So a couple of nights ago when Shaun went to work and Ava was put snuggly to bed, I began my "anti-climax". Instead of sneaking around the house filliing it with surprising decorations to be found by a hard working husband and observant little baby. I began to take it all apart. Christmas was officially "over" and it was time to put it all away till next year. This was a little sad because it marked the end of our very first Christmas as a family.
Still I found joy in one last jaunt through the memories. I particularly LOVE Christmas ornaments. In fact up until he met me, my "minimalist" husband was all for no Christmas tree (or at least a fake one... we did compromise on that point). This was almost a deal breaker for me and honestly I was SO flabbergasted that someone could be so "anti-decorations". We ended up getting into a big discussion about it and I guess he realized how much it meant to me because before we got married, he showed up one night with a little smile and a little box. Inside was the prettiest red glass ornament in the shape of a bell. I realized this was his way of conceding and when I hung it this year I thought of that "comprimise" and how part of love is really about seeking to make the other happy. My little red "wedding bell". I tucked it away in it's little gold box and packed it away thinking of how much my husband loved me.
I touched the glittering balls we'd made as our wedding favors and thought back on that blessed day last January 1st when I walked into my great big reception hall decorated beautifully by so many who loved us and had helped us prepare for our wedding day. We had been so blessed. I thought of all those who had helped me make these favors and hoped that when our friends and family had hung them on their trees this year, they said a prayer for our new family. I wrapped each one in tissue paper and packed them away thinking in wonder how quickly our first year had flown by.
I carefully wrapped up the collectors porcelin "Lenox" ornaments given by my dear friend Amy who had thought they'd be a lovely wedding gift. They were! And as I cautiously placed them in their boxes and put them away, I thought of how generous everyone had been to us to help prepare us for our new lives together. All our needs were met, down to the tiniest details... even down to the Christmas ornaments.
I packed up every ornament given to me by my students over the years and thought of each of those precious children I'd been given to care for ...before I'd been given Ava and how much they'd all taught me during that time. I thought back on how last year one of the parents came and took each of the children from my "last class" aside to handpaint a beautiful ceramic ornament adorned with their name and photograph on the backside and what a wonderful thoughtful gift that had been. One of my favorites ever. I looked at each photograph and thought of all the hundreds of children that had made their way into my heart. Each new year as I would hang their little ornaments on my tree, they would be one year older and wiser and though they may not remember me years from now, I'd never forget them. I packed each one carefully away as I wanted them to last forever. I thought of how I'd loved teaching all those years and was grateful I was now to be finally able to pass the same lessons on to my own daughter. I said a prayer for all my children and their families hoping they were well.
I took down the Santa ornament I'd bought for Shaun last year. There was jolly old St. Nick adorned with his leather belt and tools ready to work hard crafting toys to give joy to so many children, thinking nothing of himself. I had immediately thought of Shaun when I saw it. I thought of him at that moment, working hard in some garage doing back breaking work to provide for our family. I said a prayer that he would be protected and know how much I loved him... then I packed it away.
I packed away the beautiful handblown glass ornament made by my friend Liz who reminded me so much of my younger days spent dreaming and in whimsy trying to experience the world and gather so much of it into my hands before the years passed quickly away. I thought of her and wondered how she was, my dear artist friend who's passion for glass blowing brought her all over the world. I said a prayer for her as I hadn't seen her in years. As I wrapped it very carefully I thought of how quickly time passes and how easy it is to lose touch.
I packed away the ornaments my mother had given to me over the years and thought about how much God was doing now in our family to bring her and I closer through the birth of my daughter. I thought of how often she'd tried to show her love for me in ways that were different than mine and how only now through Ava, I was beginning to see how much she loved me all over again. I thought with happiness of how Ava will love her as she gets older and how she has so much to learn from my mom.
I thought of the year that I had SO wanted a tree, but had no room in my tiny one room studio. My mother knew that it "wasn't Christmas without a tree", so she decorated a little 3' tree with beautiful ornaments and bows on each branch and drove nearly an hour to deliver it to my door. I still have that little tree and used it to decorate our nativity scene. I thought of that gift and how much it had meant to me that year. I looked at each one and how lovely they were made of beautifully crafted scallop shells and other fine materials. They reminded me of my mother. Elegant and beautiful... yet fragile and sometimes easily broken. I'd have to treat them very carefully... and cherish them ...like her. I packed each beautiful ornament away and said a prayer for my mother.
I packed each new ornament away that we'd been given this year. Beautiful "Baby's first Christmas" ornaments given by close friends and Ava's sister, Cheyanne. I packed up the handprint and footprint ornaments I'd made with her and realized that next year her hands and feet would be SO much bigger... they already were! I envisioned what she might look like next year and thought of next Christmas with eagerness... and then I halted and hoped it wouldn't come too soon. I ran my fingers over those little molds and deeply sighed thinking of how blessed we'd been this year. There was no need for gifts for we'd finally been given the greatest one of all.
I packed away each "religious" ornament. Beautiful glass ones and exquisitely crafted. Each one trying hard to echo the story of so long ago yet never to be forgotten. Each one striving to remind me of the babe in the manger. The love of Mary and Joseph. The search of the wise men. The love of a mother. I thought of this story of God's great love for mankind ...and for me. It simply musn't be forgotten like old decorations that we take out once a year and put away in hidden places when our lives continue on. The message of Christmas must somehow find a way into our daily lives and never be forgotten. As I placed the ornaments in their boxes and placed the bins downstairs, I realized that this year's "anti-climax" was in some ways more special than I'd ever expected it to be. It had reminded me of how unconditionally loved I am. It had reminded me of how God is truly in the small hidded "details". It had reminded me of how many blessings I'd recieved not only this year, but throughout the years and how easy it was to trust that there was hope for the years to come.
I was thinking tonight as I sat down of how our lives are filled with seemingly simple events. The kind they write about in plays like "Our Town" or movies like "Steel Magnolias". Simple, yet "life changing" events. Sadnesses, hopes, dreams, laughter and happiness, tears, anger and all that makes up the human condition. Marriages and births. Tragedies and deaths. So simple. So everyday. And yet... this is what God entered into. Our "Story". He chose to "pitch his tent among us" and dwell with us. Even the boring geneology accounts of Jesus' lineage show us that he was born into a family of all kinds of characters... just like us. He was surrounded by love in his family, but experienced poverty and tragedy, rejection, uncertainty, joy, happiness, friendships, promises made in hope, promises broken, temptations, fear, and even death.
He experienced all that we experience and reminds us whenever we are willing to listen that he still lives on in our everyday "simple" lives. He so desires to share our everydays with us! God of all creation, of all the universe, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end that all creation and all the angels and all the saints bow down to adore... comes to us in the hidden "littleness" of our lives and makes himself present there. And he manifests himself to those who are "wise" enough to seek him. "You will seek me and you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart" His story... it's not just a story to remembered once a year and then packed away into a box. It's to be continued and lived in our lives. I think sometimes we silly humans think that we must look for him in something more fantastic, more amazing, more "God-like", but we miss him all together, for this so often is not his way. Instead, he takes our simple lives, our simple human "ordinary-ness" and lifts it up to something so much greater when we don't close the doors of our "Inns" to him and instead open wide and take him into our lives... into our homes. Amazing...
Then I hear a little baby cry... and when I lift her up and look into this child's eyes... standing in my ordinary little house on my ordinary street... I ...in my simple "little" life... can almost see the face of God.