There are two things which are eternal: Love and the Soul.
If the things we do in this temporal world do not nurture that which is eternal, then we are doing all people a terrible injustice.
There are two things which are eternal: Love and the Soul.
If the things we do in this temporal world do not nurture that which is eternal, then we are doing all people a terrible injustice.
My latest project is recipe scrapbooks into which I am compiling recipes, photos and stories. As I scrolled through my vault of writings in search of holiday themed essays, I came across this one from 2010. I think it was written as a way for me to reconcile my Catholicism with my love for Christmas decorations. My kids, now on the brink of full-blown adulthood, are not as likely anymore to gather around the Advent wreath with me for prayers, or collect stars from the Advent calendar as we count down the days to Christmas Eve. But this narrative reminds me of all the joy that is still present in the season, even as my family scatters like dandelion seeds to fulfill the duties of our days. Happy Advent, everyone.
While the city is alive with Christmas decorations and as families are planning their gifts and activities and preparing their homes, we Catholics are reminded throughout the Advent season that it is not, in fact, Christmas just yet. Sometimes, I attend Mass only to leave feeling guilty for having already put up my Christmas tree. Obviously, I need to work through these feelings.
I love the Christmas season, whether it is celebrated liturgically or secularly. I love it for the lights and decorations, for the magic and mystery. I love the planning and preparing – both in my home and in my heart. I am generally cheery and positive, but let’s face it – I am waaaaay more joyous during December. I find that I smile more, I giggle more, and I am more generous with both my time and my treasure.
Every time I look at my office doorway and see the red stocking peeking in, I am reminded of the season’s magic. I love the signs of the season, and I want to display them as early as possible because I love the feeling that I have during the holidays.
I know the season is not all about presents, shopping and Santa. I know it is about celebrating the birth of Christ. I love the liturgical significance of Advent in that it tells us to “prepare.” I want my children to feel the Christmas spirit all year long, because the reason for Christmas is with us all year long. I also want them to understand the liturgical significance, so we have an Advent calendar and an Advent wreath. We say daily prayers during Advent, and we do our best to prepare room in our hearts and home for the Christ Child. Advent is a time to recollect and ready ourselves for Christ. I always thought that meant I had to chill on Christmas until December 24 and allow Advent in as a time to rest and wait. But that’s virtually impossible for me to do. I want Christmas, like all. the. time.
To me personally, Advent is about anticipation, not delaying. Preparing, not waiting. We should be busy now – preparation is not a passive thing. May each Advent – whether busy or restful – lead our hearts to the perfect Christmas.
I was cleaning up my laptop files today and found this letter I had completely forgotten that I wrote back in 2015. I do not recall if I ever sent it, nor do I think I could even retrace my steps to find the person for whom it was originally written. But when I read it today, it struck a chord, as I’m sure the writings of the young girl for whom it was intended originally struck me. I still feel the sentiments expressed here quite powerfully, so they belong in this forum. I hope it helps somebody.
Hi there. Let me introduce myself by saying that I am a mom. I sing horribly, embarrass my kids with unbridled car-dancing, and say cliché things like, ‘I am old enough to be your mother,’ mostly because I am. I have two teenagers, and one has turned me on to the Gorillaz. So there I was, surfing around for the backstory on the characters so I could know more about why this real band had these interesting cartoon images, when I stumbled upon your blog. And for the life of me, I cannot get your personal comments out of my head. So, that is essentially why I’m writing to you…because I’ve read your blog, comments others have made and comments you have made back in reply. And they touched me.
Let me also say that I do not make a habit of getting in the business of other people’s families. I have never suffered from anxiety or depression or gender fluidity, so I am puzzled by my own need to reach out to you, for I know I have little to offer you in the way of support. Except that I am a Christian. I hope that confession does not instantly conjure negative images or emotions for you, because I believe that as a Christian it is my mission to love. And with that in mind, I want to give you hope.
I want to tell you that your life has value, that you ARE important and dignified and worthy of love beyond measure. I want to tell you to never, ever, ever give up on who you are, because you are an inspiration to people and can be even more of one if you just allow yourself the time and space to grow. What you have done with your blog, in my opinion, is given people a chance to let their thoughts be heard without judgment or repercussion. You have allowed people to be free to express themselves in a way that we stuffy adults don’t seem to understand.
Honestly, we do understand it. I think sometimes we’re so jealous of youth that we would rather hold it in oppression than let it blossom into something new and beautiful. I, for instance, still feel 25, newly initiated into adulthood, swinging the world on a string. I look in the mirror and that is not a vibrant 25-year old staring back at me. It’s a little unsettling sometimes. 😉
YOU are strong and brave and amazing for your honesty and strength of spirit. And I know that not every day is sunshine and roses, but I want you to recognize the days or even the moments that are, and believe that in your future those days and moments will become more numerous than they are now.
I am not the sort that goes around spewing scripture at people, and I am certainly not going to preach to you. In fact, the only people I want to hit over the head with a Bible are the ones who are using it to spread hate. But I heard a verse today and it made me think of you, so I want to share it, in the hope that it will give you some peace:
“Everyone will sit under their own vine, and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid…” (Now, why that is not grammatically correct is beyond me and it drives me crazy, but I digress.)
That made me think of you because I think that sitting under our own vine means we are each different, living our own ways of life, enjoying the customs and lifestyles that fit each of us. The part that I hope you find comfort in is the second part: ‘and no one will make them afraid.’
Some day, some day we will get it. Some day we will stop trying to change people because we disagree with them. Some day we will stop trying to control others because we want them to be just like us. Some day there will be no reason to worry or fear. That day, I know, has not yet come. But as long as you breathe you have hope within you. I will pray that sustains you in the hard times. Please, please remember that even when you think this party we call life is not worth the cover charge, there is a middle-aged lady in Louisiana who thinks you’re pretty cool.
Peace for your beautiful soul,
After two deliberate and self-imposed years of permit driving, my first-born, my only son, Aaron, took his driving test on Saturday, and passed, just as we all hoped and assured him he would. And for as much encouragement as I gave him, I had two solid nights of tumultuous driving nightmares. Oh, how I have prayed since then to Jesus, Mary, St. Michael and St. Christopher, that he be guarded by angels on these streets of Shreveport, that Jesus truly take the wheel and steer our son safely each day from and to our little home on the south side of town.
Aaron and I had plans to go to the DMV this morning – first rattle out of the box, as they say. We ran a tad late because, well, I had to dig for the documents I should have retrieved yesterday. We only ran ten minutes late picking up my nephew and driving Aaron’s (and Victoria’s – see, I didn’t forget you, baby girl!) week-old new-to-us car to school, where Aaron parked a hundred empty spaces away from civilization so that we could walk together into the school office for the last form we needed for the sacred DMV: the school enrollment verification. Twenty minutes later, we checked that off the list and headed to the “faster” DMV in Bossier.
Bear in mind, I could barely recall where this branch of the DMV was located. I grew up in Bossier, but I have been remiss in visiting (as my husband frequently reminds me) for the past two decades. After side-seat driving Aaron down the interstate (sorry for the claw marks in your dashboard, love!) we arrived at the hallowed DMV, where I am now certain they made a grand and most important announcement mere moments before our entry:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for this inconvenience, but the State of Louisiana is updating the camera systems of the Department of Motor Vehicles state-wide. Our expected wait for those of you renewing or receiving your driver’s licenses is an hour and a half.”
It was over an hour and a half before they made a new/repeat announcement of the same caliber, only this time adding that the original time frame had now passed, and they had no idea how long it would take. By this point, we had been sitting for an hour, and the four-month old baby that was flirting from the seat next to me was almost cute enough to make up for it. Had we known of this delay going in… oh, who am I kidding? Aaron had been dreaming of this day for weeks, if not months (I’m sure I’ll never get him to admit to either). Was there any way in all of heaven that I would have looked him in the eye and said, “Sorry, sweetie. We’ll come back another time.” Yeahhhhh. Not this momma.
And so we sat.
I worried about the work time I was missing, two months into whatever probationary period I am still on at my new job. I kept looking at my son, who was fiddling with his phone, but who would look up and smile at me with that “I’m about to get the coolest adult item ever” look on his face. So we continued to wait.
Eventually, our stomachs were in a competition to see whose could growl the loudest, so we opted to leave for lunch and return in a few minutes. I double checked with the lady who had taken our application for the license, just to be sure our leaving would not jeopardize our place in line for the camera. She assured me it would not.
So we headed out to the parking lot, where I had directed Aaron to park a tad closer to the door than he did at the school, and we climbed in and drove off in search of food. It was at the first stop sign out of the parking lot that Aaron noticed the note on his windshield. “Mom,” he said, “there’s something on my windshield.”
“Throw the car in park, baby; I’ll grab it.” I jumped out, certain my SuperMom cape would catch the wind and signal to everyone that I had this completely under control. My fist thought was a ticket, but then I knew we had been in a legitimate parking spot, so my second and prevailing thought was “church flyer.” Sadly, it was neither.
It was, instead, a note and an insurance card. The note said that it was from the owner of the truck which was originally parked beside us. He had hit our car as he was backing out, and was incredibly sorry. Here was his phone number and his insurance card. Please call him.
Holy. Crap. This. Isn’t. Happening.
Aaron and I both got out to examine the damage. It’s truly not awful – despite a long and ragged dent, the back door still opens, as does the gas tank. But, OMG, he’s had this car a week! A WEEK!! He gets to drive it to school for the first time TOMORROW. And it’s already damaged. It’s kind of like opening your most asked-for toy at Christmas and finding out that it’s missing a wheel or the remote control. The fun sort of…fizzles.
We drove haphazardly through the old Swan Lake neighborhood to Cane’s on Airline Drive, mostly because I could not remember my freaking way around this end of town, and also because we were just a tad thrown off our game. I did recognize street signs, and knew that they were streets on which many of my high school friends had grown up. I thought of those people again, but it wasn’t like the last time I drove through this neighborhood. Today, it was shrouded in suck. I thought about how I wanted so badly to drive in high school, and of the people who rode in my car once I got my wheels – how happy I was and how much fun we had. I missed them momentarily, but my mind shot back to my son, who needed direction and encouragement to not let this get him down. I wasn’t very good at either for a while. He ate – I felt like hurling, so I abstained from lunch – and then we headed back to the DMV, this time with me behind the wheel so that I could get us back quickly without having to think two steps ahead out loud about where we were and what lane we needed to be in.
Twenty minutes after arriving back at the DMV, it appeared the camera was back online. But our customer service person was at lunch, and our application was stuck in a pile on her desk. “God, grant me patience,” I started to pray, and then quickly stopped. Have you ever noticed that when you pray for patience, things seem to move much slower? “I’m on to you, Lord!” I thought. “Okay, please just give me peace. Patience is a little far out of my reach now. Peace will do just fine.”
And He did. Just like that. DMV Lady showed up, called our name second from her stack, and Aaron was smiling for the camera in no time. I so desperately wanted to do what the mom in front of me did, and take an iPhone pic of my son getting his driver’s license photo taken, but I refrained. Someday he may thank me for that. Maybe not. Maybe this is why I’m not a photographer. I write to keep the memories. I just need someone to read them to me when I’m old and drooling in my jello, please.
Aaron drove me home under the authority of his brand new license. We spent a couple of minutes sun-gazing at the eclipse from our driveway, and then I went to work, having given Aaron permission to miss the last hour of the school day. True, I typically don’t allow my children to miss even the last day of school because it is a literal school day according to the calendar (yes, I’m that mom) but I figured he had pretty much been through the ringer, as I had, and so I relented just this once. Truthfully, this was also likely because I was glad to know he was home safe and I didn’t have to worry about him flying solo until tomorrow. I drove myself to work and realized that I had changed purses and left my desk keys in the other purse. At home. Phone call to Aaron: “Sweetie, can you bring my keys to me?”… “Hey, Carey, what’s our office address?”… “Aaron, can you get here safely? The address is…” He did get there safely. I gave him directions out of our parking lot, and then stood on the front porch of the bank and watched him leave. I felt like a stalker. He saw me. I waved, shrugged that mom’s-gotta-do-what-a-mom’s-gotta-do shrug, said a prayer, watched him make the left-hand turn across two lanes of traffic to get onto the main street, and I walked back inside. And then I GPS-tracked him all the way home.
I also called the guy who hit Aaron’s car at the DMV. He was kind enough to have already set up a claim under his own liability – those wheels are rolling more smoothly than I ever expected. I was very grateful to this man for the note he left. Just two weeks ago, I was instructing Aaron that if he ever hit a car whose driver was not available, he was to leave his name and contact information on the other car. “You don’t ever walk away from damage you cause,” I told him. I am ever so thankful to this man for showing my son the example he is to follow. These are the lessons we learn. This is what you do. This is how you act. And, as I confessed to a coworker as I almost cried in her doorway this afternoon, this is such a first world problem; I feel guilty for letting it get me down so.
Victoria called me after school to see if I wanted anything from Starbucks. “Are y’all going by yourselves?” I asked.
“Of course!” came her reply. “Aaron’s got his license; I told him to take me somewhere!”
Starbucks had been on our practice track enough that I didn’t worry so much on that one. I know my son needs those moments of independence, even though I want to hold his hand through each of them. It really wouldn’t be fair to him if I did. My mind flashed back to my high school days, tearing down Benton Road in my ’79 Buick Regal, wheels burning and spirt free.
I arrived home still in a funk tonight. Dom suggested I pour a glass of wine and take a bubble bath. “I don’t feel like a bath,” I said. I wasn’t sure what I felt like. Headbanging until my neck hurt? At this age, that would take about two beats.
“Okay,” he said, “I’m going to weed-eat.”
“Want me to mow?” I asked. Next thing I knew, I was on the mower, sailing through the backyard with 80’s pop and metal tunes blowing out my earbuds. I found Metallica’s One and added it to the playlist, seeing in my mind the boys from the band as they sat in front of the jukebox and headbanged every Friday night at Johnny’s Pizza on Benton Road. I thought of each of them, and of how they all came to my defense on the night I backed my car into another student’s car in the parking lot at Johnny’s. He (yes, he) wanted to physically fight me right there on restaurant property, but the guys got between me and him and basically said he’d have to go through them if he wanted to hurt me. My car and I both survived that night.
Thirty years later, that memory is still solid in my mind. Me… 17 years old with a license and a car, the future stretched out endlessly before me. And then I thought, for a moment, one of the final lines from one of my favorite books, “Ahhh…the wheel comes full circle…”
My favorite inspirational author is Max Lucado. I have a shelf full of “Max books” and I have read them each multiple times. His writings somehow resonate with me at the intersection of who I am and who I should be. Often, his words remind me of truths my heart has always known, even if my thoughts have obscured them.
I have in my office a flip-calendar called Grace for the Moment, Volume II which contains snippets from his various books . If you ever see my little flip-book, you will notice that it is permanently displaying October 31. I have not yet read Max’s book Traveling Light, but the excerpt from it which is the meditation for that day spoke loudly to me several years ago when I first flipped to it.
It speaks even more loudly today.
No person lives one day more or less than God intends.
‘All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.’ (Psalm 139:16)
…We speak of a short life, but compared to eternity, who has a long one? A person’s days on earth may appear as a drop in the ocean. Yours and mine may seem like a thimbleful. But compared to the Pacific of eternity, even the years of Methuselah filled no more than a glass…
In God’s plan every life is long enough and every death is timely.
Peace to all who mourn.
While at my local grocery store this weekend Dom and I stopped by the manager’s window to purchase some stamps for our Christmas cards. As I swiped my card in payment, the kind grey-haired woman behind the glass asked if we were ready for Christmas.
“Whew!” I groaned. “I hope so.”
Dom chimed in behind me, asking the lady if she was ready for Christmas.
“I’m always ready!” she beamed. Suddenly, my exasperated I hope so sounded shallow and disconnected. “I’m spending it with my mom,” she continued. “People keep asking if we’re going to have a lot of presents, and I say no. We’ll be together and that’s what really matters.”
This little lady in the manager’s booth taught me something I should have known my whole life, or at least been cognizant of for the last three weeks. Doesn’t Advent give us the opportunity to be grateful, to await in joyful anticipation the celebration of God’s love for us that is Christ’s birth? Instead of thinking about the rush of Christmas cards and tentative meal plans for Christmas Day, shouldn’t I instead be thinking during the whole year of how amazing it is that God loved us enough to become one of us, and – even more – gave us each other on which to practice love?
That sweet lady reminded my heart of its values and rekindled within me a gratitude for the true spirit of Christmas. Walking out of Brookshire’s, I felt like Bill Murray at the end of Scrooged where he’s wild-haired and giddy, exclaiming, “I get it now! I believe it’s gonna happen now! I’m ready!!”
May we always be ready for Christmas!
Where elections are concerned, I used to have a hard and fast rule: I would not vote for ANYONE who bashed his or her opponent in campaign advertisements. It didn’t matter what I thought about the issues or the candidates. If a candidate couldn’t spend his or her energy telling me how good a job he or she was planning to do, and instead focused on telling me how bad a job his or her opponent was going to do, then I deemed that the candidate was not of the character that deserved my vote, and I discarded him immediately.
And then came the day that my own rule left me no one to vote for. Not a single candidate stood without a stone in his hand.
So I didn’t vote that year.
And I regretted it. Not immediately, and not as a direct result of the winners’ actions. I regretted it eventually through an understanding – and an acceptance – of our political process.
Newsflash: there are no perfect politicians.
Closer-to-home newsflash: there are no perfect people. I should really stop looking for them and expecting them to run for office.
It is human nature, when attacked, to fight back. Rare is the person who can turn the other cheek. Even more rare the person who can turn the other cheek and still win an election. But I believe that any response should be an answer to the original accusation, not an attempt to deflect attention to an entirely separate issue. As an example:
Accusation: “My opponent voted 9 times out of 10 to kill puppies.”
Unacceptable Response: “My opponent says I voted to kill puppies. What he didn’t tell you is that he voted to open strip clubs in every school district in the state. If you care about your children, you’ll vote for me.”
Preferred Response: “What my opponent has stated about me is false. My record shows that I voted consistently against the killing of puppies. If I am elected to serve you fine people, I will continue to vote against puppy-cide and work to implement a puppy protection agency where people can anonymously report incidents of puppy abuse.”
I mean really, is that so hard???
I wanted so badly to just abstain from voting again this year. Fuming one recent morning over my perceived lack of quality candidates, I stopped dead in my tracks as I entered my office building. This poster greeted me and gave me cause to re-think my position on the whole political mess.
I do hold a prejudice against politicians in general. I assume kickbacks and special-interests and pockets lined with thirty pieces of silver. But prejudices are unfair. They are stereotypes. And they don’t serve to make me or my community any better. What will make my community better? My active participation in the process.
So, despite the fact that there was not a single campaign advertisement on my television that did not slander and defile political opponents, I voted this morning. I put all the negativity out of my mind, and I voted for the people whom I hope are not inherently opposed to my core values.
It was the best I could do.
Once upon a time, we had daily Mass at the office where I work. I must admit, I had my streaks – those runs of several weeks on end where I made each daily Mass and was a better person for it. I also had my absent streaks – those days where my morning routine prevented me from making it to the office on time until eventually, as we got heavy into the home building, my absence from the 8 a.m. Mass became nearly permanent. There were three things I absolutely adored about going to Mass at work: First, the morning sun streamed in through the east-facing windows in the most glorious – almost blinding – fashion (that is, when the shades weren’t disappointingly drawn). Second, our Bishop’s homilies are the perfect blend of humor and inspiration. And third, I loved seeing the people who came to Mass at our little in-home chapel. We had just a handful of “regulars” whose presence you could count on as much as the priest’s. One of those regulars was Mr. Cassiere.
Pushing 90 years young, Mr. Cassiere drove his small, old pickup truck to the Catholic Center every day. He sat at the back half of the chapel, right-hand side, second pew, aisle end. I sat directly in front of him. (It’s funny how in just about any church setting, large or small, we tend to claim a permanent spot.) Most mornings he was already seated by the time I walked in, meditating from his small, worn prayer book. He had two or three rubber bands which secured the book closed when appropriate and served double-duty as pamphlet holders. His pamphlets, prayer cards and tokens would be spread on the pew beside him, together with his tweed beret. He wore a coordinating tweed sport coat whether it was nine degrees or ninety outside.
I entered the chapel one day and knelt to pray just before feeling a small tap on my shoulder. I turned around and Mr. Cassiere was leaning over the pew, holding a card out to me. “I want you to have this,” he said. It was a prayer entitled “The Cross in My Pocket,” typed on white cardstock and laminated. A few days later he tapped me again, and gave me a prayer booklet on the Divine Mercy. He showered me and others around us with prayer cards every chance he got. One day, after a lengthy conversation in which he showed me a photo of his family and learned about my two rug rats, he gave me a Prayer for Children and told me the best thing I could do as a parent was pray for them. I believed that already, but hearing it from this dear old man whose children were already grown put it into a new perspective for me.
Mr. Cassiere was one of our Greatest Generation, a veteran of World War II. He shared some stories with me one day after Mass and I couldn’t wait to tell Dom all about him that evening. I imagined my own grandfather’s experience in the same war. And I was sure to tell Mr. Cassiere how much I appreciated his service. He said he was just grateful for the opportunity to serve his country.
One Friday morning he held out a yellow and white pamphlet to me and asked me if I wanted to pray the Way of the Cross with him. It sounded like a lovely idea, and we both opened our pamphlets as we moved across the chapel to the first station. He told me that the version of prayers and recitations in this pamphlet he gave me was his favorite, and that it had been replaced with an updated version so that he could not get duplicates of this exact one any longer. “You’ve got the last one. Use it well,” he said. I realized that he ordered all these pamphlets from a Catholic organization – regularly and at his own cost – just to give them all away to those of us on his path. We proceeded with the prayers, taking turns to recite the prayers for each of the fourteen stations as we moved around the chapel. And each Friday following that day, if we were both in Mass, we would pray the Way of the Cross together. Fridays were my Starbucks run days, and sometimes I would pick up the coffee extra early or wait until after Mass to fetch the coffee, just so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to pray with him.
We would chat often after Mass, usually about prayers, blessings, and his ministry as a Eucharistic Minister. He would talk to me about his wife, how she had been gone a few years already, and how he missed her so. At the end of every conversation, he would place his hand on my head and recite a blessing: “May the Lord our God, Creator of the universe and Master of all time and eternity, bless you and keep you now and forever. Amen.” I would smile, thank him, and say, “See you tomorrow!” to which he would reply, “If it’s the good Lord’s will to wake me up in the morning, I’ll be here. But, if He calls this old man home, well…” His eyes would gleam and he’d shrug his hunched shoulders as a wide grin spread across his face.
As a Eucharistic Minister, Mr. Cassiere took on the added responsibility of distributing Communion to Catholics at a local nursing home. We talked about this at length, and I told him that I was debating doing the same thing in my own parish. It didn’t really seem like something I’d be good at, and I was nervous about the idea, but I felt drawn to it just the same. Mr. Cassiere assured me that I would do just fine and offered to take me with him on one of his nursing home trips so I could see what it was like. We never got that opportunity, as winter set in and we saw less and less of him at morning Mass. When I commented on his absence, he said, “Some days the cold just keeps these old bones in bed until later in the day.” So began the tapering off of his attendance at the 8:00 Mass. Still, when the opportunity came for me to join a team of Eucharistic Ministers at my church who take communion to the nearest nursing home, I jumped on it, fueled by the inspiration of this sweet man’s generous spirit.
Mr. Cassiere passed away on Wednesday. I learned through his obituary that he was a lifelong educator, and through the sentiments expressed online by fellow mourners that he was a source of gentle guidance and inspiration to many in our community. Though I had never considered or asked his profession, it made perfect sense when I pictured him in the role of some of my favorite teachers. I spoke with our receptionist, Linda, about his passing and she said, “You know, it’s sad, because he was such a good man. But he missed his wife so much, you just can’t help but be happy for him.”
I am writing this on the day of his funeral. The sky is overcast, the threat of rain in the air. But I know that just above those clouds, the sun shines as brightly as it did through our chapel windows, and Mr. Cassiere is home.
Note: I have a habit of writing miles and miles of blog posts that never get published. And then every time I upgrade my computer (or run a two-year backup, or change which hard drive is my primary storage) one of my most offensive habits is dumping the entire contents of “My Documents” into a date-labeled folder to be stored on a backup drive until I can find time to organize it – time which never seems to come. Until now…
I spent most of Sunday morning cleaning out those old electronic folders and stumbled upon what I call “the vault” – the folders where my writings (the good and the bad) have ended up. I had fun browsing through the old memories (some as ancient as 2006) and gagged a little over the idiocy of some posts that weren’t worth writing, much less keeping for years on end. At any rate, several potential posts rose to the top. Those that offered the slightest hint of inspiration were moved to the newest hard drive where I will dust them off one by one and make them presentable.
My most favorite memory of my dad is an odd one…I was 15 years old and had disobeyed him and gotten caught red-handed. We stood in the kitchen and discussed why the rule was as it was, why I had disobeyed, and what my punishment was to be. It was an excruciating conversation, because more than anything I hated to disappoint people. I was ashamed of myself, both for breaking a rule and for getting caught. Wounded pride is more effective than a wounded butt. My daddy was my hero, and my hero told me something that blew my mind. In the middle of deciding the punishment, my dad said to me, “I don’t really know what to do either. I have never been the father of a 15-year old girl before.” I couldn’t argue that point, but I pondered it for years. For as long as I had known him, he had the answer to everything. He knew everything. He was the fixer of broken things. How could he say to me that he didn’t know what to do?!!! Most people would consider an admission such as this to be a sign of weakness. But it took incredible strength to say this to me, and I knew it immediately. I had grown up watching him assist stranded people, call attention to a clerk giving him too much change, and help absolutely anyone who asked. He minces no words, plays no political games, and bends the rules for no one. His saying that one sentence to me on that Sunday night in our kitchen reinforced everything I knew about him and everything I would come to think of him in the future. For so very long in my mind he was Superman. But he showed me in that one instant that he was not Superman, wasn’t perfect, didn’t always have the answers. And that was okay, because it meant that as I became an adult, I didn’t always have to have the answers either. That night, Daddy and I decided together what my punishment would be. It was an easy sentence, but had more lesson in it than anything I had experienced to that point, or since. He showed me that more important than having the answer is understanding each other, and finding the answer together.
We may not have the mistletoe,
We may not have the bows.
We may not have icicle lights
That set our house aglow.
We may not have the candy canes,
Nor wreaths upon the door.
But we have an expectation
That is valued so much more.
For while our home is void of tinsel
And boughs of red and green
We look instead for reassurance
Of that which is unseen.
We recall a tiny stable
With animals and hay
And a lonely, rough-hewn trough
In which our infant Savior lay.
He had no fancy garland,
No fireplace alight,
No Christmas bells or carols
On that single starry night.
He came to be a gift for us,
To make each day like new,
And to remind me
That I’m to be
As much a gift to you.
So without the pretty ribbons
We enter into prayer
That this season in our hearts and minds
Will guide us through the year,
To look upon our neighbors
With humility and love
And share the gifts that we’ve received
From our dear Lord above.