each prior year and repeat the same, self defeating cycle. This ritual was like going to war but forgetting you’re going to lose. It involved dressing four children in holiday finery and attending Christmas Eve church services. It was our family tradition, mandatory, and we’d do it…NO MATTER WHAT.
Early in the afternoon I’d begin the bathing and dressing process with the beautiful, clean clothes, nice shoes and all. Of course, the boys didn’t care and proceeded with their obligatory wrestling (albeit inside the house). By 5:30pm I’d be ready for a nap but still had to forge ahead to get kids in car seats and unintentionally get my Scrooge on. I had no idea I was increasing my own blood pressure, stressing out my poor husband and forcing energetic children to do the near impossible.
Ever since I could remember I promised myself my family would be together, have traditions and celebrate Jesus. It was very important to me that my family be what I wanted so desperately for myself but didn’t have since childhood- a loving, stable, Christian home. That idealized dream met my rambunctious family and we’d be deadlocked year after year.
Nonetheless, one particular year, before the Fire Marshall determined we were cramming our church way over capacity, my family sardined in like everyone else. We stood in the back near the entry of our sanctuary and tried to hear the message and participate. I really wanted to feel peace and engaged in the worship, but HELLO!?! four youngsters standing through a long service isn’t conducive to meditation. Recognizing my young sons weren’t able to take much more, I decided we’d go into the adjacent alter servers’ room so they could move a bit but I could make out what was going on. Well, that idea was met with….”let’s try swinging these long candle snuffers around!” So, I exasperatedly said, “No matter what I do, I’m not going to be able to enjoy this service am I?” One son stopped, glanced my way and said, “Well, you put us in a losing environment.”
Young children are blissfully unencumbered by awkward things we adults have to navigate. They tend to take things head on and react exactly how they feel or, ignore them altogether. There are three such instances that make me smile every time.
The first occurred when we took our children on a cruise. Aside from lots of swimming and games, we also took them to an evening show in the ship’s theatre. It was a show featuring lavishly dressed dancers and music. One son, being approximately 6 years old had never seen sparkly, dancer’s costumes before. When the velvet curtains parted, his eyes got wide, he turned around and blurted out, “Daddy, those women forgot their pants!”
Another surprising moment occurred when my husband took one of our 10 year old sons out for wings on a football Saturday. We were out of town and he took him (here it comes) to Hooters. When they returned, he said where they had gone. I was very curious how our impressionable, sheltered son would react to the scantily clad servers. So, I hesitantly asked while fearing the worst but he said he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE!
Last, but not least, one occurred when our 10 year old went snorkeling with his grandfather in the Caribbean. When rinsing off in outdoor showers, his grandfather told him not react but a nudist couple was walking nearby on the beach. Not only did his face more than give away his feelings on the matter, but he was reportedly more appalled due to their being old……
In 1989, the Replacements released a song with the lyrics, “You be me for a while, and I’ll be you.” Those words got me to ponder what it’d be like to temporarily be someone else? Being Hollywood’s most successful actor sound like a winner? Or how about becoming a gold medaled, Olympic-athlete? Maybe being royal would satisfy a fantastical life experience for some. I’d personally like to experience being Reese Witherspoon for a day due to her accomplishments: actor, author, and producer. She’s got a book tour, she’s beautiful and rich, however, I digress.
Contrarily, what if you were to swap lives with someone of a different gender, religion, or ethnicity? What about being a kid again and letting your kid be the grownup like in the movie “Freaky Friday?” Not quite as enticing is it? But it seems we may need to do just that to entertain being empathetic and potentially budge from our own rigid opinions.
It dawned on me this morning when I was getting ready for work the shirt I put on was a jewel-toned blue. I had scored a silk shirt of a favorite designer with tags on (!) from eBay. Strangely, the seller advertised it as purple. I realized the metaphor in that moment that each person sees things differently.
We each “see” based on our DNA, personal history, value system, and circumstances. Each of our views is limited in scope based on our location, both physically and mentally. It’s one of the reasons there are many referees on the field in college football. There is so much to see that it is impossible to assess from only one viewpoint. Watching games, we think we know what’s happened but after review, the head ref might change the call. It’s because he gets additional input from others on the field (and a camera or two). In that same vein, what if we attempted to understand others by taking in many different viewpoints before coming to our own opinions? Maybe we’d recognize we all want the same things and aren’t so different regardless our ethnicity, political beliefs, gender, or religion? Perhaps there would be less distrust and anger between us? It seems like a possible solution to all the polarization worldwide and even in my own home.
Praise the Lord for laughter. Praise the Lord for those with quick wit. He gave us this underrated tool to survive this crazy existence called life. I have a husband that can make any circumstance a joke. Sometimes it is well received, sometimes, not so much. However, I prefer it to not. For instance, when the children were small, he moved our family 20 minutes out of town to the river. Because all weren’t prolific swimmers, he decided to fence in all water access. There was a fish pond that got a circular fence; the waterfront backyard got divided by chain length fence; and then, the entire lot was enclosed in the same eyesore. Stainless steel fence framed every view. I said to him that it looked like we lived in a penitentiary. He remarked, “But isn’t it a beautiful penitentiary?”
Another example was when my husband (then fiancé) was asked if it concerned him that he was marrying someone who could inherit Alzheimer’s (my mom passed at 59 from it). He just plainly remarked, “Well, I’ll get at least 20 good years out of her.” So dreamy! I’m proud to say he’s still getting his money’s worth at almost 27 years. When I’ve been “poor in spirit” it sure has been nice to lighten the mood. I’m glad God gave me a partner who can do that readily (most of the time.)