Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas and What it Means to Me, Even Now...

Since my father passed away suddenly Nov. 25th, nothing has been the same.  I always thought myself emotionally and mentally able to handle a lot, and even though my faith seems more solid in certain ways, it has really tested everything I have ever felt.  I could go on about how it changes your very self, and even though death is inevitable, it has truly and really made me understand what others have gone through and the hope that awaits us as believers in a God that cares.  And how amazing all our relatives, friends, and church family has been by taking care of us, offering kind words and prayers, big hugs and kisses, food and helping with expenses that were just too overwealming.

My birthday (and my brothers on the same day) fell this year only 2 days after my father's funeral.  That was also a blur, as I realized that day will never be the same for any of us.  I lived at home till I was 25 and was very close to my parents and still was, having spent almost 4 months with them recently.  Birthdays were always such a big thing to me, whether I was 5 and my brothers were 15, 17, and 20, and at least one of them were always around in some way.  Even though the money was always scarce, it wasn't about the money.  My parents always made it as if I was the most important person ever to be born on this earth.  When I grew up, I missed the "little" things like my mother waking me up and always being the first one to give me a card and a gift.  Or my dad, giving me a big chunk of havarti cheese (as we are were both cheese lovers) and wrapping it in 5 different things somehow ending up in a gigantic box.

Simple and loving. That's how Jesus wants us to be at Christmas, because it's his birthday.  He is the reason we go to church (even once a year) and believe what we do.  He is the reason why the bible is real.  His story is not just a fairy tale; it is a real time in history that is much more important than any of our plans for eating, drinking, or spending.  Look to little things and people that you love, instead of focusing on maxing out your credit cards and going into debt because you "have to" buy every single person a gift or they will look down on you.  You can't please everyone all of the time.

This recent trip to see my family was different.  It made me realize just how much I honestly and truly love my family.  Because sometimes you have to be without something to really get how precious it is.  It was a long enough/short trip to reconcile and reunite with some, but to also say goodbye to the greatest father (pa) and friend that a girl could ever have.  I never thought my family life growing up was even close to roses and sunshine, but as you get older you realize no one is perfect; no, not even you.  To really look inside people's hearts, their past, their hurts, their struggles and stories to understand where they came from and why they do the things they do.

I think that our family has become so much closer in the past 2 years, through lots of sadness, emptiness, and shock, but much more through those things otherwise known as faith, love, and hope in an eternal life.  What about all the people that have lost loved ones and are all alone at Christmas?  What are they going to be excited about at Christmas time, when all you see around you is decorations, trees, presents, family dinners, caroling, and love love love love.  And sappy holiday TV specials.  (OK, I do like those.)

I thought about someone that I used to be so jealous of.  I saw few flaws in her for as long as I have known her and she's a modern day Martha Stewart type of working housewife, with a loving hard-working husband, and what I saw as always the perfect house, clothes or life.  I had to realize that I never knew her behind-the- scenes struggles and what it took for them to get to where they are in life.  I never knew that she would also have to experience a deep tragic loss and how I saw such huge faith and hope in her and her husband, that was more of an example to me than anything they own. It was then that I was so proud of her and her family and what it toook for them to achieve their dreams.

I am a simple person with simple dreams, but it doesn't mean that I have to give them up because I have tried too many times and failed.  You just keep going, sometimes because you have no other choice, but through it all you become closer to the people around you that are always there to support and love you.  My pa was a very simple man, that always worked and slaved as a stone mason, even when the weather was bad outside and he was battling his hip problems and other things.  He showed me that when you give everything you have of yourself to others and just try your best, and value your family and friends more than anything, that is what counts.  But then again, it is so hard to put into words everything he taught me and everything that he meant to me.

One Christmas (years ago) when we were all sitting around the table for our meal, all of a sudden my dad happily blurted out of nowhere, "Baby Jesus says, NEVER GIVE UP!"  Then there was silence and laughter. How many times I heard him say that phrase after and how many times my mom and I would encourage him with those words.  I know this Christmas will be hard, but I am going to try to focus on the gift that is Jesus; the reason for my faith and hope.  Here is an exerpt from our church bulletin about Jesus' birth and him being called  Emmanuel (God is with us):

"Faith in Christ doesn't remove any of the pains inherent within the human condition, including the pain of doubting God's existance.  Faith promises no magic pass-cards.

What it does promise is that God will be with us so that we do not have to walk through loneliness, sickness, violence, anxiety, fear, and death alone.  We have a hand to grasp, a love to embrace, a truth to cling to, and a power to sustain us (even through death itself).  We walk in the same world as everyone else, but, like a young child holding on to her mother's hand as she walks into school for the first time, we are not alone; a trusted, sustaining, guiding love walks with us.  God doesn't remove us from what can hurt us, but walks with us amidst it all.

In the present, God often seems absent.  Yet, when we turn around and look back in our lives, when we look back at our story, we more easily see how God has been there all along and how we have walked in a divine presence, protection, guidance, and love that we were oblivious to at the time, but is clear in retrospect.  We see God more clearly in our past than in our present.

This can be helpful in understanding how Christ is present to us, even when we don't always feel like it.  Faith doesn't promise us a  ladder to crawl out of the pains of life, it promises a friend to walk with through those pains.  Mostly though it's only when we look back in our lives that we see that this friend has always been there."

So for me, I will choose to celebrate Jesus, my family and friends that are still living, and the love and hope that comforts me at night.  And to know I will see my dad (and brother) again one day.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing these uplifting words, Maria. Praying for you & your family!

  2. Very beautiful post. I found your words inspiring.

  3. I liked your post too.

  4. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and love through these tough years. It has meant alot and it's nice to be back in the blogging world again on my site. I think I was meant to see all these comments now at this point in my life.