Unfiltered Christmas

The eagerness mounted last year as I watched people all over the world bring Christmas to their hearths in golden creams and woodsy sparkle. I couldn’t wait to capture all I had learned about decorating into my first Christmas in a new home.

After Thanksgiving, I sat amidst the Walmart bags and bubblewrap wrapped around my ornaments and nativity set. My collection of childhood ornaments and hand-me-down castaways stared at me, as my vision for coco-bombs and neutral threads met . . . . what I had to work with. How could I make any theme out of mismatched snowmen, a painting of a cardinal, and ornaments chipped from my childhood? My taste in style had changed with the trends, but my decor bin hadn’t.

The feeling of unmet expectation peaked when we pulled out our sparse four-foot tree. What perched cozy and perfect in our apartment, now the most Charlie Brown tree that ever Charlie Browned.

We stood it on a table to keep it from being swallowed in our new space. “It looks like it’s trying to be something it’s not,” my husband pointed out, and then we burst into long laughter. So I made the best of our Christmasy mess and enjoyed it all December.

But I made mental notes for next year.

First, truth be told, I found a much grander tree, and today I decked the thrifted 7.5-footer with strands of red beads. It fills the room with announcement of light and honor brought to our humble ornament-shaped memories.

Secondly, remembering my decorating despair of 2020, I’m choosing to admire the lovely Christmas-card moments on “the ‘Gram,” but also pray a guard of contentment for myself. May I rejoice in my gifts of my own home and my Savior.

Material beauty will never be enough. The best of earth will never meet the deepest longing of our brokenness. We long, like pining Bethlehem, for our Mighty God to do great things for us. And He has.

I see it in the shiny gold letters that spell out the names of Christ, draping our tree. Prince of Peace. Emmanuel. Savior. Mighty God. Wonderful Counselor.

I see it in my little elfish helper, who will fully enjoy his first Christmas if cardboard boxes and people are involved.

I see it in how our Charlie Brown tree from the apartment days (now gracing the back room) reminds me unmet expectations are a mercy because they can set our eyes on God’s wondrous light. Each seasonal disappointment, shattered ornament, or sickness gives another reason to joyfully worship a perfect God who meets all our true needs.

I wish you an unfiltered, real Christmas where real truths, like “veiled in flesh the Godhead see . . . born to give them second birth” are the brightest theme of this season.

“Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
  Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold Him come,
  Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
  Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
  Jesus our Immanuel.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
  Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
  Ris’n with healing in His wings:
Mild He lays His glory by,
  Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
  Born to give them second birth.”
“Hark the Harold Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley

The Blues of January

“Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on,” sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over, the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked.

“I wish it was Christmas or New Year’s all the time. Wouldn’t it be fun?” answered Jo, yawning dismally.

Little Women, Louisia May Alcott

Here’s to the foggy Mondays after break. In the case of Little Women, Amy searches for her homework, and Meg bemoans her shabby dress but, next, points out the little munchkins she takes care of won’t notice what she wears anyways. Jo must go back to the fearsome Aunt March. Beth has a headache.

Sound familiar?

Longing for luxury, the four sisters wish life could always be parties, bouquets, resting, and reading.

I don’t blame them. I would add coffee and writing, then we’re set.

I remember last January. I carried the plight of my busy schedule, daydreaming about all I would do if only I just had more time at home. It was easy to compare myself with others who had better success with, what I chalked up to be, more flexibility. If I had the same schedule, then surely my creativity could fully unleash. My house would be clean. Scores of books would be ingested, parties could be planned down to details, such as the colors of the straws.

Then, what do you know? I kind of got my wish! For the first time ever, in an event completely unforeseen, I had the chance to set up a home office, with ample time in the spring evenings to do whatsoever I pleased.

It was much like the March sisters’ experiment in chapter eleven. Faced with another vacation, the girls resolved to give into their thirst for a complete break from work of any kind.

Sounds delightful. Wouldn’t not working be the antidote to their January blues described above, plagued by headaches and homework?

As the story goes, Jo read so much she grew fidgety and quarreled with her best friend. Amy found “when her sisters left her to amuse and care for herself, she soon found accomplished and important little self a great burden.” Meg’s sewing projects go awry, and Beth’s bird dies.

They admit their experiment was a failed one, and Marmee replied with her advice, “Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.”

What strikes me about the two scenes (the morning after Christmas vacation and the first few days of complete vacation) is that neither one makes anyone happy. I know the whiplash of this, too. Take my work-from-home experiment for example. While I’m tempted to complain when I have to rush out the door on a Monday morning, I’m just as likely to waste an opportunity for productivity on a free day, longing for the structure I recently loathed.

Contentment is not sourced in our moment’s activity or schedule, is it?

Let’s aim to be like Paul when he penned:

Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-12

I’m about to shift lifestyles in a big way, leaving the office for stay-at-home mom life. I hope I can soak in all the good and the discipline of my current office life, but also know that all the answers to my wishlist won’t be found in more time at home. I desire to be like Paul, to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in. Whether it’s headaches like Beth’s, or shabby dresses like Meg’s, in abundance of a sunny afternoon, or suffering from lack of sleep, packed work sessions or too much leisure time, I hope I will do all things through Him who strengthens me.

PC: Kevin Fitzgerald, Bogus Basin, Boise, Idaho

7 Book Reviews // Plot Twist Tuesday

We’re a quarter of the way through 2020?! Are you revisiting your new year’s resolution to “read more this year” with all the extra time we’ve been given? Same here.

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” (Mason Cooley)

Speaking of having to stay where we are, this weekend I color-coded my bookshelf and reminisced about the days when my décor signs “Gather” and “Let’s Have a Grand Adventure” were applicable.

Anyway, if you’re scouting for some new reading material, you’re welcome to browse my 7 book reviews of 2020 thus far (and also 7 blog posts I enjoyed). They aren’t hot-off-the-press titles, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts because I think book or article discussions are almost as exhilarating as springtime.

Continue reading “7 Book Reviews // Plot Twist Tuesday”

Valentine Dinner Theater (Your Creativity Welcome!)

A normal winter morning. I was probably supposed to be sweeping the kitchen floor or doing my math at the table, but I paused when a flash of red caught the corner of my eye.

Posted on our family fridge was a fancy invitation:

Continue reading “Valentine Dinner Theater (Your Creativity Welcome!)”