We put the tree up yesterday. We have one holiday decoration in the house and finally put one on the door this afternoon. Honestly, it wouldn't have bothered me in the least if we hadn't done anything at all. This year has been a lesson in finding what's important and discarding what isn't worth the time and trouble.
It's been a trying year, physically, for me and my family. Old physical nemeses reared an ugly head both with me and with my mom..... with me, more of an ongoing annoyance, but with Mom, much more severe. What's important is that she is still here, although right now, battling the beginnings of a cold (or at least we hope so). And even though the effects of the aging process -- and her illnesses -- baffle and frustrate me, I still have her with us here. What a blessing!
My brother -- simultaneously one of my closest peeps and yet another one who baffles and frustrates me -- nearly flipped his car earlier this year coming home from church. A slick road and an overcorrection, and almost down an embankment. We are so blessed that the worst of it involved cleaning out massive amounts of dirt and grass from the car's undercarriage. He is still here.
The house is old, amazingly still here after 80-odd years (we think), and it is safe shelter. Sure it's a little crammed -- what would you expect with four adults and their lives being interwoven here, along with one big dog? Sure we joke about who'd be the first to maneuver the backhoe if any of us ever hit a jackpot or came into a windfall somehow. (Answer: Me. Me. Me. Sorry, everyone else....) But it is home, and there are memories here, over 65 years' worth for my mom. It is safe, mostly warm, mostly sturdy, and there's lots of love contained therein. A blessing, when so so many can't say the same thing.
And for faith -- a hard-earned, fire-tested, broken-down-and-rebuilt faith. I'm getting ready shortly to go to my 23rd consecutive midnight Mass. Haven't missed one since 1991, and for me, Christmas isn't Christmas without midnight Mass. I know that above all else, I am loved, greatly loved. I have purpose and meaning, although some days it is so hard for me to see what my purpose is and if I am making any difference at all in this world. And I have hope and optimism -- sometimes blindingly so -- that keeps me going when everything seems its most dismal. It brings me to tears to think about how blessed I am. It is humbling, and leaves me in awe, asking, "But why?" No answer can be found, except this: "Because."
And I have friends, friends who have held my hand, picked up my basket, stood by me, stood up to me, challenged me to grow beyond anything I could have imagined. I don't know what I did to deserve them but I am so unabashedly grateful for them, I do not know where to begin.
This. This is what really matters. Not the value of the gifts at the tree. Not the amount of decorations or whether it's perfectly coordinated. Not whether or not the food is perfect. Only the love and the overwhelming gratitude for the best gift ever: a child who came to show a better way. A child who came to tell us how loved we are, how special we are, even when it is so hard to believe -- when we have owned our unworthiness and clung to it as our only shield. A child who was vulnerable to show us that when we are open, when we say "me too" and become community, miracles can happen.
For me, this is what really matters.
Merry Christmas to you all.