So, it is the end of December and just past Christmas again, somehow, and again for us that does not mean snow, or family, or familiar places. We are getting good at celebrating the holidays by ourselves, or with new friends, or quietly at home.
In fact, our Christmases lately do not look at all like the ones that I have known, and like the ones that are celebrated in books and movies and postcards and paintings.
We have not even often had a tree, in fact, this has been the first year with a full size one.
Before, it was too hard with such small boys, or too hard when it was just us. Now that the boys are older and paying attention we have just started to do those outward things, but they still don’t include big tables full of food, because I can’t make that on my own, nor would I care to if I could.
A few Saturdays ago we hosted our small group from church Christmas party, which meant our house was full of people we’ve known for two months, if that.
The house wasn’t clean. I’ve been writing more these days, and we’re dealing with small boys’ sicknesses, and two weeks ago the refrigerator broke, making it the eighth thing that has broken or been wrecked by a hurricane since we moved in.
No, it hasn’t been an easy few months, and the house shows it. There are wrapped up diapers in some corners most days, the boys usually have all their toys out at once, and our bedroom floor is covered with clothes because when Joe sleeps during the day I can’t really get the laundry done unless I’m really organized, that level of organization in my life is reserved for trip planning, or academic paper writing.
And there is a whole room downstairs where we just put the things: all the things we don’t know what to do or how to organize. In every house we’ve moved there’s always been one room that just doesn’t get done for about a year, and that’s an embarrassing thing to admit, but there it is. There are always places in our house where the loose ends go and frankly, we don’t have it all together.
This was all in evidence for the Christmas party; I was writing the whole morning before and we didn’t even start picking up until an hour before people showed up. I worried the chili wouldn’t be done in time because Joe ran to the store late because he couldn’t leave until we got the fridge and it was delivered late that morning.
Lincoln had slept two hours the night before because of such a bad sore throat, what would turn out to be the preamble to a severe, week long cold, and he sat in the back room by himself, tears on his face, and watched a train show in his pajamas. After the week we had had, I felt him and his position dearly because they could have been my own.
The trains covered the floors and the stove was dirty and we hoped, rather than knew, that the wood was dry enough for the fire.
And then the people started showing up, people we haven’t shared life with long, and the chili started to fill the house with smells, and the laughter started growing, and I remembered why we’ve never really had the time to feel sorry for ourselves before: because we just don’t have to.
Because Christmas isn’t really about the clean house or healthy people or easy, crackling fires, or people you’ve known your whole life, although all those things are wonderful and fill our souls with joy.
But what it’s really about, what all of this season and therefore what all of life is about is just simply, showing up. Being there, despite the trains and the sickness, and wherever we’ve been, people have shown up, whether that’s family, or new friends, or just ourselves, or each other, like we do every day, every morning as the sun rises.
Because, at it’s very bottom, at Christmas’s very core, is a God that just shows up too. Poor, dirty, without a home, and my house seems pretty good compared to that.
Because always and again, it’s the being there that matters.