When I was a child I hid in a tree. Everyone could see me there as well. I would watch the world from there, escape my family there and sort the thoughts of my mind from there. For as long as I can remember I have had thoughts to sort. Something in me must make sense or order of that which I encounter - alone. Interesting that I choose to be both near and far, both hidden and seen, as I sort.
I hold the coffee cup warm in my hands and ponder.
These past months have provided such a different vantage point for me as a mother. I have been both able and unable to provide for my children. What I am talking about specifically is our traditions. No regular Halloween, no regular Thanksgiving and now no regular Christmas as they have always known these holidays.
Traditions, I believe, have believed, are what provide a rhythm to a family, a sense of solidity and security. Traditions can range from dinner together at 6, to church on Sunday, to movie night on Mondays, to baking on Christmas Eve and a thousand other things inbetween. They are where memories are made, or are they? Or is there great error in this thought, Im wondering today in my window. Solidity? Security?
Doug hates the ritual. Despises it. Always has. Especially in church settings. Weve had many (bold, italic, underlined) a difficult discussion surrounding what I call tradition and what he calls ritual. His reason for hating the ritual is, in his words, that "easily the 'going through the motions' becomes only that: motions. The heart is lost in the familiar." Honestly, I think that is what I like about traditions, rituals even, they allow me to step outside of my head for awhile, to not think so much and just go through the motions. I know what to expect and I dont have to engage as much. And in the process it seems like we are actually 'doing' something meaningful.
But what is it we are 'doing' if its only tradition?
We may or may not have a Christmas tree this year, may or may not have presents this year, may or may not have any decorations (stockings, nativity scenes, garland, candles) at all in our home. Our new home, for the love! The reasons for this are varying from financial to practical (our boxes and furniture arent here). Doug is fine with this. The girls are fine as well. (????) Each, individually, tells me that Christmas is not "in the stuff." Dont they think I know that? Or do I?
"Stuff" to me has always been the presents - the spending of too much money on junk no one needs. Thats what other people do....not me.
I guess "stuff" was never decorations, trees, lights, nativity scenes, etc. It was just excessive presents, excessive anything. And since Doug and I havent exchanged gifts since the girls were born and they typically only get 3 each (because Jesus did) Ive never counted myself as an "in the stuff" Christmaser. I think I am though.
I say this because Christmas to me, as I told Doug this morning, "isnt Christmas without a tree, decorations, activities, our regular traditions."
Ive never experienced Christmas without "the stuff." Weve done
Please dont read my words and take away that I think decorations and traditions are wrong. I dont! What I am thinking is that, possibly, they have become ritual to me - a going through the motions to feel as though we have done something, experienced something. A way to show.
But Jesus is looking at my heart. Is my heart decorated? Is my heart adopting? Is my heart feeding? Is my heart ringing, caroling, hosting...even if we dont have trees, gifts, decorations etc? Or do I have to have the stuff in order to experience the worship and celebration of this season? Can I have Christmas in my heart without one thing in my house? Once again I am faced with the question my best friend asked me over a year ago, "Is Jesus enough?" Immediately Im defensive. Usually that means Im close to hidden error in my life.
Was He enough in that unadorned manger? Is He enough if the tree stays in the lot? Is He enough if everything looks different than it ever has... or am I just wanting the traditions, the memories of the doing, the ritual? Can He be enough for me even if everyone else thinks our Christmas is so sad without the stuff? Can the celebration of just Him, through only testimony, reading, prayer, conversations, thought and song be enough?
This I wrestle as I sit in my favorite "decorated" window pondering.