Christmas: beautiful. painful. joyful. exposing.

christmas We have decided to stay in Corvallis, cozy in our city, on Christmas Day. This year, we are skipping the I5 Corridor, the emotional roller coaster that Big Days bring and beginning something new, something I hope will be beautiful.

Or so I thought that was the answer.

Pastor Gerry preached about my internal struggle with Big Days and Big Seasons - the fight for balance; it's like Pastors are real humans and know what it's like to be a human... I believe that explains their speaking straight to our hardened, broken hearts.

Last year Christmas Day, we drove up and down the I5 corridor, hitting 3 houses full of family and flew out of town the following morning at 6 am. Exhaustion? I'm sure we all felt it in some form. Don't get me wrong: I love every single member that I have the privilege of calling family. I love them immensely. Some are loud, some are reserved, most are crazy, all are loving and thoughtful, more generous than I would ever ask. They're flesh and blood, these bonds last forever. But cruising around the state in 24 hours visiting dozens of beloved human beings accompanies a lot of emotions. So Loren and I decided that we would stay home this year on Christmas Day, celebrating family throughout the month. I was sure this would remove any roller coaster of feelings; but emotions are bound to have their way in this girl.

Why not bounce from one extreme to the next? We are determined to figure this Christmas thing out. The entire month of December has become a Christmas celebration; it's been warming. We spent two days in a beautiful cabin on the river with my dad's side of the family. We made ginger bread houses and everyone ate prime rib (I, of course enjoyed white turkey). We soaked in heat by the fire, took a family photo or two, and enjoyed the presence of one another more fully than I have ever experienced. Loren and I chatted with my Aunt & Uncle all about running and marathons and trails and crazy adventures. It was what Loren would say, groovy.

But the reality that we live in a broken world; that most of our family have not experienced the very real freedom found in Jesus; that my family is not whole but is split up into fragments...the fact that bitterness remains and broken hearts have hardened; these realities still exist.

IMG_4854 IMG_4857 It was a beautiful evening.

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We spent last Sunday with my mom and family. We spent time with a cousin, aunt, grandparents - our hope was to celebrate Christmas with as many beloved family members as possible, but not all in one day. 

What will we do on Christmas Day? We will probably wake up between 4 and 6 am like the previous two years, wiping sleep from our eyes so quickly you would think there was bacon. This time around I plan to remember to purchase breakfasty foods before we wake up Christmas morning.  Why not cozy up under grandma's quilt, sipping warm beverages, and watch a couple Christmas movies while cookies bake and cards are made to share with Park Place residents? Park Place is the assisted living community I spent two years working for. Park Place is home to many people who don't remember me, my memory has been lost in their diseased brain with Alzheimer's. But I remember them so clearly. I remember their stories, their hearts, their characters. I remember how many cream packets were dumped into Eleanor's coffee and to heat Lorraine's shower up past the temperature for boiling. I remember the sweetness of some who have passed and the bitterness of others who still live on, feeling trapped in their weak bodies. Most are simply existing and I wonder what their thoughts hold all the days long. Park Place holds a special place in my heart and we are blessed to take some simple treats and cards. Maybe we will carry this sort of tradition on and into the years of raising babies into children and children into adults. Our extended family is large in number, a multitude of hearts - we have plenty of members to visit throughout the entire month of December. SO why not share some of His love on Christmas with those who don't have many, if any, members to call family?

Initially, I thought this would cure all of my Big Emotions that Big Seasons bring. I thought balance would be found by skipping out on the normal chaos of Christmas Day. Though we do hope to make this more of a tradition, family throughout the month, the brokenness still remains. The pain and the hurt and the exposure to vulnerability still remains. Our brokenness still screams, our hearts are at risk, and this world needs saving. Spreading out Christmas, going from one extreme to the next, won't heal these hearts. Won't bandage these wounds. Won't restore broken families. Won't create balance.

But this season and every season, the same Truth prevails; the same Truth offers freedom. The Truth that God is with us, in the lack of balance. Emmanuel. The Truth that in Him we find freedom from anxiety, unforgiveness, and entitlement; the fight for balance. He is with us in our broken hearted spirits, He is rooting us on into His arms of safety, He is beckoning us as we scramble to spend way too much money, and He is restoring these broken hearts one stitch at a time. And that, that is beautiful. This life is beautiful.

Emmanuel.

What are you doing for Christmas?

PS: to any family reading this: I love you; I'm honored to know you, let alone call you family. It is my heart that gets all stirred up inside...thinking of how deeply I love you. Thinking of the brokenness that surrounds you and the daily battles you fight. You amaze me, family. Truly, you bring me awe. I have watched some of you face horrors untold; some of us have faced giants together. They are memories that last forever and tend to surface during these months. You are strong