...As I packed away a forgotten stack of Christmas cards with the rest of the memories, I looked again at the kinds of things we all send out to each other sometimes.... the quick name under a pre-printed sentiment, the photos of kids and pets, the family newsletters....
The newsletters irk me.... I wonder if other people's lives really are that sickeningly perfect....
I stayed up late in Photoshop and illustrated my perception of Christmas newsletters...it's over-the-top and snarky, and I got convicted that sarcasm isn't really a spiritual gift..... but it's not terribly far off. Not that I blame anyone for wanting to share the high points.... a card full of bad news, failures, struggles, and disappointments isn't exactly festive. One year my Papaw showed me a "newsletter" he got from someone. It told how the father was back in jail, the wife was smoking and drinking again, the kids were out of control and running wild, the dog was dealing drugs.... Of course, it was a joke.... but if we're honest, that sort of letter might be a little more accurate than the sugar-coated ones we send out instead.
And as I packed the cards telling only the good stuff away, I was reminded that most men do keep their desperation quiet.
Aside from the photos of the special people, my favorite card this year is pretty simple. On the front is a lump of coal tied with a red ribbon. Inside, it says:
"Relying on the grace of God again this year..."
I read a lot of blogs... the last few weeks have been full of posts showing the past year's doings and accomplishments and realized dreams. They've shown the year in review and all the great things that were.
Here's my year in review....
In January, my husband went back to school, we cinched the belts and budget tighter, and I started desperately job-hunting. In February, after nothing for weeks, I got one. A part-time, low-paying, crazy-schedule retail job. I was thankful and nervous to get it....
For the next five months, I worked a lot, and my degree and I were humbled as we crawled under racks cleaning up tobacco juice spat there by the customers who asked for our help and then laughed in our face.... And I made some good friends, served some nice people, got some good stories, learned some new things, brought home a paycheck, grumbled and complained sometimes, and felt like there were more important things I could be doing.
Then one day an old lady came in and asked me to help her fill up her bucket for Haiti. And as I scurried around the store on my healthy legs with a full tummy and a warm shower and bed waiting for me, filling up a bucket for hungry people whose legs and homes and lives had been crushed, I realized that I had nothing to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.
I took the bucket with all the things in it back to the old lady, and then I helped her choose which things to put back because she didn't have enough money for all of them. And as she tottered off to give her mites to the cashier and mail her bucket to Haiti, I was reminded that God isn't looking for great things from me if I can't be faithful in the little things.
When my seasonal job ended, I worked on a series of murals. As I painted walls, I stepped back often to get a new perspective, and I remembered that I don't see the big picture...but that God does. And while I painted, I listened to the novel Les Miserables read aloud through my headphones. And I thought about Law and Grace and how the one condemns me and tells me that I need the other.
Then Josh went to California to take care of his friend who was dying. And I waited at home and painted a house and prayed and heard bad news and prayed some more, and Josh changed bandages and had the hard talks and was a friend. That was two months. Then they all came home, and our friend died... and we cried and wondered why and still needed Grace.
Then we spent some time working on some things to help our friend's wife and kids, and made a quick trip to the beach for a family reunion.
Then October crept up on us, and Josh started school and had to be away from home most of the next three months, since we weren't able to move near his school yet. And I worked at home, typed out study guides, filled orders, learned some new things, and felt lonely and stressed and worried about some other things and people and still needed Grace.
Then the holidays came, and family came, and we went to and had parties and were sad for the face that wasn't there.... and we shopped and wrapped and mailed out orders and drove around in the snow, and I thought back over the year, and remembered that I hadn't always been very nice to my husband or my family or friends or even total strangers.... and then the year was over, and I made resolutions and already broke some of them, and still needed Grace as much as ever...
So that was my year... and this is my Christmas newsletter to you.... two weeks late....
Because I don't have it all together.
No one else does either.... and we all deserve a lot worse than a lump of coal.
I am relying on the Grace of God again in 2011...just like I did in 2010... just like I will every year for the rest of my life, no matter how good or bad my circumstances are.
Walking in Grace is a habit.... one I'm trying to develop. Linking up today at: