Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Feels Different This Year - Volume I


Let me tell you what kind of girl I am. I am the kind who will put the kids to blessed bed then come downstairs, change into my sweats, make a cup of tea, feel for the ripest clementine and pile it in a bowl along with one lone angel sugar cookie, gather the phone, the remotes, the computer and a book and arrange them all around me like a menagerie. I'm here, in a house entirely void of noise, and I don't want to move for the next two hours, give or take. Does that make me lazy? Well, I'm alright with it if you are.

I flipped through the channels, alight on unwarranted hope. I turned it right back off. The lack of worthy options only reinforces the fact that I have things on my mind, and it just so happens that I cannot write (or read) with the tv or radio on. (Don't even get me started on people who fall asleep to the sound of the tube. How is that even possible?)

I hear nothing but the sound of the furnace and I hope to high heaven that the phone doesn't ring.

I wish I could talk tonight about decorations or my Posse. I've got plenty of good things in the pipeline. But today has worn me down to a nubbin and my heart leans slightly toward the heavy side. I can't put my finger on exactly why. Maybe heavy isn't even the word. It's not sad, my heart. It's not worried. I picture it with its brow furrowed a bit, its gaze stretching far to the horizon.

It's contemplative. That's what it is. It's got a lot on it's mind, this heart of mine.

Tonight, just before bedtime, I unpacked our new nativity scene with Calvin and Ruby. We read The Story and it hit me for the very first time that Mary and Joseph were there in Bethlehem, wandering aimlessly, waiting for a labor and delivery suite with a mauve vinyl chair that pulls out into a bed and room service. I imagine they thought, with every single rejection, that the next inn would have a fancy room for them. They didn't ask for all of "this", after all. This was God's doing. God would see to the details. They probably weren't even worried about it, although they surely must not have been in the mood for an interactive scavenger hunt. I'm sure they believed that when they finally found a room, it would be perfect.

And then it wasn't.

It was dirty and it smelled bad.

I won't begin to imagine how they reacted to this. It doesn't even matter. The point to me is that I am not the first person to feel strung along by God. This precarious high-wire teetering is not unique to me.

I find myself thinking all of the time that it's just so weird that God asked us to do something and then He didn't do anything. It's not that I doubt his presence in our life right now - not at all. I just imagined it going down differently. I expected our obedience to be rewarded with things of this world - time-lines, monetary exchanges, exciting headlines.

Only now does it seem fitting to me that we are here, in this beautiful, cozy house that we want to be rid of, during this season. Maybe it's no coincidence that my heart tug-of-wars with my head over how best to celebrate this year. All I can say is, our celebrating will look different, and I'm thankful for it. We are learning through all of this how to hear the voice that matters most to us. We are learning the value of obedience for obedience's sake.

The Baby, born into filth, was not made for this world. His purposes transcend a buyer's market and record-high unemployment. He just wants us. He wants the truest form of us - the "us" that God created for Him. The us that gets lost, every day, in commotion and comfort.

Over the next hour, I will eat my clementine and my naked angel in solitude and peace. The Tylenol is already scrubbing the ache from the corner of my eye and my tea is just right. I will pick up my book - so impeccably well-written - and read alongside the glow of the newspaper tree. I'll see paper plate wreaths to my left, carved wisemen to my right. I'll see Christmas all around me. I'll see Him and his mom and dad, who went when they were told to go, who trusted when no one else would have, who traded in their ideas for ideas that were far less shiny but wholly eternal.

And while we're on the subject, I was reminded today of an all-time favorite Christmas song. (Can you believe it??)




41 comments:

  1. Do you ever wonder if Mary and Joseph, or any of the other giants of the faith in scripture, wrestled through times of asking, "You want me to do WHAT God? How's that gonna work?" I really struggle with the latter question--God's ways often make very little sense to me. Am slowly, ever so slowly learning what a small imagination I have compared to that of my loving heavenly Father. Who has all of creation at His disposal. Hope your clementine was all sweetness.

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  2. I. feel. you. 100%.
    I can't even put it into words today. Only tears worked for me.

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  3. I'd never heard that Christmas song before, can you believe it? It's beautiful, no wonder it's your favorite!

    I got a few tears in my eye in the car on the way home from grocery shopping tonight. The kids were all in the car and my favorite Christmas Song came on. O Holy Night. I don't know what came over, me except to say I think it was the Holy Spirit.

    A teenage brother and sister sang it on acoustic guitars at a candlelight Christmas Eve service when I was a little girl and it's always made think of Mary and Joseph in the same way.

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  4. I love you. So exactly where I'm at right this minute too. I'm posting a similar theme this week as well. Life is so weird. But okay. :)

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  5. Shannon, u r a sweetie and I love how u give the Glory to our God! He is an awesome God!

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  6. Great post lady. It is THAT time of year. The time to think about THE story and try to relive, as best we can, every little detail. This year, more than any other, I've found myself caught up in the hullabaloo. I have a wee one that GETS it this year, he will understand the gifts, learn the songs, enjoy the experience. But isn't that more of a reason for me to make sure that he understands, starting from his first REAL Christmas, the TRUE meaning? Thank you for the slight tap upside my head to put me on track. <3 (by the way, Joy used to go to my church, not sure if she still does, but what a blessing to hear her sing on occasion. I'll definitely check this video out. By the way, here's my all time fav Christmas album. http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ring-the-bells/id294340247

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  7. Aye me lady, what a sweet heart you do indeed have. I just finished popcorning the tree and the big C9 lights are shining bright, filling the room with the scent of Christmas. This year, more than ever, like you - I feel all 'pondery' and I want something different. I don't want to decorate a lot - and then I think - it's celebrating Him, and it should be extravagant and wonderful - and so I do it. What hits me about your story - thinking about Mary - don't you so know that everyone was talking about her being pregnant before marriage? Don't you just know it? Can't you imagine how she must have felt? I love it. I love when people thing wrong things - thinking they are so smart and holy - and they are nothing but judgemental. I think - in some small way - this is my lesson to be learned this year. Nothing is as at seems - God is at work in ways we don't know. Listen. Obey. Love. Rinse and repeat. xoxo

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  8. Shannan - I love Haven Kimmel. Have you read her book, "A Girl Named Zippy?" You would love it. It is about her childhood and it is absolutely hilarious.

    Jenny L.

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  9. Thank you for this beautifully constructed reminder, I needed it more than I thought. Funny how there are so many things we try to accomplish before Christmas, in order for us to 'feel' like it's Christmas, when all we need to do is to focus on the manger and the Cross, and the Man whose journey began in filth and ended in Glory. Blessings to you and your family.

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  10. Shannan, as usual you say it better than anyone.

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  11. This post leaves me speechless (and perhaps even a bit contemplative...) in the *best* possible way!

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  12. I love your thoughts, you can put down on paper (or computers) what I think yet don't/can't express. Thank you for this gift that you share with all of us. Have a blessed Christmas. Lisa

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  13. I am learning about waiting.
    For waiting's sake.
    But, waiting with expectations.
    Expectations that may not be filled until the real life begins, the eternal one. So, I hear you.

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  14. whoa. so good. makes me want to ponder The Story so much more.

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  15. This post reminds me of a story that a little girl wrote in my class. I love reading about what Christmas means to an 8 year old. It is usually so raw and beautiful. I will try to post it tomorrow night. Sometimes it is the simplest words that speak to me so clearly, "It was dirty and it smelled bad." True, so true, and that is how it was.

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  16. Your same ponderings and emotions are so felt by many of us, for me too. We are so in a time of God's world where we are wondering about his doings, and holding steady as best we can to our faith in the no making sense stuff. We soar some days, the next sink in wondering. Such a great post, and especially for the season of Christmas. Thanks much.

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  17. Oh, FPFG, how did you know? You didn't, of course, but the Holy Spirit knew that minutes before reading your blog I had been lamenting to my mom what God wasn't doing in my life, some areas where I have stepped out to meet God in faith and felt like maybe I'd been stood up. And then I read this. Maybe this is just part of growing up in Him, stepping and waiting when the results don't seem to match up to my expectations, my understanding of how this would all go down. It's comforting to know I am not the only one trying to process this phenomenon. Especially as it whispers to me that God sees my heart, my fears, my confusion, my longing and quickly sent you to let me know that. He does indeed see and know what I need this very night.

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  18. My family and I are also going - we leave 2 days after Christmas, and I don't know what's at the end of the path, but we go. Because He says to go, even when so much of me wishes to stay. Thank you for sharing - in some ways, we're in different places, but in others, we're close together.

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  19. thank you. thank you for being so darn real. can i sit and eat sugar cookies and cry with you? and you should link this tomorrow to imperfect prose. love you. :) praying.

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  20. What a beautiful post. The world looking at Mary and Joseph would have so gotten it all wrong. Nothing is as it seems from the outside looking in. Both those who appear to have it all and those who seem out of step...each persons journey has both pain and purpose. Trust in him to provide the answer...in His time.

    It is definitely that kind of year. I have heard more people echo this sentiment this year than ever before. It makes you wonder what he is preparing his bride for on the kingdom calendar.

    Thanks for the beautiful song, it's a new one for me.

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  21. How's your book so far? If you haven't read Eliz. Bergs Christmas book, you must. I think it's "The Carpenter's Son". It really makes you feel what they felt (mary and Joseph). I loved reading it on Christmas, it really put things into perspective.
    And yes, I make a ca coon every night on the sofa similar to yours! We missed you last weekend, but your friend Holly came by..maybe next month?
    xoxox

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  22. I am right there with you. And, I have been saying that exact phrase for the last couple weeks: "Christmas feels different. Everything is different" I don't want to say bad or sad or hopeless or anything like that, but heavy and different. I pray your family's struggles ease in the New Year. As for God, He is there... I guess we just keep listening?

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  23. your perspective is so heartwarming. this season for me as well is different from others because of a death of a loved one. all I have right now is faith, and that has to be enough.I know we are all being watched over, whether we know it or not. thank you for your post.

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  24. beautiful thoughts to ponder on this morning Shannon. looked up that book. isn't it fun to read something set where you are or have been? i love that. oh and glad you found a Christmas song to remember and enjoy. i love joy williams. have a great day girlie.

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  25. First of all, I love the new look to your blog. Secondly, in no way at all does sitting down at night for 2 hours make you lazy. You surround yourself with things you love - things that make you YOU. I love that you feel the way you do, and I admire you're self-awareness. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas season.

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  26. It's definitely hard to wait on the Lord, especially when it seems as though He's called you to action. I have no words of wisdom, but your photo says it all. Hope.

    Blessings,

    Alison

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  27. I love the fact that you put "part 1" to this...because you know there's more ahead...and because you're willing to share it with us.
    You know that seat you're sitting in? It's your front row seat...to watch the Savior, Sustainer, Provider, and Helper do His work in His time. I have a feeling it's gonna be a good one...you might want grab the popcorn, too.

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  28. I agree with Julie F. about O Holy Night. It has been my favorite song probably since I was a child. I can remember being really still when I heard this as a child and during the words "fall on your knees" the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I can't get enough of it.

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  29. Seems I find myself relating - more then words can say.....this Christmas will be different then any one before it. No Christmas after will ever be the same. I love the song you shared and was basking in "Here With Us" yesterday - another one of her blessings to this season! Thanks for sharing Shannan!

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  30. Yes, and since I have a barn with cows, I know how stinky it is and cold and dirty and could you imagine giving birth there? Books and cards make the manger scene look warm and cozy and brilliant, but I bet it wasn't. Mary had no one to show her how to breastfeed or diaper Jesus, no nurse to help her up to take a shower, no shower at all! I can't wait to watch that film when I get to heaven.
    My home hasn't been for sale for as long as yours, but I am feelng the same way, we obeyed, so, what is going on!! I'm waiting for the miracle sale that comes after you obey, this home sale doesn't seem like our idea at all either!! I *think* I am at the place of ok, this will take a while, sit back and watch what God will do. I do enjoy hearing about your home sale experience, it encourages me. One thing I have learned over the years is that God is never ever early, he is in my view, just in the nick of time, but in His view it is perfect timing.

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  31. You and I both have been traveling similar paths on our journey of late. My post today was about the simplicity of it all, then I come over here an hour or so later and find what you have shared. Christmas is definitely different for me this year. Those same kids and adults that were starving at Thanksgiving are still doing the same this Christmas...and it weighs heavy on my heart, Shannan. All prayers are appreciated that I be shown my part in it all.

    Bless you, dear one, for your openness.

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  32. #1 - You, my friend, are in "the land between." God's been working on me there, too. I've learned so many things from this "land between." I think I actually have a list :)

    #2 - Love your idea of "fun" on the couch. I'm with ya.

    #3 - I still have The Guernsey Literary waiting on my shelf for you.

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  33. God's plan is always better than any we could dream up. I know it to be true yet I still struggle with the wait! Ollie is helping me with this!
    My most favorite Christmas song is" Mary did you know" ... I LOVE it. And I love almost all except if the Beach Boys are singing!:( I am a hater like that.

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  34. I never lost you :) I just never seem to get to sit long enough to comment...I still read though. I'll make sure I leave a little love now and then because I DO love. Your heart is so full of His love. Maybe that is why it is sad (for lack of a better word) because something about the lack of celebrating the Lord this time of year just makes a heart sad.

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  35. Thank you. You were like fresh snow for me today. God is right here.

    Shalom ;)
    deb

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  36. i'm so glad you linked, friend. xo (btw, this is the last imperfect prose until the new year. i hope you have the merriest of christmases! thank you for linking.)

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  37. You are a wise woman...I've found myself thinking that so many times...But you called me here Jesus. YOU CALLED ME HERE. I OBEYED. And this is it? No sky writing? I've been reading Ester and it has struck me that she just did the next thing. History in the making just feels like another day...

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  38. oh thank you for your words! i have been feeling strung-along by God too, wondering where He is in this hard season of obedience and no answers. thank you for drawing my attention to the Christmas story again. i've never seen that before. my soul needed that encouragement.

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  39. I hear you.

    Speaking of wonderful Christmas songs.... try this one on for size:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SfD-2my4uw

    It just might fit. :)

    Chrissy

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