On December 26. 

I wanted to write something exquisite to you all for Christmas.

Something that would give your heart pause and infuse the beauty and miracle of the season with my best, most moving prose.

But I kept coming up empty.

I couldn’t figure out if I had writer’s block or if I’ve just lost the spirit of Christmas.

But then I realized, Christmas has more often than not felt bittersweet for me. I’ve always had a difficult time reconciling the glitz and glee with the brokenness and need of not only my heart, but the hearts of everyone in the whole world.

Take the other day, for instance. If you didn’t know, I am a registered nurse. I’ve been practicing for over 20 years now on busy medical/surgical and pediatric floors where pain and worry don’t stop just because there’s tinsel strung across the halls.

We had a hot breakfast with our team and enjoyed laughter and fellowship in the middle of a playroom filled with toys to distract sick and yes, sometimes dying, kids. 
Later that afternoon, Santa came and ho-ho-ho’d and grinned his best grin from under his fluffy beard. He brought his elves and a sack full of goodies into every child’s room, the pink in their cheeks belying, if only for a moment, their pain. 

We ate chocolate at the nurses’ station as the first drips of chemotherapy flowed into a newly diagnosed patient’s veins, while across the hall a team thrust a chest tube into the side of a baby who couldn’t–or wouldn’t–breathe without it.

Christmas is a human invention, and maybe we do need a little of it, as the song goes, to distract us like toys in a playroom from our dying selves.

But the problem with Christmas is December 26. 

December 26, when heartache is real again, when brokenness is as torn and wide open as the empty boxes under the sagging tree, when the lights dim and the night…is…silent.

The problem with Christmas is that hope doesn’t come with tinsel and lights and bells and songs.

Hope comes…

…with mercy, like a chest tube allowing a sagging lung to reinflate.

Hope comes…

…like the slow, imperceptible drip of life-saving medication into a patient’s arm.

Hope comes…

…in the darkness where tears stream down a mother’s face as she struggles to console her fevering child.

Hope comes.

Oh, how it comes.

Just not where we expect it.

*****

 

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, ascrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.

~Isaiah 53:1-6 (TMV)

 

*This post was originally published in my author newsletter. If you’d like to be the first to see devotionals and articles such as this, you can sign up for my newsletter in the right hand sidebar of this blog. 

On home and the holidays.

I have a special little tree of my own in my home, and it’s full of gingerbread men.

The collection started the first Christmas after my first son arrived 18 years ago, and continued as my collection of “little men” grew to three.

Three plump-cheeked, smiling, laughing boys.

Three now nearly grown, handsome sons.

 
It’s just a tree, to most folks.

But to me, it’s HOPE.

See, like many–too many–I struggle with the holidays. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I have PTSD from childhood. And while I try–and often do–find much joy in the songs and the celebration of my Savior, a part of me remains skittish, fearful, and yes, even afraid. That’s the lifelong “gift” of being a survivor. The elusive feeling that “something bad is going to happen” lurks long and dark in candlelit corners.

So maybe you can see why this tree…one that celebrates the new home, the new family, the dedication to safely raising sons who won’t have to know the traumas we’ve been through…this tree brings me hope.

It brings me thanksgiving that while healing is hard it bears fruit.

That while the world intends to harm, the Lord can transform pain into good.

That while darkness threatens the innocence of too many children, light can and does prevail.

And so I pray this prayer today for those of you like me, for whom the holidays are a bit rough and crinkly, that you’ll find your own special way of celebrating the good and lovely, the beauty God traded for the ashes of your pain, the praise God exchanged for your mourning when He sent his Son for you.

Pray with me?

Dearest Lord and Savior, help us remember that while You are defined by overwhelming grandeur, You came to us in the simple.

That while choruses rock and praise, You are most often heard in the silence of those who tremble and fear like the shepherds.

That while we wrap up and cook up and tidy up, You’re more often found–and never leave us alone–in our messes.

That while we rush about and push through lines and traffic You wait to embrace us in the still, small hours.

That no matter how dressed up, lit up, choreographed, orchestrated, our attempts are to make Christmas about fortissimos and crèchendos, You are the only true light.

We fall on our knees, Lord.

Oh, how we fall.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that through Your love and healing…

…You raise us up to dance again.

 
And that You bring us safely, wholly, home.