Tis the End of the Season
My heart’s been heavy.
Even looking at the cheerful rainbow lights of our pre-lit tree has only brought unsettled emotions. Are they the sneers of inadequacy–hearing the snide inner voice telling me it’s high time to take it down, for cryin’ out loud. I know, after all, that we need to, but perhaps we’re fighting the feeling that, by doing so, its removal will somehow bring finality that none of us wants to feel–yes, even though the tree went up earlier than normal this year.
We broke tradition in November–exchanging our annual trip to a local Christmas tree farm the weekend after Thanksgiving for a visit to Lowe’s where Bill and Allie found a “looks almost real” artificial fir instead. We wanted our home to be fully decorated for the holidays prior to Thanksgiving–knowing that it would likely be Bill’s father’s last.
So on a dreary Saturday, the weekend before that day when we’d each try to muster the strength to count our blessings rather than our losses, we pulled out the plethora of decorations that typically don’t see daylight until after the last of the leftover turkey’s been eaten or sealed in freezer bags. We even began playing Christmas music a week early, as well as watched our first Christmas movie.
Indeed, our family time around the festive table Thanksgiving Day–Christmas tree aglow, the Nativity quietly adorning our bookshelves above the television–was beautiful, and it was, as we’d worried, our last with Dad. He passed less than two weeks later–celebrating his very first Christmas in Heaven.
So today, I rolled up my sleeves and started the task I’d dreaded, and now decorations cover the dining table. Baskets and boxes line our closet floor. Just as the process of decorating brings a flurry of chaos before the peace of basking in twinkle lights’ glow, so, too, the job of taking everything down, and frankly, it always makes me feel a bit glum.
I know. I know. Soon, things will return to normal. Eventually, everything will be put back in its place. In the coming days, there will again be order. I’m keenly aware of this.
But not now. Right now, there’s mess. At this moment, there’s clutter. Today, there’s disorder.
It’s only a season, I suppose; at least that’s what I’m told. Thus, I should…
Appreciate each moment.
Hold to the memory.
Cling to the promise.
And it’s true. Christmas will come again–and in a flash, to be sure. Just as I closed the drawer to the cedar chest where I store so many of our little holiday knick-knacks, the thought echoed–
You’ll be opening this back up in no time. In the blink of an eye almost.
I know this to be the case–more so, it seems, with each passing year. No need for lament. Barely time for tears. So why do I feel somber?
Why, Heart, are you so heavy?
Perhaps it’s due to of our loss this season. Maybe we’re simply not ready for the punctuation our de-decorating will place at the end of this season’s chapter, marking somehow the finality of Dad’s earthly life.
Maybe it’s because there are many unknowns lying ahead in the coming days of 2020.
Likely, it’s due, at least in part, to hormones–this fifty year old female feeling one moment cold, then suddenly hot. Calm, then hurried. Compassionate, then suddenly critical.
Like covers thrown off in the night when a hot flash takes me captive, I want to cast aside my melancholy emotions–cling to God’s promises instead, with joy. But frankly, I’d be doing so by a sheer act of faith, void of any warm and fuzzy accompanying feelings.
And that’s fine, I suppose. Fitting, in fact–because I do know, after all, where to find hope, joy, and peace despite my hollow, jittery, pre-menopausal posture at this precise minute. I profess to know from whence comes my help, and no time do I need help more than when I’m wallowing in “Why Did Christmas Have To Pass So Quickly?” questions–those “Woe Is Me” moments that just seem to suck satisfaction–drain all joy–from my day.
Will I practice that which I preach–what I proclaim?
Putting down a box, I pick up my Bible instead, then search–almost groping the pages in my frenzy to find something to soothe. To save. To satisfy. And I read:
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it (Isaiah 43:18, 19–ESV)?
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal (Isaiah 26:3, 4–NIV).
The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3–NASB).
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7–NIV).
This day is sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10–NIV).
You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace… (Isaiah 55:12–NIV).
There they are–those words I need, words that offer me joy. Peace. Words that remind me of God’s love–of the hope we have in Him.
I look around again. See the clutter–the seeming chaos that’s part of the closing of the season. Boxes need to be put away. Books wait to be placed back on shelves where, for the last two months, sheep and angels and a Holy Child have been nestled in and among candles and greenery. Wrappings and ribbon need to be tucked inside the old suitcase where I store them, to be returned to the attic.
Yes. Soon there will be the calm of order, and before long, spring will return–making me forget why I fretted so in mid-January, so enamored with dancing daffodils. Prior to that, I pray we’ll experience a snowfall that will send us out of doors to play. And indeed, each season will speak of Dad’s life on earth–reminding us, too, of the beauty of his new Home where we truly believe we’ll see him again, one day.
That’s what we’re told, after all. That’s what we’ve been promised, and no matter what life brings–yesterday, today, tomorrow, or any of the days still to come–the Word of the LORD stands for us firm, faithful, and forever. Today, that needs to be enough for me–despite any feeling, based solely on faith.
And then, just like that, God gives a gift–chooses to say, “See what one’s obedience does?” In a blink, He offers something that can be seen.
Closing my Bible, I look up just in time to witness with my very own eyes an eternal promise. Arching before me, just over the pond–faintly at first, then fearlessly bold–a rainbow proclaims,
Behold my message: The result of dismal turned divine–the promise that God is near.”
Color despite a covering of gray–only, however, when the sun pierces darkness, dances with moisture unseen to create a miracle, like the miracle in my heart.
I turn from the window–suddenly filled with the emotional strength I need to carry boxes, baskets, and books upstairs. Opening the attic door, I lay them down one by one and say goodbye to Christmas.
Then, clothed in Christ, I’ll strive to do my best to live him each and every day–because indeed…
She is [dressed] with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25–NIV).
Dearest Jesus, help me to experience you in every moment. More than that, despite what I might see–by faith–help me live you each day, even when my flesh tries to hinder your work. You are my joy. You are my strength–in this and every season. So be it.