Sunday, December 21, 2008

Behind The Stable

This time of year is so difficult for me.
I realized a few years ago that part of the reason Christmas feels empty to me is because it has turned into little more than a deadline. Rushing around - trying to jam a car trip into a few days off of work.
I spent some time really thinking about why it felt like a deadline, and what would make the season feel precious to me again - and I realized I needed to share it with someone. I realized that Christmas is precious when you get to see it again through the eyes of a child. When you teach a child about the miracle.

Now, as much as a try - I can't shake the emptiness. There is this big, gaping hole in my life.

I want to set up my nativity scene with my children. The wise men stand at the far end of the credenza while Mary and Joseph wait in the stable. Little baby Jesus is hidden in the hay behind the stable until we get home from Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. That's when He is born and joins the Holy Family in the manger.

I long to delight in the wonder of a child seeing presents beneath the tree on Christmas morning. To read Bible stories as I teach my children the story of Jesus' birth. How the wonderous star guided those who believe to find the tiny Christ Child. To explain that wise men still seek Him. To share the joy in the knowledge that the destiny of the Savior - while unknown completely to young Mary - was predestined by God for all of us. And she was His willing servant.

I need to be more like Mary.

But it's so hard. I lived my entire life with the assumption that I would have a family. When I tucked away Newsweek magazines plastered with images from the start of the Gulf War, I did so with the belief that my children would find them some day, and use them to write a history report. (I remember finding newspapers with headlines of JFK's assassination that my mom had saved. I was awed by the yellowed print depicting day of reports of something I only knew as history.)

I have saved some of my favorite dresses and some amazing shoes - moved them across three states more than 7 times - with the thought of my daughter longing to try them on - wanting to be as glamorous as mommy in the faded photo.

I can't tell you how many times I have moved 'stuff' that will someday be perfect if I ever have a house that echoes with the scurry of little feet. (not mice)

Now that dream is fading, pulling away from me. And I'm a little pissed.

I went to Mass today, and the Gospel told the story of the angel that appeared to Mary. Telling her plans that she could not understand. When she questioned, the angel explained, "God will handle the details, if you only say yes."

I need to be more like Mary.

I've heard and read this story so many times. But today as I read along, God spoke to me, in the words of Mary's visitor angel.

"And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old
age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will
be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to
me according to your word." ~Luke1:26-38

This was an inspiration. That God has all the details worked out and I just need to keep saying yes.
But I go back and forth.
I want to see the plans. The assignment. A schedule.
I need to have faith and willingness like Mary.
Yeah, but He used Mary. He's not even doing anything with me.
I have to believe that God has the desires of my heart in His capable hands.

I can relate to Elizabeth. I feel barren. I feel the same pain as the many women who struggle with infertility, longing to have a family. Except, I don't even get to try.

I was so lonely and sad all weekend, and as I called my friends on Saturday to talk, to keep me company as I cleaned my house - no one answered.
I could only picture them out with their kids, picking up a present for daddy. Sledding down the big hill. Stopping for hot chocolate and singing Christmas songs in the car.

I finally called a single girlfriend who understood. She sympathized. She had emailed a bunch of friends in our social circle - asking about options for New Years Eve. Most of what she got back - were responses from one half of some couple saying they were going out with other couples. The unwritten message was clear - you're not in a couple so we're not asking you to join us. She was hurt.

Right then we realized - we work hard not to be jealous. And we're not. We just feel left out. We are sincerely happy for all of our friends when they pair off, get engaged, get married, start having babies.
But are they equally sympathetic for us the other way around? We don't think it even occurs to them.

This holiday is all about family and it's so empty without one. Last year, at least I had hope that I might soon start a family. This year, it just sucks.

I am trying hard to get this sadness out of my head and heart - before I put myself in a car for 10 hours - stuck with my own thoughts. Maybe if I leave the thoughts here, they won't follow me to Nebraska.

Maybe there are bloggy angels who will carry my thoughts in their prayers.
I'm counting on that.

Merry Christmas. Have a most blessed celebration. May all the joy and peace of that first Christmas be with you all - always.
I probably won't have computer access for a week - but I expect you all to be away from the computer too!
Check in with you later!


Shannon said...

Thank you so much for putting into words exactly how I'm feeling! I'm a single missionary in Japan...a country that doesn't even celebrate my Japanese friends don't really "get" why Christmas is so special. My missionary friends are married with lots of kids which is great and most of the time they try to include me in their lives but I still feel so empty and lonely. I'm so sorry that you get what that feels like but at the same time I'm so thankful that you were willing to "go there" and write this post. Now, in a strange way I don't feel like I'm the only person in the world dealing with these feelings at this time of year. I'm no bloggy angel but I'll be praying that this Christmas exceeds all your expectations and that special people step up and make you feel loved and appreciated. Merry Christmas!

auntie said...

"Yeah, but He used Mary. He's not even doing anything with me."

You couldn't be more wrong! Every day I see comments on your blog from people saying "this is exactly how I feel!" and "it's so nice to know I'm not the only person that has been through this". You are ministering to people every time you post!

tootie said...

I like your Mary analogy. I think we all can be more like Mary, no matter what our circumstances are in life.

I will most definitely keep you in my prayers! Have a safe trip!

Anonymous said...

"I realized a few years ago that part of the reason Christmas feels empty to me is because it has turned into little more than a deadline" - I think that one line finally put into words what I haven't been able to explain for years.


Andi said...

Auntie is right - God is using you. I, for one, appreciate your posts and I especially thank you for this one. I'll be praying for you.

Jenni said...

I love how you are able to express so eloquently what is going on in my heart and head as well.

I especially liked how you said "We just feel left out. We are sincerely happy for all of our friends when they pair off, get engaged, get married, start having babies. But are they equally sympathetic for us the other way around? We don't think it even occurs to them."

Krissie said...

As usual I completely identify. I also agree with auntie. God is using you, although I understand what you are saying.

I'll be praying for you.

Ronnica said...

Several of your statements resonated with me.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I loved this and it made me realize I am not the only one, I two have been feeling the same way, my sister's are all in Ohio with the family and their kids even if they are grown, out of the 6 girls I have had no children and single, I wonder at times why God let's me experience the single life while they all have married and grown children IM the 2nd to the oldest there is someone that I do care for, but, it hasn't worked the way that you plan and only God knows if it will.
This part of your blog has helped me, and I too wish I could be like Mary, thank-you for sharing it.

Stacey said...

You know this post really spoke to my heart. Thank you for putting all that into words. I'll be praying for you this Christmas!

Karen said...

praying for you today...

while I cannot totally relate to what you are saying, there are some things that speak to me as well. I could stand to be more like Mary too. Sigh. Something else to think about...

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog since you did a guest post at rocks in my dryer. I really enjoy it. I understand a lot of where you are coming from. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words.

Bobbi said...

After reading your post, I realize that I need to be more like Mary too. I work very hard to remind myself that I just have to believe and have faith.

It looks to be that I will be alone again on New Years Eve. All my friends are coupled up and are doing things together or with other couples.

Being single really sucks this time of year.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a handsome man under your tree!

Steamed Dumpling said...

I liked your reflections about Mary. I happened to stumble across your blog a while aback and have been reading for sometime. I've always wanted to comment but have been a bit timid. You remind me very much of my girlfriends. I never gave much thought to being single but my friends have always longed to have a family. I never understood that deep desire, that longing. Your blog has helped me understand and sympathize if not empathize with them more so. Thank you so much for sharing whole heartedly. I hope your journey home brings some peace and joy to you, though from your previous post it sounds like there's some stress there but hey, what family doesn't come with their own issues?