Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Full Heart

It sneaks up on me unaware, this Christmas thing.

From the time that it is over one year, I know it's coming the next... but still I'm not ready.

I wonder if that was how Mary and Joseph were... nine months of waiting, not knowing, agonizing at times... until it was time. Time for her to be delivered.

Time for me to be delivered.  Time for you to be delivered... when she delivered that baby boy.

All alone. 

Just her and Joseph; at least that's the only people the Bible mentions.

Except for the strangers, like the shepherds and the wisemen.

I can't help but wonder about Mary's family, because to me, that's what Christmas is about.

Family... loud, crazy family.

Family who know your story, because they've lived it with you.

Every year, Christmas is about family... but this year the current was strong.

My heart is full, even as I was overwhelmed.

Christmas Eve brought Grandma Bert and the "best Christmas ever", just as it has been every year of my life. For the first time in years, Holly and Dennis had put up a Christmas tree, and we gathered in front of it for a group picture... the first one I can remember.  We laughed about old movies and detective stories and Grandma squealed over every hoot owl present that she got.  I sat in Papaw's lap for a picture and I thought of Christmas all those years ago, when it was just me and Brandon and I monopolized the audience with impromptu concerts sung on a wooden microphone. The smell of woodchips and sawdust hasn't been present in a while, but it is still the smell of my childhood... that and cornbread in milk.  This year there were gifts of cash, but I remembered gifts of Avon from my Aunt Jo.  I sat and drank in the image of Grandma opening her gifts, because memories are short and easily forgotten and this year I was determined to treasure every last one of them.
And then we rushed out, because Santa had been sighted on Twin Cedar Road and there was a little boy who was anxious to see him...or maybe not so much so.  Santa packed in a bag of presents and Will jumped and laughed as he opened them, tearing a little bit of the paper and then moving on to the next one. And then he packed them all and piled them all on Kami. "Here you go, Kami." until she was covered with presents.  There are no in-laws on Twin Cedar... just a family that loves one another regardless of last name. As I watch Will I'm reminded of the true joy of Christmas... the laughter of kids.

Christmas morning brought pancakes and bacon at Mom and Dad's and Caleb impatiently waiting for Holly and Warren to arrive. My best gift was a novel about Mammy from Gone with the Wind and a bracelet that says, "After all, tomorrow is another day."  Kami's thoughtfulness overwhelmed me, as she knew just what I'd like. Holly was equally overwhelmed by her present, cookie cutters in the shape of the characters from Pride and Prejudice.  Our little girl grown up...

And then Clemons Christmas for the Clemons Clan.  The bells were hanging and the boys were in the basement. Braylee woke up and snuggled and Lily sat in Kami's lap and opened presents until she was tired of opening. Papaw Jr. sat in his recliner and Jill lay in the middle of the rug, oblivious to the chaos around her.

Every year is the same but every year is different, if that makes any sense.  The same houses and the kids mostly draw the same names, and there's the same group picture of the grandkids, where you can never get everyone to look at the camera.

But the differences are palpable this year as we don't speak of it, but we tolerate the pictures a little better.

There's Bronco fans and there are Steelers fans and there are Bengals fans... Wildcat fans and the stray Louisville fan...

But we are all family, that crazy Clemons Clan.

Another dinner with Helen and William and a nap and then it's time to wind up the evening at Dana's house, where for once the fire is blazing and we don't have to snuggle up under blankets. The ballgame is on and again there is a debate about who is better, Michael Jordan or Lebron James, and Papaw Jr. is just cheering for "whoever is the winner." And Braylee tries to crawl and we all cheer her on.

New faces around the table as we play 5 Seconds, where Jordan puts his college degree to use and assures us that Social Studies is a science (proving it with Wikipedia, mind you), and Brayton exclaims that the Bible is a book series because there is 66 books, and Mom draws a blank when Kami mispronounces her card. 

And in the meantime Lily is doing cartwheels and Papaw sits in the living room.

I look around and realize that I've done it... gone the whole day without shedding a tear, and know that if I hadn't, the people around that table would understand...

And I've got a feeling many of you would, too...

Because you need Him, too... need to be delivered just like Mary was.

Delivered of grief... because like us, you were missing someone special.
OR delivered of illness, because your son is facing another surgery or you're facing chemo or the flu or just the winter blues.

We all need deliverance... and He understands.  After all, He is the deliverer... the Word made flesh. God with us.

The one who is writing our story and will eventually wipe away every tear.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.  May your heart be full today and always.

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