I’ve learned, or relearned some things this week.
For years, I‘ve hated Christmas. I’ve begged Cary to run away and go somewhere and skip Christmas. Why? Because I fail at it. I am domestically challenged in most every way. You know how there are people who just can’t get math? Well, that is how I am with cooking, and cleaning, and thinking through what needs to be done to create a nice atmosphere & I find it overwhelming. Last year, I decided it was time to deal with those emotions. It meant letting go of many expectations I’ve put on myself of what Christmas should be and what I should be. In the church, it’s worse. Not only do we pressure ourselves to get the “right” gifts for our kids, but then we have to make sure we don’t spend too much, so as to look excessive, and we MUST create a birthday party for Jesus, because HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. Believe me, this only creates another level of Hell for women like me, it’s just another way to fail.
In all reality, I’ve spent years comparing myself to other people who cook healthy, delicious meals, and then (get this) THEY CLEAN UP IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEY EAT THE MEAL! When you visit their house they apologize because their house looks like mine does after I clean for two hours. So, after all this comparison, remarkably I have failed to be them! I am not my mother, my grandmother, my mother in law, my best friends, or the PTO moms. (Oh, I cringe to think about what the PTO moms say about me. Once one of them asked what needed to happen for me to come to a meeting. Here’s the answer, there is nothing you can do to get me to a meeting. I’m on kid number three, I’m over putting that pressure on myself. I can come up with great ideas for you to do at school, I am never going to put forth the energy to implement them, so I’ve quit even trying to pretend, and I’m okay with that.). I do, however, so appreciate the PTO moms. I am in awe of them, how their minds work, their ablility to stay focused and serve in such beautiful ways. I want to be like them, I’m just not. In this comparison game I became so good at, I never spent time looking at my strengths, only the weaknesses compared to others’ giftings. I had to learned to forgive myself for not being my more domestically gifted friends. That allowed me to accept myself, my strengths and weaknesses. Forgiving myself for being me has allowed me to celebrate who I am created to be, the parts of me that are good and unique, to celebrate the way God crafted me. It has also allowed me to appreciate other people’s gifting without jealousy or feeling intermidated. It has allowed me to be in a place of peace. I also believe it has allowed me to be more available to God to be used for his plan for my life, not someone else’s.
I’m doing a Bible study, Loving Like Jesus in a World that Hurts and Hates. It is an inductive study, so you use the Bible to understand the Bible. The idea is that you aren’t led by a person. This isn’t totally accurate, since the writer chooses the scriptures you read to interpret, and then tells you if what you think is right or not, however I like the concept and I’ve enjoyed the study. So this group has spent weeks studying 1 Cor 13, the Love chapter. Here we learned love is not provoked, it does not take into account wrongs suffered. Between this, and other experiences the past year, I am learning the discipline to giving up my right to be offended. The fruit of this behavior is peace, and moving forward in life instead of getting stuck in anger and bitterness, but it is a choice. This week I have not been choosing well.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve this year. My shopping was done on Amazon from Houston, (except one gift, a drone, purchased at Tj Maxx, after studying every drone in the store to find the best one for my kid, not too complicated, not too easy, with a rechargeable battery, so I’m not running to buy batteries every two days. This, of course, is the gift he chose to open early, which broke on the first flight). I’ve cooked pulled pork BBQ in the crock pot, my daughter is mad at me because I’ve confiscated her phone, and NOTHING, I mean nothing, about this Christmas is about Christ. This Christmas is about insurance, and doctors, and packing to be gone for 6 weeks. I haven’t read a single Old Testament prophecy, not a gospel story, nothing. And it’s becoming about what I have not cooked, and what I have not cleaned, and the broken drone, and I am at the end of myself. And then God recalibrate me.
You know the recalibrate button on a scale? You use it when your scale isn’t accurate, when it isn’t telling you the real story. You have to reset the scale, the measuring device of the truth, otherwise, you’re just lying to yourself. Sometimes, this feels good, because the number makes you feel better about yourself. Sometimes, it makes you feel worse about yourself, but in all reality, it’s wrong and you’re believing a lie. I came to Christmas looking at the wrong measuring device. My mood for the last week has been determined by insurance companies. That’s not true, my mood/peace has been determined by what I thought my insurance company, employer, my doctors might do to make proton therapy happen. It was not focused on Christ being a lord of all.
As I pondered how to bring this Christmas back to truth, tears in my eyes, voice cracking, I asked a question I didn’t know the answer to.
“Why do we give each other gifts?”
My kids know the answer, but they are hesitant to answer because mom is crying, and mom doesn’t cry often. With timidity in their voices: “Because God gave us Jesus and he’s the greatest gift?” “Because the wise men gave Jesus gifts?”
And the one of those moments happened, when you speak and it is not you speaking, it came out something like this: “This has been a hard year. This is a hard Christmas, but this is not about us. We are celebrating Christ. We are celebrating that God is good and he loves us and gives good gifts. It’s not about what we get or even what we give. This isn’t about us. It’s about Jesus. This cancer isn’t about us. It’s about God and that He is Good, and he is going to do amazing things through this. This is not about us, so if that isn’t your attitude, you need to change it.”
This isn’t about insurance or what they are or are not going to pay for. This is about trust. I have no idea if the phone calls I’ve made, the emails my friends have sent, the tweets people have tweeted will make any difference. But what I do know, that I didn’t appreciate before, is that I have a lot of people who love me. God has had his hand on me since I was a young child, before I was born according Psalms. He has surrounded me with family and his Church, and they are lifting my up when I am down. That is one of his many gifts in my life. I have no reason to believe that God won’t carry me through this season because he has never let me down, even when I didn’t understand at the time. He’s not going to start now. I needed to recalibrate. I needed to repent for allowing the struggle with insurance to trump my trust in him. I allowed the insurance stuff to consume my thoughts, my waking up and laying down. I allowed it to become an idol in my life, so good to know that and LET IT GO!
Repentance is another great gift. We make it a bad word… we add shame to it. Repentance is realizing you are wrong and turning toward what is right. You know the feeling when you are utterly lost and you recognize a landmark that helps you get your bearings? I got lost in Santiago, the beautiful winding streets turned into a maze of confusion of shops and cafés and wrong turns for three hours. I was so relieved when I saw the cathedral and could use that to get my bearings and find the courtyard outside my hotel. These landmarks allow a quick turnaround and get us headed in the right direction. That’s what repentance is like, the sweet relief of turning from being lost, from being wrong, to head in a good and safe direction. Deliverance!
I wonder, Lord, where do you want to recalibrate me today? Do it! On earth as it is in a Heaven! Amen and amen!