Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting Real this Christmas

Let me take you on a visual journey for a moment.  Picture in your mind a beautiful woman.  She's not too thick, not too thin.  Her hair is long and full (color of your choice) with waves that are so effortlessly whipped around by the wind.  Her skin is flawless--a complexion smooth as marble; her features are perfectly set apart and placed.   Lips and cheeks a rosy hue.  Lashes long and dark.  She's just gorgeous and you can't take your eyes off of her.  Now...imagine that same image but tweak it just a bit...she pregnant, VERY pregnant.  You can only tell it in her belly as it is quite full and round, but it takes nothing away from her beauty.  If anything, it actually adds to it, as if she were the perfect picture of the Greek goddess of fertility...and beauty.

That, my friends, is not me.  It never has been.  It never will be.  Somedays it gets me VERY down, and yet on others, I somehow, by the grace of God, can look in the mirror and she beauty.  But mostly I feel miserable.  Frumpy.  Bland.  Swollen.  Just blah.  And truthfully, I think all expectant mothers get to that point at SOME point in their pregnancy(s).  Even Little Miss Gorgeous as described above.  It can be easy for us to look at others in the same proverbial boat and think how good pregnancy looks on them, not seeing any of that in ourselves.  Because the truth is...childbearing is hard on us.  On the inside.  On the outside.  Every ounce of our humanness is burdened by this growing child inside us.  Though a miracle it is, it is one HEAVY miracle to carry around for 9 months.

But as I was sitting looking at my swollen self in photos today, feeling all pitiful and disgusting, I realized something: the first Christmas was found Mary feeling probably the very same way.  And it brought me back to reality on several levels.

Mary was surely blessed to be called to the mother of our Savior, but she was human and brought Jesus into this world in the same way every other human woman has (minus the aid of OBs, midwives, painkillers, c-sections, waterbirths or other more "modern" introductions).  Even if she had not just traveled a long distance on foot and donkey, she had to have been exhausted, burdened, and uncomfortable.  Her labor and delivery of our Lord was full of pain.  THAT was the first Christmas.  And my how it grounds me.

I like the red and green of the season as much as the next person.  The carols and bells, trees and wreaths, all make my heart smile.  I revel in sitting in a living room fully decorated with the only light being that that comes from the fireplace and the twinkle of the tree lights.  USUALLY, I do.  This year, I just wasn't feeling it as much.  I wasn't a Scrooge, but I just wasn't getting into the mood of the season the way I normally do.  And then you add on top of it the self-pitying feelings I have just described and wasn't having a very Merry Christmas at all.  Rather, I think I am having a "Mary" Christmas.

She said yes to God.  She said, "Let it be done to me according to thy will."  She knew what was going on and who that child in her whom was.  She was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  BUT...her engagement was jeopardized.  People were probably talking--oh! the scandal!  But it worked out.  Her faith sustained her.  And then this census is called and she must travel so far with Joseph and with the baby due anyday!  Her body was already so tired.  When they finally arrive after their long journey, there is NO place to stay!  *And here is where I must add that traveling the same distance by cushy comfy car to arrive and find that every sanitary hotel is booked solid and I must stay in a roach-motel with a baby coming...that ALONE would set me off...*  A stable is all they can find and her labor has started!  No midwife or mother or even any other woman to help her through this--no one but Joseph, and God bless him, he's a man during a time when men were NOT around or involved in the delivery of babies at all--it was WOMAN'S business strictly!  But finally, the baby arrives and she can find that sudden burst of joy-filled energy that comes over brand-new mothers.  Yet as she is trying to take it all in, to revel in the moment...here comes a sight...a group of shepherds?!  Um...okay.  What an evening! 

My point: she had tremendous faith in God.  She knew He was in charge and that His hand was guiding all the events taking place around her; yet she herself--not actually being God--couldn't have known what would happen from moment to moment.  She simply had to rely on that faith of hers to see her through those moments and say, "Lead me."  No matter how odd or bizarre, burdened or painful those varying moments were.  She just had to have faith that this was all happening as part of God's greater plan for her and ultimately her Son.

It took me up until the Eve of Christmas Eve to realize this but perhaps for the first time in a long time, I am really experiencing--whole-heartedly--what Christmas is truly about.  Knowing that through life's burdens and pains, Christ came and with Him the offer of eternal joy. 

I'm still not thrilled about how I look or feel now, but knowing that over 2000 years ago, the mother of our Savior felt the same way (at least in my mind) and that time she lived in and the things she had to endure were much worse, well...it gives me comfort.  It helps me to see through some of the uglier moments in life and instead see the beauty.  In the season.  In our homes.  In each other.  And even in ourselves.

Merry Christmas my friends!  May you find the beauty of faith in Christ this Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Done with Giving a Damn?

I am tired.  I am heading to bed shortly after I post this.  There's the problem right there.  Being tired and cranky often makes things seem worse than they are, but I can't help how I am feeling right now and so, I write...

I am tired of giving a damn.  More specifically, I am tired of giving a damn about people who don't seem to give the same level of concern about me.

I am often left wondering with many of my friends, "if I didn't ask, would you offer?"  If I didn't ask for help, would you offer?  If I didn't ask for your shoulder to cry on, would you offer?  If I didn't ask for advice, would you offer?  If I didn't ask you to call me, would you offer?  If I didn't ask to be included, would you offer?  I could go on with more examples, but I think my point is clear.

 It's hard to sit back and feel as though we don't matter to people.  In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that it is probably a number one reason behind alot of suicides, although we'll never know because we can't ask the dead questions.  And PLEASE--do not interpret my bringing up of the subject of suicide as a threat!  They are NOT one in the same...read on...

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting at a little restaurant in Bamberg, Germany with a group of ladies--friends--from church.  We were fare-welling a member of our small group and engaging in a hundred different little conversations, when somehow the entire table got latched on to the same topic--the news of a recent suicided of an Army wife in the nearby town of Schweinfurt.  Now before I go any further, please know that I do not know the victim--her name, her husband, his rank, his unit, their hometowns, NOTHING, so if you are reading this and DO happen to know more specifics behind this "case" just know that I did not and do not know anymore than what I am writing here, and I prefer it stay that way.  We all expressed our sympathies, concerns, etc. when one amongst us says rather boldly, "How can a person be so selfish!  She had a husband and kids and to take her own life...  She HAD to be selfish!"  I didn't say a word in response.  I couldn't.  Because words were not want I wanted to "do."  Lunging across the table and slapping her up-side the face was more along the lines of how I really wanted to react to her verbal response.

Selfish?  That is all she could say?!  Now, I know many people have different takes on suicide.  Fine.  We are all entitled to our opinions.  So here's my opinion: there are 2 types of suicide; they differ only in how the person gets to that point, unfortunately the end result is the same.  The first type is what I would classify as the, well, selfish type.  A person gets caught with their pants down--whether literally or figuratively--and they take their own life so as to avoid the embarrassment or burden that being "found out" would bring them.  We see this played out in Hollywood scripts quite often.  The politician who is about to be caught in the middle of a scandal.  The charity head who is caught embezzling millions from a good cause.  The "average Joe" who about to be found out by the cops as a horrible criminal and refuses to be taken in alive.  I believe those are selfish reasons yes.  I believe the Bible is referring to these as sinful.  I also believe that they account for a very SMALL percentage of the total suicides committed in our society.  BECAUSE...the second type is the majority.  They are not selfish suicides.  They are committed by people who have fallen into such deep mental illness, be it depression or some other form, that they really are no longer the person the world knew and the pain they felt was so unbearable they could no longer carry on.  In the end, they felt SO alone--no, they felt so  LONELY--that they fell into a vicious cycle that ended tragically.

So what really bothered me when that lady said that the deceased was selfish, was that truthfully, I have been LONELY and I have been DEPRESSED...it is a HORRIBLE feeling to have to endure.  I am thankful to God multiple times over that He "threw me the rope" necessary to get out of that cycle.  That "rope" was usually a person--friend or family--who called me up, visited me, sent me a card to let me know I mattered.  Something so small to them, literally meant the world to me.  And I was no where NEAR suicidal; just think about the difference it could have/would have made if I had been?

Maybe that is why I try to go out of my way to let me know I appreciate them.  Could I do better?  Absolutely, I have much room for improvement.  But 99% of the time, when someone pops into my mind, unless I am COMPLETELY unable to, I pick up the phone, jot a note, or swing by their home.  I take a bit of my time to let them know I care.

So it hurts when I feel like I don't get the same thing back.  I'll get by.  I'll suck it up and move on.  But sometimes I want to scream and just be rude as hell and say the first thing that pops into my mind: "Glad you can spend all your time with so-and-so," "I see on FB you've been in touch with so-and-so lately," "Thanks for inviting so-and-so shopping with you everytime you and not me!"  Again...you get my point. 

We've all been there.  Feeling left out.  Feeling second-best.  Feeling like we just don't matter and wondering what on earth we've done that is so "wrong."  So do me a couple of favors: if I (or anyone else) pops into your mind, let them know that AND...if you promise someone you'll do so, keep that promise because you never know when that may be the one promise they need fulfilled more than anything.

I'm off to bed now.  I feel a tad better.  Thanks for listening to my ranting and raving...