It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.
"The truth is, Christmas just hasn't been the same since my sister died."
I texted that to my best friend as I complained about having a case of the Christmas Ho Hums.
Too much to do. No time to do it.
Stretching & pushing myself in the ways that only a working mother will understand.
Most days if I pause for even a moment to think about how tired I am, I start to sob.
Is it possible to be this tired?!
I'm not even sure I knew what this tired looked like.
Until I started working full time again.
Until I was a Mom & responsible for the upbringing of 2 precious little people.
I've been running on fumes for so long, I don't remember what it's like to feel full.
So I keep going. Refusing to pause.
Because pausing leads to break downs.
And I'll be damned if I'm going to break now.
My family is counting on me.
It's up to me.
And truthfully, how completely terrifying that can be.
Mostly because this means failure is not an option.
And when you cannot fail, it almost feels like you cannot be human.
And this I am finding out, this resistance to all things human, is the most wearing of all.
It's no wonder I had the Christmas Ho Hums.
"Peace on Earth - Goodwill Towards Men."
Sounds more like a Disney movie than real life these days......
I just miss the way that Christmas used to be.
And I miss my family. And my best friends.
Strangely Christmas this year felt lonely & awkward.
I wondered if everyone I know was really feeling all "Joy To The World!"
Or if maybe they were just faking it like I was?
What if Christmas was still alive somewhere?
Whether I was choosing to be an active participant or not?
What if there were actually things like Christmas miracles?
And people giving of themselves towards the betterment of others?
What if I was missing it?
I met Heather at my job.
She works along side me in the trenches of finance:)
And I'm pretty sure she was made to be manna from heaven.
I could say a million good things about Heather.
Most of all how she cares for others.
And how she is able to have fun in ways that completely terrify me.
I decided I needed to share a little story she shared with me here on my blog.
Because since Heather wrote this, I've lost my ho hums.
And really truly, in the least corny way I know how to say - Hope has broken through.
I've been seeing Christmas in different ways & different places.
It doesn't ever look like the stereotypical Christmas.
It doesn't look like how Christmas looked when my sister was alive.
It doesn't look how Christmas looked before I was a mother...... where I had time to dress my dog in cute Christmas sweaters, make sure my tree was perfectly asymmetrical, and donate my time towards worthy causes like shoebox presents for poor children in poverty nations.
It's not wrapped up very pretty & there are no angels singing over managers.
But when I look at it, it looks a lot like Hope & Love.
And to me - that's always been the very point of Christmas.
May this story bless you, the way it did me.
Take it away Heather.....
"Josh [my husband] and Ellis [my daughter] met me at Walmart this evening.
We rang up our items using the self check out kiosks.
As you know, there's typically an attendant there to assist the customers as needed.
All the computers were full.
The area was crowded as people made their way through.
As my husband was bagging up items, he accidentally backed into the attendant - Caleb was his name.
"Oh, excuse me sir." He said.
I can't say why it was in that moment my heart grew tender for Caleb.
He is a tall boy. Very skinny. Glasses, braces...a little awkward, maybe quirky.
But very polite and sweet.
Maybe that's what struck me about Caleb.
Something as simple as encountering a young man with manners.
A rarity these days.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said to give him a tip.
I reached into my wallet and grabbed a measly $5 bill and as we finished, I sent Josh ahead with the baby and I waited for Caleb to come back to his post.
"I want to give this little tip to you. I see what a great job you're doing and how hard you're working and Jesus sees, too..so here..I'd really like you to have this."
In a very proper and professional military-like disposition he replied "Ma'am, I cannot accept your tip. I can donate it, but I cannot take it. It's very much against company policy and is a very sure and quick way to get myself fired."
"Aw, really? What if I ran into you when you weren't working and gave it to you?"
(I hate stupid rules like this and wanted to make demands to his manager that he be allowed to keep it! Besides...I'm trying to obey God here and no dumb company policy was about to get in my way!)
"I suppose that would be fine." He replied after thoughtful consideration.
I calmed down a bit and realized it was best that this momma didn't make a scene with management and took it for what it was.
"Well, I'm going to give this to you. You can do with it as you wish so if that means you have to donate it, that's ok."
I patted his thin, lanky arm, gave him a smile, got behind my cart and headed to the doors on the other side of the store.
The thought passed my mind...that hadn't went as planned.
I really felt God wanted to bless this kid and he couldn't even keep the money.
I was a little bummed, but I still knew I was in obedience. I kept walking.
"Excuse me...miss? Can I talk to you for a moment?"
A very handsome mid 40s man had kept pace beside me as he got my attention.
(He looked soo much like Steven Curtis Chapman!)
I had noticed him briefly back where we were checking out.
He stood facing the kiosks as if he was waiting for his party to finish checking out to leave...
"Yes" I replied as I slowed down to engage in what he had to say.
Then, this man began to pour out the very depths of his heart.
"Miss...that boy back there? That's my son.
This is his first job...he's only 16...he's been struggling. ..I'm not sure...he's only been here about a month. The woman before you, I don't know if you noticed but...she gave him a real hard time. It's nothing he did, you know, it's these computers.
I've been here watching and observing him in the background.
I've been in retail a long time...I came to watch him...just to see if I could help...give him a few pointers. But what you did back there for my son?"
(tears began to fill his eyes)
"What you just did ...you just made the biggest impact on my boy's life. You can't even imagine how much he needed this. This is....I just...you just don't know what you did to that boy tonight with that small gesture.
I want to thank you.
I can't wait to go home and tell my wife.
Miss...what you just did there... (holds his heart).....made my Christmas.
(His voice trembles) You made my Christmas."
I saw the heart of a father.
I saw a father who was tired and weary.
I saw a father who was heartbroken.
I saw a daddy who maybe just needed to see his boy be encouraged.
I had seen the immediate blessing of obeying that still small voice of the Holy Spirit..."tip him".
We exchanged a few more words and a hug.
And if anyone's heart was the most encouraged, it was mine.
I won't soon forget Caleb and his precious dad.
This, my friends, made MY Christmas.
In all things, thank you, Jesus. ♡"
[I knew these Heather selfies on my phone would be good to keep for something one day....]
However you wrap it, I hope these next few weeks meet you with all the love & hope of Jesus.
And if you're feeling a bit Ho Hum mixed with a small streak of rebellious, tip your Wal-Mart cashier. Tell a young person you are proud of them. Thank a bell ringer at a red kettle. Buy a candy bar for the person behind you in the long line of Christmas shopping. Or stop & pause for a minute, and allow yourself to be human.
This is Christmas. Emmanuel - With us.
Much Love Reader.