Christmas is a miraculous and joyful season..  It’s the season when I surrendered my way for His, some 25 years ago.  It’s the season my best friend became my fiance. (Kyle- my amazing husband- gave me my “real” engagement ring at the place we had our first date. Which happened to have been turned from Putt-putt to Christmas tree lot.) It’s the season in which we brought home our first born and (after literally fighting the instinct to run from the hospital in fear they would figure out I wasn’t fit and take him back) placed him immediately under the tree. (Even post-partum I’d never miss a photo-op.)

Last Christmas,  we anxiously awaited my husband’s cancer surgery. Honestly? We feared it may be our last. At least our last together. I felt guilty for my lack of faith.

It wasn’t. Just a few weeks ago we were told he is currently- cancer free.

We rejoiced. We wept tears of gratitude and joy. We still do.

But- I’ll be honest-it’s been a very- long year. A hard year. A year of multiple surgeries, (2 for me- one for Hubby.) treatments and months without working. It was thousands of dollars in copays. (So thankful we have good insurance. It would have been hundreds of thousands.) Fortunately- we also went into that year with a safety net. Savings. (Thank you Dave Ramsey- even if I still think you’re annoying.) But every safety net has it’s limits. Bills do not go down just because someone has cancer.  Life continues to cost. As I type this- I’m wondering if you’re sick of hearing me complain. Lord knows- I am.

We’re fine. My hubby has a great job. Our bills are paid.

But to be honest- I come into this holiday season feeling as depleted as my bank account. As I looked at my Christmas list- (Okay- I have a spread sheet.) I feel overwhelmed. Even a bit depressed. Maybe it’s the stress of the year catching up with me. Or maybe I’m a terribly selfish- spoiled brat. Or maybe, (most likely) it’s a combination of the two. Either way-Instead of being thankful for all God has brought us through this year- and celebrating- I feel grief- because I can’t DO everything I’d like to this holiday season.

  • I can’d do everything.
  • I can’t send all the flowers I’d like.
  • I can’t  buy and send gifts to everyone I’d like.
  • I can’t give to all the good causes I’d like to in the way I’d like to.
  • I can’t just bless everyone I’d like to-with things I know they’d love. I can’t buy over the top gifts for everyone or decorate and entertain-Pinterest style this year. (Well- I can with what I have…. but it’s funny how pinterest makes you think that’s not good enough… IMO- Pinterest can become lifestyle -Porn- with similar effect.)

I wish it didn’t bother me. But, it does.  Isn’t Christmas supposed to be all happy- joy joy? I HAVE SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR. And I am.

I feel bad and feel bad for feeling bad.

I feel like I should be happy and content this Christmas because of my husband’s new prognosis- But- I’m also disappointed that we lost so much this year. That makes me feel guilty.

Wouldn’t a”Good Christian” would be content with God’s help in surviving a year like this- not pouty that it came with a cost?

Or maybe, a  “Good Christian” feels all of these things and is honest about it. Maybe a good Christian celebrates a Bi-polar Christmas. One with both grief and joy.

This morning- I’m struggling through my feelings. I’m struggling with guilt. I’m struggling with disappointment.

I’m also in wonder of all God has done this year. If you’d have told me 18 months ago all that we’d go through- I’d have thought there was NO WAY we could survive without at least some time spent inpatient in a psych ward.

But, here we are.

This weekend we’re putting up the tree. Instead of beating myself up for how I’m feeling- I’m choosing to be honest- and allow myself to celebrate a Bi-polar Christmas.

I’m reading an advent devotional- and been thinking about Mary…..I wonder if Mary felt the same…..

Not sure what kind of year you’ve had- not sure how you feel going into this season- but if you’re like me- and struggling with joy and disappointment….I hope you’ll join me in setting aside the guilt- and embrace the whole of the season-both the joy and the sorrow.

Merry Bi-Polar Christmas. You’re not alone.

Dear Lord- Help me not lose sight of who you are and what you’e done this season and in my life- help me also not to beat myself up with guilt over feelings that are normal and to be expected. It’s been a hard year. And you’ve been faithful- even here. And Even when I am not. I love you Lord- thank you for your presence in our life and world- help me to focus on your blessings-help me to grieve what is lost and rejoice over what’s gained- I love you lord- amen.  PS- Lord? Help me stop with the whole Good Christian thing…. it’s so stupid. amen.

***I used the term bi-polar christmas- to describe my mood-swings and struggle between extreme joy and disappointment-not as a diagnosis…. Please know- it’s not to minimize that diagnosis- but to relate to it. (and yes- it’s an archaic word.. I know. Give a girl some slack:P)

The cold, wet wind blew straight through my jacket before I stepped off the front porch. Dodging slushy raindrops, Noah and I made our way to the car. Easing into the seat, all I wanted to do was go back inside, start a fire, have a hot cuppa something and a good read. Instead, we drove to the bus stop.

I noticed the bags and bike before I notice the man. “Weird. Who rode their bike to the bus stop?” I thought. (Parents occasionally ride bikes down to the corner to await the bus. Their children ride or follow along. Just not so much, in March. ) Pulling closer- I noticed a brown coated, soaking wet “Shaggy” double [from scooby doo- i’m old skool.] trying to keep his cigarette lit in the rain. “That’s not a parent.” My mom radar sounded off a warning.

He paced back and forth at the corner- picking up cans and putting them one at a time into his collection of piled bags. AT THE BUS STOP. For the record, it’s not a public transit stop. It’s the school bus stop. On our street corner. In a subdivision. In the suburbs. In a nice neighborhood. In the rain. In the cold. In March.

It was: weird.

I told Noah to: stay in the car. Since not a single child raced to the bus stop, (a morning tradition.)  I’m guessing that every parent in the neighborhood thought the same: “DANGER! WEIRDO. Protect the children!”

To me- the dude looked like a predator. Why else would he be out in this rain? On a bike. At a school bus stop?  At 8:15 am ? Soaking wet?

I considered calling the police… what are the rules about stranger danger, anyway?  Do you wait until the guy talks to a kid?

I looked up and down the row of mom-driven, soggy SUV’s and by the similar turn of our mom hair-cutted  heads- eyes locked on the “intruder,” it was obvious we were all watching his every soggy- and chilled to the bone move. We were keeping our children safe.

Suddenly, he flipped up his soggy collar against the cold rain and started gathering his bags. He glanced at the cars lined up like a police blockade and mounted his bike while the cigarette dangled from his lips. We’d made it pretty clear: he was not wanted or welcome here.

As he turned to pedal away,  I saw his face. He was just a kid. Maybe college age.. but still, just a kid. He looked cold, frustrated, a bit embarrassed.

When he was out of view, car doors started to open and slam shut behind children. The morning’s race to the stop sign commenced. Things were back to normal.

I should have felt relieved.

I didn’t. I felt awful.

“What if he wasn’t a predator? What if he was just cold and hungry and desperate enough to face the cold to collect cans to buy breakfast?” Questions flooded my mind, a little too late.

Today begins lent, a time when we set aside time to die to ourselves in order to find greater life in Christ…and I’d just missed the point, entirely. What if I’d died to my own fear and offered him a cup of coffee or an umbrella? What if I’d grabbed the cans from the floor of my car (ok, so my car’s a mess- it always is. Don’t judge me.) to add to his collection? What if I’d reached out in kindness instead of being held back by fear?

Did I miss a divine appointment? Or was he a predator that I’d just kept my child safe from?

I’ll never know.

But when I read this over on Curt’s blog this morning- I felt convicted.

I won’t miss the next opportunity. I will step out of my fear and into love. I think instead of giving up something for lent this year- I’m going to give up my fear make lent a journey into love….selfless fearless love.

By His grace, and with a safe (ish)  plan…..

My questions for you:

  • What would you have thought, or done?
  • Can you think of a safe way I could have reached out to this guy?
  • Did I do the right, or wrong thing?
  • Have you been in situations like this?  What did you do?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…