Joy

joy

Joy. Third Sunday of Advent. This is the week we traditionally put up our Christmas tree and our Nativity. We usually haul out the old records – yeah, remember records? –  and we sing along, badly. I turn out cookies in big batches. The house is loud and bright and smells like heaven.

Not this year. The tree is up, lit, and decorated but we did it quietly. The Nativity boxes are all stacked in the corner for later. Maybe tonight. Cookies might happen before Christmas Eve.

The traditional Christmas preparations that usually make me feel lighter inside feel heavy this year. The excitement that usually bubbles up in me just hasn’t been there this year. The closer we get to Christmas, the heavier things weigh on me.

And yet, joy is not absent.  Joy showed up in the simplest, most unexpected way. A little piece of candy from an old lady’s purse was all it took to brighten my whole world. Earlier this week a new client, whom I had never met, was introduced to me as I was leaving work. As usual these days, I was in a whirlwind with a long list of things I needed to do after work. She smiled and we shook hands. Then suddenly, she reached for her bag and dug out a strawberry-filled hard candy and handed it to me. Everything instantly lightened up for me and it must have been all over my face when I thanked her because she caught my hand, dug out five more, put the whole handful in my hand and then stood up and gave me a big hug. She could not have known but those particular candies bring back the sweetest memories of my childhood. As I walked to my car, I still had a long list of things I needed to do after work but the whirlwind felt … well… a lot less whirly. And I caught myself noticing the way the sunlight hit the snow and the sparrow singing in the tree over my car and how chubby the squirrels have gotten all of the sudden.

The next day, I came into work, still smiling like a little girl over that little handful of candy. There waiting for me was a whole bag of the same candies. After I’d left, the client had gone out to her car and come back in with a full bag and left it for me. That was enough to move me to tears.

I’ve always been one to find joy in the littlest things in life: the way the dew hangs on a spiderweb or a buttercup growing up through a crack in the cement or the way the snowflakes stacked up precariously on the bush outside the kitchen window reflect the light of Christmas lights. The last ten weeks, my mom’s health suddenly declined and I’ve been more and more caught up in taking care of her and running around trying to get the house ready to celebrate the holidays in the way we always have. I’ve been so caught up in all of it that I didn’t even realize that I had started to miss seeing the little things that had always brought me so much joy.

strawberryJoy for me this year was found in the simplest, smallest act of kindness from a total stranger. A little piece of candy and a smile was all I needed to remind me to stop, breathe, look up, look around and remember the innocence and wonder of childhood. Because when God shows up, at least for me, it’s usually in the littlest of ways.

 

 

Advent Tears

candles

Maybe I’m under too much stress from work and school. Maybe it’s the car that doesn’t seem to understand that it needs to last one more year without bankrupting me. Maybe it’s the fourteen nights straight of dreams where horrible black smoke monsters are coming to kill me. Maybe it’s the fact that the weather is too warm and my ice queen soul desperately need it to snow. Yeah, I guess maybe all that could be starting to wear me down. Whatever the cause, I’m finding myself ridiculously prone to tears this Advent season.

Anything and everything has set me off. Sometimes it hasn’t taken anything at all. If I’m still for more than five minutes, I’m crying. So, of course, I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. And, of course, that isn’t working so well.

Riding in the car? My favorite Trans-Siberian Orchestra song set me off.

Twitter? Pictures of Rev. Daniel’s creche touched off the water works. Particularly when he pointed out that he loves this set because it’s the only one he’s ever found where Mary is actually holding Jesus like a mother instead of just staring at him in the manger like she’s not quite sure what to do with him.

Today it was as simple as taking my son to see the last installment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.  It wasn’t the movie that got to me. I’d read all three novels so I knew what was coming. No, it was the commercial before the previews before the movie that did me in. There’s a Windows commercial where their NYC employees flash mobbed outside an Apple store singing Let Peace Begin With Me.

Oh no. Not going there. This is stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Cheesy. Sappy. Sentimental. Shit where are the tissues?! Seriously, have I gotten that pathetically sappy that I’m crying over commercials now? Really? This is a new low.

Or is it?  Do I really want to shut down that softer side of myself? I know my weakest points. I have serious issues with trust. I rarely feel safe. But over the last few years, I let my defenses down. I allowed myself to trust more and there are at least some places and times when I feel mostly safe. In short, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable again. That vulnerability doesn’t come without a price. Reconnecting with the innocent, childlike wonder-filled part of myself makes the world a big, beautiful place that I love. But it also means that the vitriol, fear, hatred and violence hit much deeper now. Putting my infamous protective inner walls back up no longer seems like an option I can live with.

So now what? As I struggle with this teary feeling where nothing feels solid, I hang to a few lines from The Shack – which I am re-reading for the nineteenth time.

“Jesus, I feel lost.”

“I know… But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.”