Sameness

I write when there is something I need to get out. A thought, or an idea that just can’t be kept in, that has to be shared. Something that is real. Something that might help someone else. Not because I have all the answers, but because knowing you are not alone is half the battle.

I have had multiple thoughts and ideas lately, but when I start to think them through, I realize I have already written about them, and I have nothing new to say about them. This seems to be the story of my life right now. Sameness.

I had big plans for this year. I was going to graduate, find the perfect job as an OB nurse, save a little money, and move into a place of my own.  You know with a real kitchen, separate bedrooms, and (dare I dream) a bathtub. I was going to get my things out of storage and decorate for Christmas with ALL my decorations. Then I was going to have all my friends over for a dinner party for my 30th birthday. It was going to be wonderful.

But, as they say, life is what happens when you are busy making plans. I graduated. (YAY!) I got a job as a caregiver for my grandma. And I am still live in my tiny “studio” apartment. I can almost taste the disappointment. I can feel the walls closing in. The apathy of depression seeping in around the edges.

Change can be difficult. Sameness, when you are expecting change may be even more difficult. I am finding it hard to be grateful. I know in my head that I am so blessed with what I have. But in my heart I just want to be somewhere else.

Thanksgiving came and went, and I tried to make my November thankful posts on Facebook. But I only made a few. I know I have lists and lists of things to be thankful for, but I just couldn’t make many heartfelt spontaneous declarations of thankfulness. Now Christmas is upon us, my favorite time of the year, and I am just not feeling joyful. Yes I am aware that joy is a choice, but sometimes feeling it is good too.

My pastor taught on generosity last week, (If you think you have heard every sermon on giving that you ever need to hear, you haven’t.  Listen here. 12/1) and he drove home the point that even the poorest of us here are SO rich. Point taken. Then we started this Advent for Orphans calendar, where you put specified amounts of change in a jar for things such as: # of bibles or games you own, # of eggs in the fridge or cans of food in he pantry, or # of carpeted rooms in your house. I may only have one room, but it is carpeted, and heated. Has lights and running water, hot water even.

Nothing like perspective to make you feel like a ridiculously selfish spoiled brat. Perspective may not immediately change how I FEEL, but changing how I THINK is a start.  I may still want something different, but I can also be content with what I have.

In the midst of all the disappointing sameness I need to remember that there is a comforting sameness. The same God who has gotten me through the last 7 years, is the same God who is going to get me through the next 7 years. I have believed steadfastly that he has a plan for me, that he has the perfect job waiting, that he brings good things to those who wait. He stays the same, even when he doesn’t do things in MY timing. He stays the same.

New Year

Twenty-Thirteen has been here for two days already and I have barely given it a passing thought. My “resolutions” instead of being introspective, hopes for a better year, consisted of random thoughts of “I hope I won’t get sick anymore in the New Year” and “I would prefer not to hack up one of my lungs in the next 24 hours”.

You see starting two weekends before my final; the boy came down with the stomach flu. Then I spent the next weekend sick in bed with the same thing, PLUS some other virus giving me a high fever. Come Monday I took my final, being grateful just to be vertical, and Tuesday I had to miss candle light caroling for a beloved teacher recently diagnosed with cancer.  The next weekend Zac came down with the fever. Recovering just in time for Christmas Eve service, and then Christmas day I started coming down with a cold, which of course passed to the boy. And then right on cue, Sunday morning I had a low grade fever again, which has developed into a progressively worse cough, requiring the commencement of a Z-pak today.

That was probably more than you wanted to know; I could have just said we have been sick on-and-off, back-and-forth for a month…but where is the fun in that? The point I wanted to make is that it was ALWAYS on the weekend, which means no church. Now I don’t like missing church, but when those misses add up to a whole month, well, I REALLY don’t like that. It doesn’t seem that big of deal, but that weekly worship and teaching really encourage and ground me.

I have a half written blog on Christmas traditions, that I started before the sickness started. I had intended to be intentional, present and introspective this year and really look at what I love about Christmas and the below the surface roots of why I love those things, and what they mean. Obviously that didn’t happen. It wasn’t just the sickness; it wasn’t just the missing church; although those played a part.  It was more like the weight of what was not, overpowered what was.

Being alone at the holidays is always hard, but this year it seemed harder that usual. No particular reason, but maybe because I figured that by now there would be someone; maybe because I live in a shoebox; maybe because change is so close I can taste it. Maybe all of the above.

This is it. I have one more semester left. I am excited. I am already picturing moving into my own place by this time next year. I try to tell myself not to get my hopes up, but I am already planning my 30th birthday dinner party with the friends who have made these past 5 years amazing. I am already planning decorating and a tree. So maybe you can understand why the Christmas decorations in my little house seemed slightly dull.

I am also terrified. This is it. I have one more semester left. This is the big year. This is the year where things are going to start happening, graduation, working, moving, making actual, big, life decisions. School is easy, the choices are made for you, take these classes, I have no choice of where to live or what to do, I have to live here, I have to study, I have no other choices. But once I am done, the options are infinite. And I have to make the choices, alone.

So 2013 I am looking forward to you. But be kind.

 

Lights

If I had to choose only one decoration for Christmas, I would choose lights. I love lights. As I write I sit in the light from our little Christmas tree, our new-this-year wall tree, and the lights strung on the ceiling around my son’s bed.

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One of my favorite things to do is turn off all the lights in the house, and just sit and look at the Christmas tree; it is so peaceful and calming. I love the first night time drive down Main Street after it has been turned into Candy Cane Lane, lights sparkling, making me smile. I love houses, fences, store windows decked out with lights. I love that at this time of year even the stoplights seem festive, reflecting red, green and gold off all the raindrops on my windshield.

There it is. God, “slipping out” of unexpected places. Every twinkling light shining out into the darkness, a reminder of the Light of the World, dwelling among us; a light shining in the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome. Somehow at this time of year, conquering darkness seems possible.

Christmas miracles happen, needs are met, and wishes come true. Good seems to prevail, as people reach out to friends and neighbors and give to those in need. Scrooge’s Nephew said it well,

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, – apart from the veneration due to it’s sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys”

But life goes on despite the season. Tragedy happens, needs go unmet, and dreams crumble. As we see the decorations of the seasons let us remember what they represent and let us “open [our] shut up hearts freely” and be the light shining in someone’s darkness.

 

“Need a Little Christmas Now”

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Growing up we always had to wait till after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas Music and we didn’t decorate the tree till my birthday, twelve days before Christmas. But for the last few years I have done Christmas earlier. While I completely disagree with the store isles being jam-packed with Christmas decorations in August, I did break out the Christmas music early and decked out my house a week before December. While partly practical, (Finals are coming, and if I don’t do it now, when?) the other part is more deep-seated than that, I NEED Christmas.

There is something so comforting and peaceful about Christmas for me. In the middle of all the craziness, there is something that never changes, something that is joyful and good. Constant reminders of hope.

This year Christmas started for me sometime in October. I was in Target, and as I walked by the Christmas section at the back of the store, a Christmas carol was playing. I don’t remember which one. But right there in Target, over the speakers someone was singing about my Jesus, come to earth as a baby. I sang along and left the store humming and smiling. I listen to Christian radio all year round. But there is something different about Christmas music. It is filled with celebration, hope, and promise.

And so as I baked pies the day before Thanksgiving, I was feeling tired and worn out by life. I needed Christmas. I opened iTunes and went to my Christmas playlist. Suddenly, all was right with the world.

I started with my new favorite obscure Christmas album from last year. (Download Here, free!) The first song is about Zechariah and Elizabeth; my favorite line is “God keeps slipping out of underneath rocks, in alleys off the beaten path, open both your eyes.” That is how I feel about Christmas time; God keeps slipping out. No matter how materialistic or politically correct we get, He is there. In a million little ways, if we would just open our eyes.

More about Christmas coming up.