It’s The Wednesday Writers!
No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.
Today we hear from my friend Lisa Brittain. (Post written in December 2017).
Welcome to Our Real
I didn’t feel like decorating the house for Christmas. In fact, without all the exterior cues – store shelves stocked with Christmas, houses lit up, and city light poles decked in festive notifications – I would have barely noticed the season was upon me. It was the sudden recognition I would soon be on Thanksgiving vacation, which squarely slapped me into reality. Christmas is almost here and it would happen with or without me.
The weekend after Thanksgiving I began dutifully pulling boxes up out of the basement. It was simply time management. Do it now or don’t do it at all. Along the way, I opened each tote to peek at the contents. My intent was to look for the bare essentials. “There’s nothing wrong with a minimalist Christmas,” I continually assured myself. My husband agreed, “Just enough so no one thinks we’re ‘skipping Christmas” – a reference to one of our favorite holiday movies, Christmas With The Kranks.
Please don’t leave… This isn’t an indictment of Christmas or the American way. It’s not a judgment on those who are enjoying a festive season. Please don’t feel or receive any condemnation for your choice to love Santa and display the Nativity.
The peeking led to digging through and pulling up thirty years of Christmas memories. Our walk down memory lane felt like an extension of Thanksgiving. Both my husband and I benefitted from the activity. Each uncovered item testified to the wealth we possess in family relationships, the full variety of life seasons and rich experiences of our past.
Though I had not the enthusiasm for producing a traditional Hallmark kind of Christmas around our house, I also had no intention of pretending Christmas was a figment of everyone’s imagination. My heart yearned for the celebration of The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The tug of war was and still is, real and intense. I wonder, in a Charlie Brown kind of way, is this really all there is – commercialism, Pinterest worthy presentations and perfect pictures posted on social media, even giving to every conceivable cause known to man?
I would love to feel festive right about now. It would be a relief to my soul to feel a sudden urge to don a pair of Christmas socks and gaudy Christmas sweater as official garb for baking Christmas cookies for our entire neighborhood. Perhaps if I could feel the giddy joy of doing the stuff, it would signify a much-desired change of life seasons – out of the desert and into a lush meadow.
For this moment in time though, it would be fake. In fact, our precious neighbor saw me outside putting red and white and gold shiny ornaments on our Dogwood tree. Passing by she mentioned, “You must be feeling festive.” I looked her straight in the eye, this one whose husband passed away in March just the day before my mother in law walked into Jesus’ welcoming arms, and responded truthfully, “No, I’m truly not.” I saw relief flood her countenance as she confessed her lack of desire to set up her Christmas tree, which sat in a box in the living room.
Often, my heart screams out to the Lord, and sometimes to my husband, “I don’t know how to do this! I’ve never lived here before. Help me…”
I don’t understand Parkinson’s Disease. And guess what, medical professionals don’t really understand it either. We never saw it coming. Too young, my man, to be hampered with such a life-altering, energy draining, and uncertain disease. I don’t want to welcome PD into our lives. In fact, I want to slam the door shut, and shout at the top of my lungs, “There’s no room in this inn!”
A new normal? Sure, I get it. Why not us? Awful life circumstances happen to people every day. Younger older, richer and poorer, the ones who mean well, and those who don’t.
Just tell me the rules. Where are we on the game board? How do we avoid the pitfalls? Did we somehow land on the square indicating we have start over?
Ok, so we can start over. We have each other, and relationships with people who love us. So, how do we start over? And how do we move forward? Because my man needs to work. He loves to work. So, we pray. “Lord, we’re asking for a path and an open door… Your Light to show us the new way in which You are leading…”
Surely, this is a grieving season. We exhibit all the symptoms of grieving the death of a dream… the death of our vision for our future. That’s what it is for me – the realization life isn’t going to be for us as we hoped and dreamed. This is easier for me. I’m the optimist in the family, and I’m not the biggest loser.
For my husband, the loss has been overwhelming. First the diagnosis. Then the job loss. Now three years in, we are questioning the resurrection of his career. During the same three years, his mother languished in hospice. Her strong heart refused to quit after the stroke took the rest of her capacity for living. Now she is with Jesus, for which we are abundantly grateful.
He’s not quite Job, though Job is frequently mentioned around our home. I remind my man often, “I’m not leaving.” We’ll learn to do this new normal together. Our lives are full of blessings for which we are daily reminded to be grateful.
My suntanned feet man having grown up in church and regularly fed on the Word of God from a young age, he knows the right answers. Yet, somehow in the tremendous pit of pain and darkness, black writing on white pages isn’t enough. He is in need of the real presence of God holding him, catching his tears and listening to his brokenhearted questions.
This Christmas, this is where we’re living. I want real. My insides are clawing for an understanding of what it really means to welcome the King of Kings and Lord of Lords into our home. What if Joseph had come knocking at our door, his wife about to give birth? Would we help them… give them a place to rest… watched as she birthed the Word incarnate? Would we have believed Mary’s story? The real of what God selected them to do was messy and hard and heartbreaking and lonely at times.
My method for regaining equilibrium – finding my bearings in unsettling circumstances – is to ask myself questions: “What do I do when I don’t know what to do?” And then I answer myself: “Go back, Lisa, to what you know is true.”
I go back to tried and true Scripture for a foundation. Lately, I’ve found comfort in the 37th psalm. As I read it again and again, I feel peace wash away the fear and anxious thoughts. Here it is simply stated:
Trust in Him. Do good. Dwell in the land. Enjoy safe pasture. Delight myself in Him. Commit my way to Him. Trust Him. Be still before the Lord and wait for Him.
– Psalm 37:3-7, paraphrased
Other times I go back even further to where I started with God. That time in college when He found me in the deepest pit of despair. All was dark and I had no power to fix anything. In the depth of my soul, I was simply trying to disappear. I didn’t call it ‘wanting to die’, but my behaviors were leading me in the direction of death.
But God had His eye on me – many loved ones were praying, I now feel sure. One night, in a dream, the most trustworthy person I could imagine, my great-grandma Becky, sat on the edge of my bed and spoke simple truth to my aching heart. I dreamed it, yes, and please don’t make it weird.
God spoke into the deep darkness His rescue plan for me. When I awoke, I knew three things: 1) God loved me 2) He had a good plan for my life 3) I needed to follow Him. This was the unlikely and humble place of God choosing and calling little me to be His ambassador and receive the mission He has for my life.
Perhaps this is the heart connection I have with Mary – not that God pulled her out of a pit, but that He sent a messenger to personally meet with her. She knew when Gabriel left, stunned as she must have been, she had been chosen by God for His purpose. Surely, she had more questions than answers.
The real of her situation was that God’s calling put her reputation on the line. Suddenly, Joseph was forced to choose between what seemed a plausible betrayal and the glorious gift of God. The couple had to have been reeling as they too may have grieved the death of a dream for their lives. Nothing would be as they planned at the beginning of their betrothal.
Yet, God intervened. He confirmed to Joseph the truth of Mary’s situation. They were affirmed in their calling. Step by step, they lived the current day, no longer certain of what the future held for them. They chose faith. Trust. Hope. Obedience. And God was there with them. God, the Father, led the way. He, the Son of God, came to live with them.
With all my questions, I’m certain of this:
The real of Christmas was hard, scary, uncertain and raw. And out of darkness, the Light shone confirming the truth of God’s word and His presence with us. Emmanuel, welcome to our real…
What about you, friend? Are you seeking the real face of God in the middle of your circumstances? I pray you will, like me, simply pour out your questions. Be real with Him. He knows. He sees. He’s been in every feeling, thought and circumstance alongside you.
- What comfort do you find in the real of Scripture?
- How might the real of your circumstances add Light to your celebration of Christmas this year?
Eyes on Jesus…you’re shining!
Lisa Brittain and her husband, Randy, will soon be married 30 years. Together they are parents of two adult sons, and share their home with three adopted pups. By day Lisa works as a receptionist in the local middle school. However, her mission is to reveal the important voice of each woman and teach her how to share her overcoming God stories. It is Lisa’s true passion for Jesus and introducing women to Him, which flows in and through and around all the open moments of her everyday life.