Mourning Lost Memories

The dates from the calendar simply disappeared. Literally. There one day and gone the next.

We received a call from the school system Sunday night that our kids would be moving to e-learning for at least the next two weeks and that all extra-curricular activities would also be cancelled in that time frame. My son’s Christmas show choir performance that we had been holding out hope for, that at least his dad and I would be able to attend, met a sudden death.

I’ll make a confession here. We have been a part of this Christmas event for the past four years. It’s a lonnnnnngg performance…at least three hours or more. This past year I was required to make dozens of cookies to contribute to the cookie walk. It was stressful. However, the last part of the program is always the highlight of my Christmas. The high school kids don choir robes and sing songs that tell the true Christmas story. I’m not sure how they are still able to do that in our current culture, but I love it. I leave with my heart full.

Can I tell you that I would bake twice the number of cookies to watch my kids perform this year? I am so sad. I haven’t even been able to attend a junior high band concert where I listen to kids screech through their first performance. I didn’t think I’d miss it, but I do. There’s nothing like watching your kids do something they love.

I’ll be honest. I feel robbed. These are memories I will never, ever be able to get back with my kids. There isn’t a replacement. There won’t be an opportunity to do it another time. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. And I know being safe is important and we could lose a lot more by leaders taking unnecessary risks. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s awful.

We’ve just had to cancel our Thanksgiving plans. We were waffling on what to do and then we found out yesterday that our oldest has to be quarantined due to exposure at school (this is after our youngest had just finished being quarantined). We were supposed to host and I was eager to share our home with a small part of our family. We had agreed to wear masks so we could gather. Poof. Gone.

I try to talk myself into looking at the bright side. Sometimes, though, I think it’s better to simply acknowledge the mess. And feel it. And mourn.

Today, I was reminded of Faith Hill’s song, “Where Are You Christmas?” (click to watch the video). Some of the lines from the song that stick out are, “Why can’t I hear the music play,” and “My world is changing, I’m rearranging.” I love the hopeful message of, “If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel Christmas all of the time.” As we head into the Christmas season, that will inevitably be very different, I think this is an important message to remember.

Here’s hoping you can make some special memories this year in spite of everything going on right now. And may we have a greater appreciation for the memories we are able to make in the future. Holding out hope for when the music plays again.

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Where’s the King?

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The students were all gathered around, eyes glued on the pictures. I was reading Snowmen at Christmas to a group of third graders per the teacher’s instructions. The illustrator cleverly hid certain items in each picture to find such as a mouse and a santa face, and the kids were on the lookout.

The book tells about what the author would imagine snowmen do after everyone is in bed at Christmas. A little bit of an interruption happened when I got to this passage:

“Such fun snowmen have!
But there’s still one more thing —
With hearts full of joy
They hold hands and they sing.

While the fiddler plays,
And sweet silver bells ring,
They sing songs about snow,
And the birth of a King.”

“What are they talking about?? There’s no king in that picture!” declared one indignant little girl.

I momentarily debated how to answer her question. I decided to be honest. “Well, many people who celebrate Christmas are Christians. The holiday to them is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and they refer to him as a king. That’s the king they are talking about.”

“WHAT?!?!? she responded in obvious disbelief and confusion.

“Yes. And his mother was Mary, and his father was Joseph, and he was born in a stable…” one of the other little girls continued as girl number one simply looked baffled.

And then at that point I kept reading, because I didn’t really care to lose my very part-time job for bringing too much religion into the classroom.

This is one of the things I love about public school…the diversity of backgrounds and opinions. Why do we sometimes fear people who think differently than we do? At times we act as if it is contagious. We can miss out on rich relationships when we snub those who do not believe just as we do. Maybe I am too guilty of seeing where we have common ground instead of focusing on our differences, but I’ll take that criticism.

I have thought a lot about the idea of “Where is the King?” since that day. I reflected on the hullabaloo over the Starbucks plain red cup and the indignation over the phrase Happy Holidays. One of the things I have concluded is that the King is wherever we choose for him to be. In other words, I feel like it’s up to me to make him visible. It’s up to me to be sure my boys know why we celebrate Christmas. It’s up to me to make sure Christ stays in Christmas. For some it’s a holiday with a tree, presents, and Santa. So be it, but I need to reflect to others why I celebrate.

So whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, I sincerely hope it’s enjoyable for you. As for me, I hope to focus on keeping the king in the picture.

Watch a video of the book here.

Blessings,

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Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

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I have fond memories of dancing around the living room as a girl listening to Burl Ives singing Have a Holly Jolly Christmas as it erupted from a record playing on my mom’s stereo that took up about half the wall in the dining area. Christmas did indeed feel like the best time of the year.

For most kids, Christmas is filled with anticipation, dreams, and excitement. It isn’t until we get a little older that we begin to realize the complications that the holiday can bring. My oldest son found himself in tears last weekend over the Christmas lights. He checked the strands before helping decorate the bushes and light post, but one strand on the post refused to work after it had been wrapped around. The whole process had not gone as he had foreseen, and he was feeling a bit devastated.

We had a little talk, and I shared how the older we get, the more things there are that try to steal our joy at Christmas time. These complications can often serve as a major distraction from the true satisfaction that Christmas is intended to bring. “Buddy, every time a Christmas task frustrates us, we have a choice: a choice to remember why we are celebrating, or the choice to wallow in our frustration. If we are doing something that only brings us a headache, then maybe we should rethink doing it.”

In Luke 2:10 we are told the angel told the shepherds he had good news of great joy. Don’t let your Christmas traditions get in the way of the joy of that first blessed Christmas day. Certain cookies may not get made, pictures may not turn out the way we had hoped, but if we remember to focus on the joy, our hearts will be prepared to overcome whatever difficulties we may encounter; for in the City of David, there was born to us a Savior, Christ the Lord.

**This post was written for the Sherwood Oaks advent blog. You can read daily entries if you are interested by clicking here.