Sunday, December 30, 2012

Like a Coin Hiding in the Corner.

The kids' table, which I
graduated from this year.
I've spent all thirty-six Christmas Eves of my life at my maternal grandmother's house surrounded by family.

I love being able to say this so much.

I mean, yes, I often wish I could take an entire bottle of nerve pills to gear up for it, because let's face it:

  • I haven't provided anyone with grandchildren or great-grandchildren. 
  • I'm still unmarried (apparently unhappily, though that's news to me) ;-). 
  • I sometimes straighten these curls which I'm told others would kill for (?!), and not everyone prefers that style. 
  • I'm human, and I often get grumpy. 
  • And, well, it's the most wonderful time of the year. 

My mother and my Aunt Kathy
clearly found the nerve pills.

So rather than basking in the wonder of our Lord's birth, I'm guessing like most of America, I pathetically spend a lot of my pre-Christmas Eve days rushing around for last-minute gifts and cooking for parties and wrapping things and getting stressed over traffic and worrying about not helping my mom prepare for house guests (one of whom is me - yikes!) and cleaning up my own place and what time are we supposed to be everywhere and who-said-what-about-that-again-it's-CHRISTMAS-for-the-love-of-Pete-where's-the-peace-on-earth-we're-FAMILY, all while working paid jobs and living and such, too.

And I would say and maybe have said these things to the Moores, because we deeply love each other, and that old adage about standing in front of a train for any of my family members? I'd totally do it. I mean, I naturally don't want to have to, but I love them so much.

Russ and Greg missed me a lot at
the make-up session and were so
sad they had to text me this picture.
So craving for nerve pills or not, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else come December 24th. You know. We're family.

If you've hung in this far, you get the picture about Christmas Eve at Nan's.

We are a deep fried, Southern bunch who truly loves one another. We are family. Sometimes I'm one of only a few of us nine grandchildren who can be there. A couple of times, the stars (a.k.a. family/in-law rotations) have aligned, and we've all made it, even our Tennessee family who often can't come because of pastoral obligations. Those years get rowdy, as well they should, but man, are they ever the best of times!

Aunt Renee and I
model this year's bling.
Whatever the case, Christmas Eve always has a special facet about it -- sometimes the Toddler of the Year says hilarious things that crack us all up, maybe we're mourning a loss or a harsh blow of life, once in a while my uncles' jokes make my neck wildly splotch up like I have a rash, occasionally my Aunt Renee' and I will fabulously glamorize the place with our must-have Christmas hats and bling, or sometimes we're celebrating new lives that have come into our world through birth or adoption or marriage.

Those of us in adulthood stopped an official gift exchange at Nan's long ago, which as far as I know, no one complains about. (Case in point: right now, I'm blogging instead of cleaning up my living quarters, which could be featured on "Hoarders" at any given time.) So obviously, less is more for me when it comes to intake of gifts.

Sometimes Jeff can't join us
because he likes to dress up
like this for work, so I try
not to complain. Too much.
This year, though, at age 36, I, with the others in attendance, received a gift from Nan. Not the very touching, so very Nan-to-a-T "Here's a little somethin', now you use it for something NICE!" gift, but a tangible, sentimental gift in the form of an old coin that was special to her and my deceased biological grandfather. (I love that I now note "biological" since Col. Cliff "Pop" Ball saluted his way right into our hearts and my family tree.)

Anyway, that coin may not mean a lot to anyone off the branches of our family tree, but in these eyes, it's downright gorgeous. And special. And not anything that I would trade for anything -- even the chance to sit down and chat with Loretta Lynn or Michael Card in person.

And that coin, along with my oversleeping for church this morning and looking for my own alternate means of worship, led me to reminisce on the Biblical parable of the lost coin today. If you're not familiar or need brushing up, Wikipedia summarizes it:

As recounted in Luke 15, a woman with ten silver coins (Greek drachmae) loses one. She then lights a lamp and sweeps her house until she finds it, rejoicing when she does.

In the Scripture, Luke 15:8-10 states:

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

So because I'm me, that reminded me of a great Caedmon's Call song. I know I need to get into their new stuff, but I'm so stuck in the 90s that I went back to an old favorite, "Where I Began."

I know if you're reading this, we're clearly BFFs, so I won't be embarrassed to admit that I started this morning praying for a bit of worship in lieu of missing what went on at my wonderful church without me, but listening to this song I can sing in my sleep simply ripped my heart to shreds today. Here's a YouTube version:

Lyrics are here, with things that particularly struck me emphasized:

The grass looked greener on the other side
So I tried to snatch myself from your hand
Caught a boat to anywhere but Nineveh
And, well you know, I got spit back on dry land.

A priceless treasure.
Give me purity and many continents
But oh no, not yet.
Like a coin hiding in the corner
Trying not to be swept
And I was trying not to be swept.

Kicking against these goads
Sure did cut up my feet
And didn't your hands get bloody
As you washed them clean -- you washed them!

Here I am again, back where I began
Try as I may I can't get away from you
And all of these roads that lead me to roam
Bring me back home.
Here I am again, back where I began.

So you have yourself your ninety nine 
Isn't that enough for you?
Still you followed me to the shadowed valley
Carried me on your shoulders too. 

I've done the work of Sisyphus
Thinking that I could get over this hill
But the one thing I can't get over now 
Is the force of your will.

Here I am again, back where I began
Try as I may I can't get away from you
And all of these roads that lead me to roam
Bring me back home.
Here I am again, back where I began.

Caleb and Steve Wood, Kaitlyn Lyle
and Uncle Rick Moore hear Nan's tale
of her coins at Christmas Eve 2012.
While I'm admittedly not the brightest, it's always been clear to me the "back where I began" portion of this song isn't a physical point on a map that Siri can help me with. I knew it was a location of the soul.
But the coin part -- that grabbed me this time. Maybe it was Nan's timely, timeless gift. Maybe it was my identification with really needing to sweep today. Like, literally. My floors look like a Macy's stockroom or something.

But maybe part of it was facing that I'm legitimately sore afraid of what can happen if I truly open myself up to all that God has for me in areas I've been fiercely protecting -- namely, relationships, how I can be of service to others in an official capacity, ways I can use talents. I've been burned in all of these things before (because I'm so special; I know no one else has, right?), and for the last few years, have been really freaked out by the idea of opening myself up again.

Greg and Nan clearly mourn
my absence at Christmas Eve
Part Deux 2012. It's heartbreaking
to see family this sad at the holidays.

Dust is pretty gross, and nasty things find their ways to corners, but wow, are corners ever the safest of places. Sometimes that safety can even seem better than venturing out, because, you know, what if the Owner doesn't rejoice? What if no one comes to the party the Owner holds for you and you just feel like a regular old coin? What if you're the coin that isn't so rare and valuable?

I'm thinking today, though, that when the Giver and Owner of the coin is family, the Owner of the coin will rejoice to find the coin, no matter how much pre-Christmas Eve hustle and bustle has taken place.

And I'm also thinking that the coin will feel treasured and will, in the long run, prefer that possibly kind of painful sweeping up process to the safety of a dark, dusty corner that may seem protective with its enticing quietness, where nerve pills aren't really needed.

I've thought before that I was "back where I began" in other ways, mainly spiritually. And I believe I have been. I just haven't, before today, seen myself as that rare coin that my Owner might rejoice and throw a party over if I came out of hiding in the ways I mentioned above.

So I'm off to sweep now -- literally -- and I'll do that grateful for my wrecked, ripped up heart, and for my imperfect self, and for both a Family and a family who love me enough to throw parties and send me texts and bring special hats to celebrate our time together.

And I'm hoping my "trying not to be swept" days are over, and my openness to what God has for me in these particular ways is not over.

So, as scary as it is to leave that disgusting corner, let the party* begin.

* If you'd like to contribute to this shindig by way of nerve pills, feel free to direct message me for my address. Thank you, and happy 2013!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Weary World.

Lately I've wondered if I'm not starting to really feel my age.

Whether fumbling with technology, shaking my head at "crazy kids," or contemplating the meaning of it all, every once in a while, it just feels like the world is getting too...heavy.

Some of this, I know, is attributed to living more life. Diseases without cures stealing one last conversation with yet another great, influential friend. Landscapes I love literally being washed away by nature's fury. The list growing longer of people I know, and people they know, who have seen war firsthand. Amazingly willing hearts aching for children, yet unable to give birth or get through an arduous process of adoption. Babies suffering from others' mishaps. Political schemes determining the most innocent lives' outcomes.

Some days, life's just not that easy to live without asking a few questions.

I don't know if that's because this pirate is looking, as Jimmy Buffet so eloquently reflected, at forty, or because the world is getting weirder.

Whatever the case, optimism can be exhausting.

I was reminded, though, while watching a performance of my all-time favorite Christmas carol this weekend, that even though this world is indeed weary, we also have incentive to get excited.

Martina McBride sings it beautifully:

Hope, I'm reminded, is so powerful.

I'm so grateful for faith -- for that divine umbrella of contentment that doesn't resolve all my questions like a fairy tale, but  instead puts them in context like only a Savior can.

In spite of all the ugly, all the weary, hope truly is as beautiful and refreshing as a new day.

What a thrill!