CrushedMess at Christmas

We held each other’s hands in the quiet of the house; the Christmas-charged children had finally settled down; it was like the moment after a parade, when the workers come out to sweep up the confetti.

We had just prayed, and we had warbled a broken “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  Tears slipped down my cheeks, and there was some constancy to that, like perhaps my eyes would never stop pouring forth.  “This has been the worst, the hardest Christmas I’ve ever had”, he said, rubbing his hand over his face, the way he does when he’s stressed and sad.  I nodded.

We’ve invested in rental properties, and a tenant kept falling farther and farther behind on rent, running into one disaster after another with his addictions, and resultant loss of jobs.  We rented to him, fresh out of jail, his girlfriend expecting their baby any moment. For a few months it looked like maybe this small family could make life work.  The baby loved her mama, her drug-addicted mama, and it hurts my soul to speak of this.  He called us from prison, we bailed him out.  We did not have money for this, but we knew he needed to be able to work or they’d lose their daughter.  Please, can there be some redemption?

The baby was taken into foster care.  Sweet baby, how you will bear this?  I am glad she is safe and cared for, and I am heartbroken too, for she loved her mama, her mama who also loved drugs.  We served them eviction papers and gave them time to relocate their things.  They broke back into the house and sublet space to other people, not giving us any rent.  We called the prison when our calls to them weren’t answered, and discovered they were both back in jail.  Unpaid rent was up to $5,000 now.  School taxes were due.  We had to clear out the house and get it ready for another renter.

There is great sadness in all of it.  My husband has been so stressed and saddened by it all that he hardly sleeps at night.  He shakes with stress, and he apologizes for not being able to provide for us all, for the lack of rent income, plus the mortgage, and impending taxes have put us firmly in the red.  That’s a sobering thing for a family of eight in the middle stage of life.

“We are vulnerable…one car breakdown, an appliance failing, a medical need…”  We let the silence extend.  I put a load in the washer, dropped to the cold tile floor, and wept.  A crushed mess at Christmas.

That is the load on our backs, weighing heavy.  Now let me speak of the beautiful.

A high school friend gifted us two bins full of Legos, many of them Star Wars sets.  These became the Christmas gift for our two older sons, who were overcome with wonder and joy.  They’ve been joyfully playing with them constantly ever since.

A friend here passed along her kids train track set and wooden castle set; my two middle sons received them with joy for their Christmas gift.  The baby was pleased with his thrifted wooden toys, and my daughter quite happy with the clearance bin goods we got for her.

Our families gave beautiful gifts to us; there was merriment as the children opened things they’ve dearly wished for.  We were gifted a Christmas tree, because our family helped unload a flatbed full of them at a friend’s business.

On Christmas day a package arrived for me.  A book I’ve wanted for three years!!  A friend somehow found out and ordered it.  I held it to my chest and smiled.

We made cookies with the help of the neighborhood kids, whose own stories are difficult and pain-filled, and I gave up the rolling pin and cutters and let them have at it, mess and all.

…………………………………….

We held hands in the quiet.

“Do you know what makes me so happy though?” my husband asked.  “Our kids.  They are so cute and funny and I love watching their faces as they open gifts; just that expression of joy and surprise.”  I nodded.

So much pain, so much stress, so much uncertainty, but oh so much beauty, so much joy, so much life.IMG_2861

Scarves, And Dark, And Glitter

I wrap my black wool coat around my protruding belly.  The top buttons close of course, but a gap opens wide just below and it always sort of looks like I’m a lady shoplifting a basketball.  I reach for my scarf, all it’s soft houndstooth goodness hopefully bringing some visual distraction from the fact that my coat does not close.

It’s the morning dark and I gather it as evidence that Christmas is in the air and I’ll be having this baby soon.

I am not one who minds the Christmas Creep; you know, the emergence of Christmas music and decor in the stores right after All Saints Day.  I love the coziness and sparkle and magic of Christmas and the longer my eyes and ears get to feast on it the better.  But this year I am particularly motivated to deck the halls; see, baby is due December 25.

IMG_2720 Salt dough ornaments painted and be-glittered.  image1  Up-cycled used ornaments glued onto a thrifted wire wreath.pomander Pomander.

Christmas music has been playing, glitter has been sprinkled liberally, and the hot glue gun is getting a workout, and I need these signs that birth is about to happen, just nearly here.

This little one within strains and kicks and pushes and my hand is only an inch away, and how I long to hold and kiss those feet that rest on my ribs.  I long to know, do I have another daughter?  Another son?  Who are you, little wiggler within?

I have grown to scorn the pumpkins and mums and dried corn and all things Fall.  Enough orange, bring on the red and green!  Bring on the snow and the sweaters and the mittens and the cookies (ahem) and the cozy dark which wraps our houses and makes our windows little squares of warm light.  Bring on the infant tucked warm and secure against me under a handmade quilt while the wild winds blow outside.

I think of Mary.  Of traveling and stress and the stable and giving birth alone, far from her mother and friends who could give her support.  Looking into a newborn’s eyes for the first time is breathtaking enough; how would it be to look down into the face of God Incarnate?  Immanuel, God With Us.  Oh, Mary, how was that?

I ordered a most special thing this year (and told my husband that it was my Christmas present from him, how thoughtful of me, hmm?).  It is a handmade Advent wreath made by Caleb Voskamp, and it has 24 candle holes to mark each day of Advent in a wooden spiral.  A wooden figurine of a pregnant Mary on a donkey accompanies the inward march of the candles.  It has an extension too to observe the 40 days of Lent, with a wooden figurine of Christ bent under a cross.  It’s quite beautiful, and I can’t wait to light the candles day by day as I anticipate a birthday and a birth.

_MG_4776And I hope I wait well.