1.05.2011

My Christmas Newsletter to You...

Yesterday I cleared the last few crumbs of Christmas... 

...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 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:


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5 comments:

  1. Excellent post Beth, and a good reminder. Obviously (from my posts) 2010 was a good year for us, when lots of things fell into place as a result of a lot of hard work, planning, and God's leading. However, 2008/2009 were some of the hardest years we've ever had - dealing with the deaths of friends and family, struggling with bitterness and anger and frustration about what was going on with our lives, uncertainty about the future, etc. But like you said, through it all we had a roof, a bed, and food - too much even since we had to go on a diet! God was gracious to us and led us through the valley - and I know he will lead you to the other side as well. Thanks for the reminder for the less sensitive of us (ah hem - yours truly) to be mindful of those around us who are hurting and may not have had such a great year. Thanks for your honesty AND for your humor. :-) We continue to pray for you guys and know God has so much in store for you and will use you both mightily in the coming year(s). Blessings!

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  2. Amen! I feel that way about receiving and writing support letters! I'll be thinking of you both as you continue to live in a bit of transition. It was good to see your face the other night over Skype. Peace to you.

    Ashley

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  3. Thank you for this Beth! I used to wonder what was wrong with our family (ummm...me!) because our year didn't add up like some of the newsletters I received. And I admit, after a few really tough, even awful years, I was so thankful to have some good ones to finally write about at Christmas.

    As you said, it come down to Grace. And, may I add, contentment (which you and Carrie both live out so well). "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity." Philippians 4:11

    What/Who carried us through those terrible times? Jesus. Who blessed us beyond what we deserve? Jesus. Who restored the years the locust have eaten? Jesus.

    I would definitely prefer the postitive newsletters, from any and all I know, so I may rejoice with those who rejoice. I don't want friends and loved ones to suffer. But it's definitely refreshing to hear honest reports such as, "yes, there are giants in the land, but our God is with us." And when we can do that, we end up comforting others with the comfort He's given us--without even trying :-)

    Thank you for sharing your year, the highs and lows, the tears and pain, all through the eyes of hope and grace. In so doing, we can weep with you, rejoice with you, and mostly, pray with you through all things. May this year be a time of refreshing, and much Grace, for you and Josh, and us all!

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  4. Beth, That was beautiful and funny and made me sad that I didn't know all the hard stuff you were experiencing. Much of it, but not all.

    You are right. Some of the Christmas newsletters are enough to put anyone into a depressive state. Personally, I love your poster and think you ought to market it. It's something that everyone can relate to. Well, everyone in my own circles, anyhow. LOL

    Mine would be along the lines of, I worked, worked and worked some more, I was so tired I could not see straight. I battled my fear rising up and choking me all year long and continually had to give it over. I was exhausted and still couldn't sleep well. I felt like a failure to everyone, not having much to give, and not knowing where to find anything to give that could really be of use to anyone. But I found my salvation over and over again in my Savior and my Father. I pleaded to know Him more, and He showed Himself to me. He changed me, molded me, and it hurt and was scary, but He comforted me.

    And I'm ready to face another year, wishing I were Home, but hoping to find ways to serve Him until He comes, and grateful, so grateful for the countless gifts and blessings that we so often miss, yet I notice more and more as life goes on. We are simply covered in them, even as we walk through our trials.

    May the Lord bless you and Josh this year, with every spiritual blessing. May you grow closer to Him, know Him more, and remain safely in His hands as you meet each new challenge with His grace and love encircling you.

    ~Faith

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  5. Beth, I bumped into your blog today. it is beautiful! :) I love your art. it is scrumptiously delightful. i especially love your nests and the series on hymns.
    your comments on christmas letters was great too:) i enjoyed chuckling but tho't the christmas card with the coal was wonderful! i look forward to reading and viewing more of your blog...soon!

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