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Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year feels like living inside a mobile barrel of monkeys. It starts off a jolly good time until you realize it’s just a huge bucket of chaos. One monkey’s using your hair as a steering wheel, tugging you to every Black-Friday-Cyber-crazy-half-off-sale until you wonder how wonderful time became synonymous with stressful.

Don’t misunderstand, there is much joy in giving and gratitude in receiving, but what can we offer our circle of family and friends when the stress gets in the way of the heart of Christmas?

How do those who live paycheck to paycheck give generously?

Or for those who have a few more dollars, what can bless others that will mean more than the newest gadget or someone’s 200th DVD?

Hildreth has been coming to my mind a lot lately as I deal with the monkey barrel. prayercandlesShe lived in the Retirement Resort for a few years before she left us for Florida. She was one of the quietest, but her impression was one of the deepest. How many times she shared her dessert with me, I can’t count…how many times she kept me company after I dimmed the lights and waited inside the empty lobby for something or someone to need my attention…but it was mostly that time she invited me to her apartment that I saw her shine.

She had welcomed me inside so she could clean my wedding ring for me, but what a delight I found at her dining room table. She laughed when my smile spread the width of her apartment, and tried to brush off what I saw as a silly thing, but it wasn’t. I can still see inside her dimly-lit apartment, the teddy bears—one in each of her dining room chairs around her table—several were Victorian elegant, some fluffy, but they were all her family. She had flesh-and-blood family, her daughter Jane was just as sweet, but those bears filled the empty places when she was alone.

“They keep me company,” she said, and smiled as she escorted me into her bathroom. She dipped my ring into a tub of cleaner and talked about how it wonderfully it shined up her jewelry and didn’t it make my ring shine too?

“It sure does,” I said, but it wasn’t the ring as much as it was Hildreth. She shined, in her smile, in the way she made a family out of a collection of Teddy Bears, in the way she gave me all that she really wanted—company.

I have this monkey pounding on my head this year, steering me this way and that, demanding I drive it through blocks of politically-correct commerce. It’s annoying, demanding, and works hard to suck the joy out of all that’s wonderful.

I keep my memory of Hildreth in front of me and reach for the catalog on the buffet. That darn monkey is yanking on my hair and pointing toward that stores that won’t let its employees say Merry Christmas, but I turn my head away and look back to my own table. This is the only catalog that hasn’t found its way into the trash can. There are photos of babies. I can pay $9 and feed one of them for a week. There are shoeboxes I can fill with toys and toothbrushes that will be the only gift a child will get this year. I can give to our patriots, help build a school or a church—there is something for every income and I AM IN.

This is stable-love.

This is shaking those monkeys out of my life, the light coming from Hildreth, the Jesus the world needs to see.

This is Merry Christmas.

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