"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18
"Do we not continually pass by blessings innumerable without notice, and instead fix our eyes on what we feel to be our trials and our losses, and think and talk about these until our whole horizon is filled with them, and we almost begin to think we have no blessings at all?" Hannah Whitall Smith
How was your Christmas? I hope you received all that you had hoped for. I hope you were surrounded by love and family and that you ended your day of celebrating Jesus' birth with full tummies and hearts. I can almost be certain that some of you who are reading this did not have the Christmas you had been dreaming about. I know mine did not go exactly as I had planned--in fact it went pretty much exactly the opposite of the way I had it planned and there were moments when I thought it was completely ruined. I wanted to cry or scream or both. It's my own fault. I paint the pictures in my head with too vivid of colors. I forget that when real people are involved the colors will mix together and overlap and the picture will at times be muted and at times be blurred and at other times look like a Jackson Pollock original.
My husband and I woke up really early to drive the hour to pick up my Mother and then drive the two hours to my youngest son's home. His house was already filled with so many that I love--both my sons, their wives, my granddaughter and new grandson. My daughter was on her way. As the house filled with the smells of the Christmas feast we were about to have and the area around the tree exploded with gifts to be opened I looked around with such contentment. Maybe the picture wasn't exactly what I had imagined, but it was pretty close. We ate our meal. Gift opening would come next and I could imagine the happy faces as each opened presents that had been picked out intentionally and with love for each one. Then I heard a fearful voice coming from the restroom. My mother was screaming for me to come help her. I entered to find blood everywhere and my 82 year old mother shaking violently. Isn't it strange that when we are confronted by things like this so often the Lord just seems to slow our hearts down and helps us to remain calm? Well, He does that for me anyway. I'm always calm when calamity strikes and then when it's over, I usually fall apart. When I say there was blood everywhere, I mean there was a LOT of blood. She had told us earlier that when she woke up that morning there was a lot of blood on her pillow and that her nurse's aide where she lives said it was a nose bleed. Her nose was bleeding again, but not like any nose bleed I had ever seen. My daughter came into the restroom and panicked. My son who's house it was immediately thought she would die right there in his home on Christmas morning. My husband, the voice of reason, said it's a bad nose bleed, let's apply pressure and stop the bleeding and she'll be o.k. I could see that the kids were too afraid so I said I thought we better take her to the hospital. We did. We spent hours in the emergency room on Christmas Day in New York City.
By the time we reached the hospital the bleeding had indeed stopped as the voice of reason had said but because she had so much blood on her and because she is elderly, they put her in a wheelchair and wheeled her right in. She was seen very quickly and the doctor confirmed it was just a bloody nose probably caused by her heater drying out the air in her apartment this time of year. He decided he would check out her blood to see if it was too thin or if she had lost too much so the two kids who had accompanied us went back to the festivities and my husband and I waited. As my daughter left she took a picture of her grandmother and put it on Facebook with the caption "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer!".
I am ashamed to say that at that moment my thoughts were not God's thoughts. I felt resentment that I was in the emergency room of a New York City hospital on Christmas instead of celebrating with my family. I wanted the doctors and the lab technicians to hurry--I felt robbed of precious moments and invaluable time. I almost felt panicked that I was loosing seconds that I would never be able to get back and I needed each one of those seconds--I really, really needed them! This was one holiday that my empty nest was going to be full again, when my quiet life would be filled with noise and laughter again and I was missing it all to care for the mother who was seldom there when I was a child to care for me.
I've cared for my mother since my father died--21 years ago. At first, it was just taking care of paying her bills because my father always did that. Through the years she needed more and more care until finally she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she had to move in with us. My whole life the role of mother and child had been reversed. She never seemed to grow up and I had to grow up too quickly. We were never close, never bonded, never got along for any length of time. Despite that, rarely a day has gone by that I have not called her to make sure she was all right. I made sure that my children were around her as much as possible--they have always adored her. I accepted the responsibility of taking care of her because I knew it was expected of me. Somewhere along the journey of taking care of this woman who really only invoked anger in me because of her neglect, I began to see her through the Lord's eyes. I began to enjoy hearing the stories of the past that Alzheimer's had made so vivid to her. I began to excuse the things that in the past I had found inexcusable in her. She started telling strangers that I was her best friend and I thought, o.k., I can handle being her friend and caring for her as unto the Lord. The amazing thing was that in learning to care for her the Lord began healing me of the hurts and bitterness of the past.
But now we were in the emergency room and the images of being a child and having my own nose bleeds and only my father to comfort me and take care of me. The resentment stirred up because I could not be with my own children that I had tried to nurture in all of the ways that she had failed to nurture me. Why God? Just as the tears started to run over the brim of my eyes He literally opened my eyes. Here I was in a hospital on Christmas day surrounded by nurses, doctors, technicians, janitors and aides who were not home with their loved ones. They had been cheerful to us from the moment we got there. They had served my mother without a thought of their own losses. She was a stranger that needed their help and they were giving their best gift of care to her. I took another look at my mother laying on the hospital bed and asked the Lord to please forgive me and change my heart; to please help me to minister to her with love and patience and to show the people at this hospital His love through me. I knew at that point that He would give us the time we needed to all be together; that He would work it all for our good and that was enough--more then enough to bring me peace.
Shortly after that prayer the doctor returned to tell us all was well with her blood and shortly after that she was dismissed. As we left the hospital we were able to wish all of the workers a Merry Christmas with real joy in our hearts. By the time we eventually got my mother back to her home my heart was thankful for each moment we all shared, each kiss, each hug, each joy-filled laugh. I could not tell you what each person received for a Christmas gift--I don't even care--this Christmas will always be precious to me because God shook my perfect Christmas up like a snow globe. He shook up the control I was unknowingly trying to exert to make Christmas fit into my box, he shook up feelings I thought I had long ago conquered but were still under the surface making me sick and sad. He let the snow come (figuratively and literally) and settle on my life and the scene that was left after all the shaking up was so much prettier then the scene He could see in me before.
If your Christmas wasn't exactly what you had hoped for. If relationships were difficult or hurtful. If all you feel is empty or angry or resentful when you know that you should feel peaceful and loving and thankful please remember that God knows what you are feeling and He cares. Sometimes He even has to show us what we are feeling and He'll do that for you because He loves you and He really, really wants to heal you. As He reminds us in John 14:18, even if our earthly parents are not here for us for whatever reason, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."