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Annual Christmas Nervous Breakdown or Dirty Socks Under the Tree

Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite. NOT!

I do have stories about making good choices. And I will tell some of them as I blog along. But, it seems more important to share about God staying involved in our lives when we are screwing up; to remind myself and others that God loves us, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

My mother always made Christmas extraordinary, even when money was in short supply. She polished and decorated every square inch of our apartment. The presents may not have cost a lot, but they were wrapped beautifully. There was a constant flow of guests, often widows without family near-by or young families without parents and grandparents around. There were special treats to eat, but also even the plain old potted meat sandwiches were trimmed and cut into triangles with parsley sprigs around them on silver trays.
So, when she became a widow and passed the Christmas torch to me, I tried to do the same. And I added being active at church in teaching classes, decorating the social hall, and organizing Christmas pageants. My five children and I spent weeks making presents for all their teachers and for all my students. I never thought about the fact that mom had two children and a small apartment and I had five children and a large house, which was a home away from home for a constant flow of college age house guests involved in Christian ministry. Mom set the bar very high, but without realizing it, I had raised it.
Pretty much every year, sometime close to Christmas, I would reach my annual Christmas overload, yell that I hated Christmas, and slam my way into my bedroom to collapse for a day or night. One year after retreating to curl up in a fetal position and figuratively suck my thumb, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning, remembering that I was scheduled in a few hours to give a talk to another denomination’s women’s group on The Spirit of Christmas.
I seriously considered calling and saying I had broken my leg, but decided that might be asking for it literally.                                                                                                                                         As I prayed for help, it seemed like God was telling me that although I was doing many truly good things, I was missing the point of Christmas. Christmas wasn’t about how much we could do or how perfect we could make it. Christmas was about the joy of needing and receiving a Savior, the tangible expression of God’s perfect love for us imperfect human beings. And sharing that joy with others. So, I ended up simply sharing the whole story, my pattern of Christmas breakdowns and my panic the night before. It seemed like everyone there could relate very well to my experience. Then, for reasons unknown to me, I ended by saying, “No matter what it takes, even leaving dirty socks under the Christmas tree, I’m going to keep my focus on the meaning of Christmas.”

Now, really! Dirty socks under the tree?

Of course, mother arrived, guests arrived, children were freed from school, and Christmas Eve arrived with stress building and me once again rushing tensely around. As I was putting laundry away in a bedroom close to the great room, I heard my mother ask, “Eileen, why is there a dirty sock under the Christmas tree?”
I got goose bumps. I could feel Jesus standing there with His hand on my shoulder. I dropped the laundry on the bed and stopped my mother from removing the sock.
“Mom, let’s leave it there and stop right now to have a cup of coffee and read the Christmas scriptures, so we’ll remember what we’re celebrating.”
For several years afterwards, I would put a sock under the tree, whenever I began to forget the meaning of Christmas from the overload of my good intentions.

“Warning! It’s Monday. Pity Party Ahead

And then comes the morning, yesterday’s sorrows behind? Maybe, maybe not.
I thought my faith would grow stronger and it would be easier in old age with less needs, children grown, more wisdom. Well, it ain’t necessarily so. Many days it’s a struggle to just stay physically functional. Wisdom seems to have only come about seeing how I screwed up in the past. Too soon old, too late smart sums it up. Grown children have troubles I can’t fix and that I worry that I caused somehow. I have more dead friends than alive ones and the ones I still have are also struggling. I find myself facing the probability of living alone for the first time in my seventy-nine years of life. I love my grandchildren more than life itself, but have no say about what happens to them. And physically can’t do things for and with them like I used to enjoy so much. And people, that I have grown to love, leave and don’t look back. And while I know these are necessary losses and part of my journey with God, on the days when I can’t see His footprints, it’s a struggle to stay emotionally functional. I quit crying some seventeen or eighteen years ago, when dealing with heartbreak over grandchildren born facing incredibly hard problems, because I thought if I ever let myself cry, I’d never stop. I was right. I’ve cried so much lately, I should be dehydrated.
I never was very good at persevering through things. I usually was good at finding a way around or out of them. About thirty years ago, I felt that God was challenging me by giving me a new name, “Perseverance.” I did realize even then, that this wasn’t necessarily good news about my future years. But, I have learned with grace, to persevere. I have even learned to laugh while gritting my teeth. (Not easy on any level 🙂 ) But sometimes, I just don’t want to. Today is one of those times
But, I will. I will grit my teeth, hang on with my fingernails, and be thankful for all the beauty, love, and joy God has given me in my life. And with Her grace, I will dig for that damn pony in all this manure. 🙂

 Addendum added four hours later:

OKay, in an attempt to look on the brighter side of things today: Getting into pain from vacuuming means I can only manage one room’s floor before sitting down a while to get out of pain. This is good not only because a rest does get me out of pain, it also gives me a time out to go on-line.

And in my time spent today preparing for my women’s scripture class tomorrow, I read the funny little story about Jesus needing two tries to heal the blind man, because after Jesus tried once by putting saliva on his eyes, the man still couldn’t see other people as being like himself. It helps to know that people who don’t have natural empathy for others, may eventually be healed and acquire it. But, I haven’t figured out the significance  of using saliva yet!  Unless it means that spitting in someone’s eye doesn’t do much good. 🙂

So, this Monday has had goodies to balance the baddies. Thanks be to God!!!