It has been a crazy week. I woke Monday morning, tired and achy and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by Christmas, my immense to-do list paired with my lack of energy, my lack of finances to throw at my to-do list to simplify things, and my stack of bills. Bills not for fun Christmas things but expenses associated with having a home and running a business that all seem to fall due during the last couple of months of the year. It saddens me that this is what Christmas is. At a time when I should be filled with joy over what we are celebrating, I am instead overwhelmed and stressed. I find that I am at the end of myself.
There have been many negative things that have been happening this week. I am feeling under the weather and my body is fighting off something. My sinuses ache with pressure, my one eye is bloodshot as if some sickness has decided to settle there and my body is tired and achy. Whose to say how much of that is from sickness or pregnancy. Then Monday night, I pulled a doosey. There were about three flakes of snow on the ground and I managed to slip and fall, injuring myself. Thankfully, the baby seems just fine. I, on the other hand, hurt my elbow. The x-rays showed fluid on the elbow which the ER doctor said is usually a sign of a fracture, although he couldn't actually see one. So my right arm is in a sling for a couple of days. Hopefully it will then feel well enough to start using gently. It is a struggle to accomplish anything with only one arm and I am not a lefty. Everything seems to take me three times longer than it should. So, that's the negative.
On the positive side, though...I have amazing people surrounding me. My family has been so helpful at a time when I feel helpless. They have been my extra hand without complaint. My dear friend who is incredibly busy herself took the time to make a wonderful dinner for our family and bring it out to us, braving the slippery snowy roads to do so just so I wouldn't have to struggle to cook one-handed. Also, before this week even began, my dear sister-in-law wrote me the most encouraging heartfelt note over the weekend. She said she did it because of God's nudging. I am so thankful she let herself be nudged because, obviously, God knew what kind of week I was heading into. I can't even begin to say how touching it was and is to me. Through all of the bad, the good shines through. I know that God is using this time to grow me although I don't thoroughly understand how right now.
Last week I was chatting with my mom. We had been discussing some of my handmade Christmas projects and the lack of finances that has necessitated them. She said, "You are getting to experience the true meaning of Christmas." I didn't think too much about it then, but this has been stuck in my head all week. And I wonder, what really IS the true meaning of Christmas? Is it the giving of one's self? Is it a warm fuzzy feeling or is it in actuality a struggle.
Thinking about the very first Christmas, it was very much a struggle, wasn't it? There's a young couple traveling for days on foot and donkey to appease a foreign ruler, circumstances out of their control. This is at a time when Mary should have been home resting and making preparations for a baby. A baby that she believes is the Saviour of her people. I'm sure her desire was for everything to be perfect for His entrance into this world. Instead she is laboring while bouncing around on the back of a donkey. I'm sure she is desperate for a place to rest and the only place that can be found for her is in a stall amidst the animals - surrounded by their muck, smells and their filth. A merry Christmas, indeed! But in this horrible situation, God brought forth the greatest gift of all time, His own son, the Messiah.
So, I sit here pondering these things, thinking about Christmas and what it really means. I think most of us have this image of what a perfect Christmas is supposed to be. It is an unreal scenario where our perfect homes are decorated festively. Perfect gifts are wrapped beautifully and nestled under the tree while we gather with friends and family and have warm fuzzy feelings galore. How many of us actually get to this place? I might have glimpses of it, but in actuality, I am usually running around stressed and frazzled throwing mediocre, overpriced presents into gift bags as we race off to another Christmas function.
So, what should Christmas be like? Maybe it is finding grace in the midst of struggle; blessings in the midst of trials. Perhaps, it is remembering the difficulties of that very first Christmas and the joy that it birthed. I think it is opening our eyes and seeing God at work through all the muck surrounding us. Perhaps it takes coming to the end of ourselves to look around and see that God is right here with us through it all. I think that would be the true meaning of Christmas.