Darkness Invades from the Land of Mordor and a Merry Christmas to All

Carly Christmas Tree

Donning the tree with my granddaughter

I wake up in the pitch dark.

Blinds drawn tightly to give privacy, I cannot see the light of the new-fallen day. It could be 5 a.m. It could be 10 a.m. Heck, it could be noon. If I want to see daylight I must tear open the shutters and throw up the sash, or check the snazzy clock beside my bed. A present from the 19-year-old last Christmas. (Okay, enough of Clement Clarke Moore’s timeless classic. But, I do hope you plan to read it this Christmas Eve. I will be reading it to my granddaughter. The words of it are already running through my head, obviously.)

But, to continue.

Light invades the darkness of my room the minute I turn on my bedside lamp, or my IPhone 5c (blue, if you’re wondering) flashlight. Here’s what always amazes me. Darkness can never, NEVER, win. Darkness cannot overcome light. Think about it, one tiny match lit and a whole room is seen. The light invades the darkness and darkness cannot stop it. I know, you already know that it only-takes-a-spark-to-get-a-fire-going. Well, me too, but light/darkness is one of nature’s dichotomies that never stops fascinating me.

I also wake up to the pitch darkness of my soul. Yes, a bit melodramatic. I agree. Stop rolling your eyes, because, really, don’t we all? Aren’t we all waking up to the pitch darkness of our souls, and asking a crucial question, do I matter?

Do I matter?

Do I matter to myself, to anyone, to the world?

Do I matter to my family, my friends, my spouse, my children, the girl/boy across the room, my employer, my dog (you always matter to your dog, btw), the universe?

Okay, so maybe none of ya’ll are waking up with that question buried deep in your souls, and you’re thinking no wonder she writes a blog. She has a LOT TO WORK OUT.

Well, yeah, I do. Here’s the deal. I always knew there was a very important question lurking in my soul, one I had never asked myself, or even bothered to find out what it was. But, it wasn’t until I started waking up in this dark room alone that the question presented itself. Spouse gone, kids gone, home gone, friends gone. The little empire I had built for myself gone, and just me left (not literally in one sense, but in another sense, yes, literally)  And there in the darkness, right before I turn on my light, is the question. Do I matter? That’s my question anyway, maybe you have a different one.

If you’re my mom, you’re going to comment on this post, with a yes, honey you do matter, but the question goes beyond the grasp of a mother’s love (which in this world is the closest we come to infinity). The question takes you to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, and drops you off (guess what movie I saw Monday night). There, the Dark Lord Sauron would like you to think that darkness wins. That he could actually overtake Gandalf the Grey’s light, and destroy him. Please. We all know the ending to that story, but still, Gandalf has to face the darkness.

And so do I, IPhone flashlight in hand. And, so do you.

That’s the truth in Tolkien’s books. The darkness is coming, and it will invade your land. And, you will awake in pitch darkness. And, you will have questions, deep, soul piercing questions. This is a true statement. Your darkness is coming. You don’t get to avoid it anymore than I do, even if you manage to outrun it for a bit, or keep yourself very busy with your empire while in denial.

So, that’s a happy Christmas thought, eh? Maybe.

Maybe it is exactly the Christmas thought we need.

If darkness is going to overtake our lands, (I’m talking personal here, lets not take the Mordor thing too far), then we need a light to help us see, and to penetrate that darkness. For what is the world if not a dark and often scary place?

That’s what Christmas is. The announcement that the Light that has come into the World. Jesus.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John1:1-5

Jesus is not a metaphor for light. He is light. He is the light that lights your journey. He is the light that outshines the darkness. He is the light of life. HE IS THE LIGHT OF LIFE. Meditate on that. If the world finally implodes on itself, and the sun is no more, there will still be light, because Jesus is, quite literally, light. He radiates it. We are transformed by it. Jesus isn’t a self-help theology, he is the light of the world. Creator of all things. Creator of me. I matter.

If I lie still in my dark room just a bit longer, and allow my question to be spoken in the dark (Do I matter?), if I  allow my fears to rise up before I jump up, if I do that, and don’t turn on my bedside light or tear open the shutters to see the light of day, if I can just be patient one fraction of a second longer, then the miraculous happens. Or maybe it is not so miraculous that the Creator comes to the created to speak, to reveal, but he does. Jesus’ light comes into my darkness, and answers my question. Creator of the universe, beacon of light, speaks. You matter. All is well. Merry Christmas.

It’s Christmas Again; Do I Decorate Without Kids?; Finally, an Advent that is truly Advent

Merry

The holidays are here. I’ve written about them once already, but I feel this is going to be a month-long blog about holidays.

So, here’s this holiday topic: to decorate or not for Christmas.

Last year, the holidays were a blur. I had moved in August, which after 25 years is a daunting but actually very good thing to do–talk about purging. And, I was working a new job, so in my usual extremism, I worked, and am working, 24/7 to establish a career after two decades of not having one. The holidays came and went, and I never noticed or considered decorating. Some people referred to me as a Grinch for not standing by the time-honored tradition of “greening the house.” I used the excuses mentioned above to silence their horror, and spent the holidays without tinsel or lights. I didn’t really mind.

But, this year, while I am still unloading storage units, I really don’t have the same excuse. Yes, I still work 24/7, but life has slowed down a bit, and I could decorate if I took a notion. But, that’s the deal. I haven’t really taken a notion. So, I am actually asking myself the question this year, do I decorate when the kids are all grown and the grandkids are not coming to my house? Do I go to the trouble of sorting through boxes and running to Lowe’s for a tree stand? Or do I give myself permission to  skip it? Am I allowed the freedom to enjoy the reason for the season without dealing with the trappings for the season?

Here’s the bottom line. With a house full of kids, you’d have to be the biggest scrooge ever not to make Christmas Christmas. But living alone, well, it frees you up to do things differently. Hence my question of decorations or no?

No longer do I feel obligated to decorate, now the question is, do I want too? My friends say I am apathetic about it, but I don’t think so. I think by forgoing the bling of Christmas, my focus can be more on the reason, Jesus. I feel like, for the first time in forever, I can spend Advent pondering the coming of the Savior. The baby in the manager has my full attention, something that could never happen with little ones excited for Santa. Yes, I miss those days, but these days are precious too. I can sit by my fire in the evening and read aloud those wonderful passages from Isaiah, like Isaiah 9:6.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I am protective of this new Christmas of the heart. While my friends joke and prod, wanting me to “get in the mood,” I joke and say, THIS IS AS MERRY AS WE GET.  And truly, if you consider my dark house, wreath-less door, empty mantel and the missing pine smell, you might consider me a Scrooge. But, deep inside my heart it is warm, and the fires are burning with the contemplation of the coming Savior, and work is being done there as he tidies up and does his own decorating.

Holiday Traditions; What to do with Family; How do You Cook a Turkey?

The topic here is this: WHAT THE HECK DO I DO WITH THE HOLIDAYS?

Who travels to whose house, and what are the new traditions going to be? ”

Do I make new traditions or stick with the old? One kid is married, one soon to be, 3 grandchildren, empty-nest most of the time, single again. So, what’s what with the holidays? My friend, Jen, and I were talking about this very thing over dinner. We googled what do do at the holidays when you’re an empty nester? We actually got some pretty good ideas.

Hey adult children are hard. Just a head’s up for those of you who still have little ones.

My mom gave up on this topic early on. Before she died, she and her boyfriend, Bob, would drive around looking at Christmas lights while listening to a radio station narrating the experience. Then they hit up the Cracker Barrel. Not a bad plan.

Some families do the Double Holiday deal. Go to one parents house, then the other. If said parent’s are divorced, that’s 4 houses in one day. 4 meals and 4x the grumpy kids. If grandparent’s are still hanging in there with their holiday traditions, then adult children are screwed. How many holiday affairs can one family go to and not decide that next year it is Tahiti baby?

Okay, so, if life is transitioning then it stands to reason that the TRADITIONS are TRANSITIONING. (I should name the post that, but I won’t because I prefer long wordy titles to quick, snappy ones.)

So what to do? I don’t know. I’m literally playing it by ear year-to-year. This Thursday I’ll be at the Grove Park Inn Spa, alone and well, probably pretty darn happy. It’s been a long year of hard work. A spa day indeed. Then dinner at The Vue 1913, joined by one child and his girlfriend. I am actually looking forward to doing something different, and I’m beginning to figure out that if I don’t change, I’ll be left behind.

Still, there are lingering conflicted emotions. Subtitled and all.

Conflicted Emotions

The older I get, the more people I miss. That’s the thing, more and more people are missing from my holiday table. It ain’t just the kids anymore. My daddy. My mom. Old friends. And, as my table diminishes in size, and my ability to cook flies out the window, I find the holidays are transitioning in more ways than where to spend them and what new traditions to come up with. I miss the people who used to grace my holiday table.

I  go to my children’s homes and feel blessed beyond measure to see them and be with them, but I do miss that table set for everyone. I miss the faces I grew used to seeing year after Thanksgiving year. I miss my holiday traditions, even as I embrace the new ones that aren’t so traditional.

Holiday Traditions Wish

I often ask my kids, Okay what’s the best case scenario here? If you could have anything? So I ask myself, best case scenario? Easy. Everyone around my table for one meal. Just one. The whole family together for one day, one hour, one moment in time. Then we can all go back to separate lives and separate ambitions, but, for that one holiday day, there’d be no holes, no one missing from my table.

And, I’d remember how to cook a turkey.