Once upon a time, I used to write Christmas plays. I write plays for Sports Camp, which is easier by comparison. Demonstrating the big ideas of Sports Camp is simpler than explaining the wonder of Christmas. Despite that, I am proud of those Christmas plays. One of my favorite vignettes from those plays was the […]
Each year there is that moment when the Christmas season becomes real to me. It may be when I see that the Christmas decorations have been hung on the street lights, or I happen across a children’s choir singing in the mall, or when I hear a special Christmas carol.
I have always loved Christmas – this celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. However, the past few years have been different. It seems as if the cares of life have dimmed the brightness of the lights and the joy.
This year, especially I was not ready for this season. It has been a difficult year.
It’s impossible for me to make it through October without thinking about change. The trees lining my street are absolutely breathtaking in their fiery reds, their striking yellows, and the whole spectrum between. Everything points to transition, and it’s beautiful to behold. Weird as it sounds, I find myself wondering how the tree feels. The process they’re in leads to death as the leaves brown and/or eventually fall to the ground, leaving the bare branches to fend for themselves through the winter. Do they know they’re beautiful in their life cycle of death and renewal? Of change and loss? Their foliage is in high demand as home decor and the backdrop of yearly family pictures. Their change brings beauty.
Does ours? The tree isn’t offered a choice in its change. It is created to glorify the Creator and point to His “unseen” qualities (Romans 1:20). We, too, are not always offered a choice in change. Death, disease, disaster… all bring change and with it, grief, pain, and sorrow. It is not my intent to offer a trite analogy that disrespects the depth of these experiences. Instead, I mean to say that even pain brings change that has purpose and, as gently as I can say it, can accomplish good.
Eyes blink open to a shroud of darkness. He squirms in the tight space–there is no room to move, let alone settle into a comfortable position. Defeated, he bows his head and sees a faint outline of what he imagines is his hand; crumpled and wrinkled from years of construction work. He straightens his back, but his head meets a large wooden plank, unyielding in its slightly curved form.
He built it to be sturdy, after all.
To his left, he feels the rough hide of an animal. He forgot its name, but he easily recognizes its smell. The air is thick with the collective odor of the unwashed – ripe and rank. To his right, is his faithful companion, a dog with soft fur. Its slightly damp nose nuzzles against him, prodding him to see, to climb out into the open air. With a whimper, his dog asks the question that echoes in his own mind in these days of silence that follow the devastation of the world:
Is it time yet?
The catch-breath. That’s what I call it.
The first time I remember it happening is when they placed my daughter in my arms for the first time. It was a physical pause caused by emotional intensity inside me. It literally took my breath for a nanosecond. Maybe it’s exactly what the romantics are referring to when they describe moments that take one’s breath away, but I don’t remember feeling this phenomenon before her. Now I experience it multiple times per week, sometimes just upon thinking about her. My admiration for her and all I want for her bring my emotions so close to the surface that I have a physical reaction to them. It’s usually a catch-breath.
One day not that long ago, we went to a park for her to play, and as she strode toward the chaos of other kids playing, it happened. My breath was robbed from me, and I had to pause to consider why it had happened then and there. I realized I was concerned for her, but not that she might fall or hurt herself. I was feeling protective of her heart. As a mom and an over-thinker, I had already played out hypothetical scenarios in my mind where my daughter would get upset, show her intensity, and scare people away. I let fear win. As embarrassing as it is, my very next thought was the realization that I was projecting my own insecurity onto her. How disgusting.
Outside of the basic hygiene necessary to keep everyone thinking I’m a respectable (and sweet-smelling) member of society, there are only two things I do almost daily: read the Bible and watch Moana.
You’ve seen Moana, right? If not, figure out your life, dude. It’s been out since November, is super rad, and currently streaming on Netflix.
There aren’t even children living in my house and I’ve been known to watch it three times in one day. I’m not crazy, I just don’t have cable and Lin Manuel Miranda is a genius. And also, I am a little crazy, after all. I have been aggressively shushed by preschoolers for singing along. (Keep it up, Ellanora, it’s not like your Christmas present is on the line or anything.)
Sometimes it’s just pleasant, melodic noise to have on while I work or read. If I ever really sit and watch it, I cry every time. Every single one. Different moments hit me each time, but overall it comes back to this main theme: living up to the truth of who you are.
Teeter – To move unsteadily (verb), wobble (noun) Dictionary App
My son is 15 months old and currently learning to walk. In typical toddler fashion, his head and belly account for 90% of his mass, so his attempts at steps look a lot like teetering. Mostly, he looks like a stumbling drunk, but with his dimpled grin, he can pull it off. My reflex as the hovering mother is to reach out and stabilize him. Sometimes I do, but mostly I let him try. I let him fall. I let him learn. I know it’s how to help him grow. I want him to run and play and take over the the world. We have to start somewhere.
He is resilient. I think the diaper-padded bottom helps, but he often pops right back up after he falls. The fear of falling again has yet to hamper his vigor in attempting consistent strides. When he gets tired, he seems to step harder but with less balance. That can get pretty funny. But he seems to understand the end game. Walking. Then running. Then who knows?
I can relate to the point of tears to the teetering. At any given time, one or more arenas of my life see me in that form. And unlike my son, more often than not, my instinct is not to pop back up and get right back in the game. I have never been one to feel like I’ve ‘arrived,’ but for me, parenting has wielded an even stronger hammer of humility than any season before it. When so much is at stake, it feels crippling to want to do well with all you have and still fall.
I’ve seen bumper stickers, Facebook memes, and such that generally say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Though it sounds nice it’s not true. That is bumper sticker theology. I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible that says anything at all like that.
I have even seen one that said: “Since God doesn’t give me more than I can handle, then he must think I am a badass to give me what I am going through.” That’s even less true than the first statement.
God has other purposes than to show the world what a badass you are. He has a kingdom and a will and it will come and it will be done.
The story of Job is one of a man getting more than he can handle.
I’m opinionated. I have some very strong held beliefs. As a result, I can get really riled up when hearing or reading opposing beliefs and opinions. Based on what I see every day in the news and on social media, I’m not alone. We are in the midst of a war of opinions. As this war has escalated over the past year God has continually been working on my heart and convicting me of a certain truth. We are called to love not to hate. We are called to be a people who are known for our love.
A new command I give: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
So how do we love one another in the midst of this war?
One of my favorite things about summer is the change of pace that my kids experience. As homework pressures disappear, and the intense schedule of school and extracurricular activities shifts into summer mode, a different side of my children emerges. They get funnier, they talk more, they revive that long-lost interest they had in robotics… or books… or gardens… or stars. They even get to where they like each other better! And I love it all.
We recognized long ago in the Zinn house that summer is a wide-open opportunity for shaping our characters — our own and those of our children. So we begin praying weeks, sometimes even months, before summer hits — “Lord, what are the best ways you want us to use this coming summer? What are the things you want us to learn? What are the memories you want us to make? What are the risks you want us to jump into?”