Christmas mayhem has been over for weeks. We have returned to burying ourselves in our regular routines so successfully the tree is still standing in the living room. From the beginning of December right up until Christmas Eve, the photos of my friends' trees showed up in my various feeds and I loved seeing them. Four weeks past Christmas, no one is posting pictures of their fully decorated trees. In my imagination, everyone else has taken their trees down, packed up the ornaments, and removed the wreath from the front door. I am the only loser who still has a tree up.
In my mind, like yours, other people don't have real lives, they have perfect lives. Periodically, I get caught in the mind-maze where everyone else does everything right and I am the only one who messes it up. I am the only person in all of North America, possibly the whole world who still has their Christmas tree up. Why limit yourself to one continent? Never in thirty-seven years of marriage have I had my Christmas tree in the living room fully decorated on January 20 with no plan to dismantle it in the next few weeks. Failure. Loser. The thought nearly induces panic and full on anxiety.
I don't mean to make light of anxiety, it is very real and I realize there are shadows of truth to my tongue in cheek unease. The shadows follow all of us around. No one is immune. We take something ordinary and relatively harmless like a Christmas tree and we begin to spin it. Pretty soon we have caught ourselves in the web we spun. Dumb spiders we are. But even dumb spiders can be brought back to reality by a four-year old having a nose-to-nose, man-to-man, conversation with his Poppa, "Why your tree isn't down?"
|January 20, 2018 - It's still up|
My heart does cartwheels when JMH asks questions with the judgement free curiosity that only a child has. His sentence structure isn't fully developed but we understand the intent. No one corrects him. We encourage him. Talk to us some more. Ask questions. Let us in on what is going on in your little head. We want to know you. Somehow we know that if we simply encourage him to be more of himself he will learn syntax along with kindness and courage.
JMH is still small enough that Poppa lifts him onto the kitchen island so they can talk eye to eye. Most Sundays they spend some time in that position. JMH chats earnestly to Poppa while one of Poppa's large arms encircles him to ensure he doesn't do a headstand off the counter. Some weeks I confess to having a moment where I think or say, "Why is JMH on the counter?"
Fortunately, Poppa doesn't pay attention to me then and hasn't stopped lifting him up for those intimate moments. After last week, I promise not to think or say it again unless JMH is up there on his own creating mischief or stuffing his cheeks with taco chips. When he is on the counter involved in one of his Poppa talks, I will slow my busyness and tune my hearing to the conversation. God shows up in those conversations in the form of human love, and it catches my breath as JMH offers, "Poppa, how 'bout I come over. I help you take the tree down? Is that a good idea?"
A little person who is learning life, sensed maybe help was needed and graciously offered help. As my insides catapulted around I pondered the best way to respond. He is learning to be all of himself and our response to his offer matters. Just the thought of a four year old helping to dismantle the tree nearly makes me break out in hives. However, the notion of crushing the fragile development of his helping heart under the heel of my need for an orderly dismantling is unthinkable. My only responsibility is to encourage and inspire the development of his helping heart no matter what, so I am going to leave the tree up until I can arrange an afternoon for JMH to come and help.
I started out thinking I was teaching JMH something about life and love, but in the end he taught me about myself. And so, God showed up again at our house in a little exchange. There was no judgement because the tree was still up, just love, curiosity, and an offer to help. It's a two way street that love and curiosity business, the work of getting to know one another. When we seek out opportunities to receive and give, we will discover the things we thought were important like putting the Christmas tree away, simply aren't important. People and people's spirits are. Let go of the unimportant and create room for the important, live in joy, fully unleashed.