Saturday, December 13, 2014

When Christmas Hurts

It's embarrassing to think how long I've waited since I last blogged.  I blame it on the slobbery, teething, crawling, munchkin (or munch-quito, as Jeff likes to call her - a combination between "burrito" and "munchkin".  Yes he's weird.  And yes, I admit I love it when he calls her that) that has invaded our house and our lives since February.  I think that's a good enough reason as any to take a break from writing.  That and I'd rather play peek-a-boo, or sleep in my spare time…or wash bottles…or change diapers…or chop up bananas into really tiny pieces....but I'm not complaining at all.  What an amazing year this has been.  The most challenging time in my life, becoming a mom.  And now a working mom.  But I couldn't be more thankful for this beautiful, sweet, wonderful child - and the family of 3 (plus 2 dogs & 1 cat) that we have become.

So, that's a brief way to say:  It's been a while, blog.  I consider this post to be cheating a little bit.  Today I'm sharing a poem I wrote for our Advent Shadows worship service at church last week.  This particular worship is for people who struggle this time of year.  For those who have lost loved ones, or are in the midst of major life transitions, or who just generally have a hard time smiling when the rest of the town is hustling and bustling.  I love this worship, not because people are hurting, but because it gives those who hurt a safe place to share that pain.  To me, it's what the Gospel is all about:  Not ignoring our pain with painted smiles and a "too-busy" attitude.  Nope.  It's about recognizing, honoring, and allowing ourselves to really feel our pain.  To take 30 minutes for one evening this whole season and say to God:  "you know what, this sucks."  And realize that God's answer to that is:  "I know it does, and I love you."  When we can be honest with ourselves and with our faith community about our struggles and hardships, then perhaps that is the first piece in the long healing process.

When I was putting together this worship service, I sat down and wrote - what I guess could be called a poem?  I'm no poet, but here's my best attempt.  And somehow, the words flowed from the depths of my spirit, especially when I thought about the people I love who really are having a hard time being happy this season.

A word of explanation if you find yourself wondering about the first part.  A few weeks ago, I was holding Abbey in front of the mantel so she could see our stockings.  She reached out to the dog's stocking and grabbed the bells.  It was precious.  And I must have turned away for a split second before I stepped back, because as I did, I didn't realize that she was still hanging on to those bells….that were attached to the stocking…that was hanging on the mantel from a metal snowflake stocking hanger.  And that metal snowflake stocking hanger fell.  Right on my foot.  And it hurt.  Really, really bad.  So that silly, ordinary story is the inspiration for a poem that, I hope, can speak some words of comfort to many of us this time of year.

“When Christmas Hurts”
She reached out.
I stepped forward.
Her tiny hand clenched
White-knuckle-tight to the bells of the stocking.

She held on.
I stepped back.
The pointy, blue snowflake fell
From atop the mantel
It fell
Much heavier than real snow.
And it did not melt as it hit my foot.

That tiny space where the metatarsal bone meets the big toe
The snowflake landed.
Like a rock.
A pointy rock.
The point of the snowflake.

How could something so lovely
Be the source of intense
Amounts of pain?
How could a moment so innocent
Cause me to cry out
And bite my tongue
So that I did not say the words I really wanted to say.
Or perhaps I did –
(Give thanks that she doesn’t yet know what I’m saying.)

In this moment
I realized
That sometimes
And Christmas

How, you ask?
How can something so lovely
Be the source of intense amounts
Of pain?
How could moments so beautiful
Cause us to cry out
In longing

It can.
And it does.
We cannot
And should not
Ignore it
When Christmas

When Christmas
When we shed more tears
Than we force smiles,
God cries too.
When we would rather
Listen to sad songs
Or angry heavy-metal music
(Depending on your mood)
God will not care if
We just can’t
“Joy to the World.”
In fact, God will sit down
Right next to us
And listen to the music
That speaks to our heart
At that time
In that moment
When Christmas

When Christmas
Because we have lost
Someone we always wondered how
We could ever live without.
And it hurts to sit
Around a table
When that empty chair
Speaks louder
Than the conversation of our loved ones
About the news
Or sports
Or what is waiting for them
Under the tree.
When it hurts
This bad
God takes the broken pieces
Of our hearts
And holds them together
In those Holy Hands
Of Peace.
As long as we need
To be held.
And God
Does not let go
Until we can sing
"Joy to the World"
And mean it again,
Until we can smile
Without pretending we mean it.

When Christmas
Because the world
Is still broken,
And People still struggle,
Children starve,
And Animals abused,
And Justice forgotten.
When Christmas
Because we
Are searching
For something
A friend.
Hurts, too.
And God
Reminds us
That it is okay
To hurt
At Christmastime.
God longs
To hear the prayers
Of our hearts.
That is why
Jesus was born
At all.

So when the snowflake
If it doesn’t melt
But hurts
Know this:
And God
For you.
God listens
To the prayers
Of your heart.
Especially when
It feels as though
No one is listening
At all.

It is okay
To hurt
At Christmastime.
When moments that are supposed
To be beautiful
God longs
For our hearts.
That we can say
To God
Everything we need
To say
We can be
Whatever we need
To be.
Especially when
Christmas hurts.
God is there.

That is why
Jesus was born

At all.

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