Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

We saw the sign on our way east last week.

“Santa Claus, Indiana.” Now there’s a name. I figured it must be the location for the Big Guy’s summer home.Then I read another sign—Santa Claus Christmas Store. But there was no time to stop. The last time we saw our newest grandbaby she was a month old, still learning to focus her eyes.

Seven months later, she’s a crawling, standing hurricane-about-to-happen, and we couldn’t get to Kentucky fast enough. Indiana would have to celebrate Christmas without us.

But today is different. This morning we kissed that sweet little red head goodbye and headed west back home. Today the tears come and go like temperamental waterfalls. So when that Indiana billboard showed up again, it was exactly the right medicine for my sad little heart. Christmas always cheers me up, even on December 28th. I have a feeling they celebrate it year round in these rolling Indiana hills.
We parked facing a life-sized replica of Santa himself. Two more clones, dressed in red plastic velvet, completed the welcoming party as we stepped up on to the sidewalk. Once inside the store, time stood still in this town where it’s always December 25th. The entire length of one wall displayed foot tall Santa’s in every collegiate color combo, footballs poised for a mass launch. Ornaments adorned every wall, and shoppers wandered aisles of Lenox nativity displays near rooms of discounted Christmas trees. I stood delighting in a display of whimsical Rudolph figurines when a gentle voice on my left broke into my thoughts.

“And remember to brush your teeth daily,” he was saying. I turned to see who was talking.

“And say your prayers every night, ok?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” young voices answered.

Around the corner I saw him--it was the town’s unofficial mayor, Santa. On the 28th day of December, the jolly old elf was still making house calls. I had to listen in and see where this was going.

In a room straight out of my North Pole daydreams, full of giant candy canes, toy trains and brightly embellished cascading garlands, two young children stood facing a familiar figure seated in a red velvet high backed chair—a guy who should have been resting at home with his boots propped up. To my surprise, there sat Santa himself—I know it was really him because his beard was real—imparting the wisdom of the ages to these two latecomers. I was mesmerized.

“Now you know why we celebrate Christmas, don’t you?” he was asking the young brother and sister. They nodded yes. “You know whose birthday it is, right?” he followed up. They nodded again.

“And if you take some time every day to talk with Him, well, things will always go a lot better for you in life,” he concluded. “Okay,” he finished up, “let’s have a hug.” And he gathered the two kids up in his arms to face the camera flash with big smiles. I stood amazed.

I’ve never seen Santa talk about Jesus to kids before. He stood up, hugged the children’s mom, too, and the family waved goodbye to him and his fellow elves who stood ready at the camera. I had to talk with this guy and find out where he found the courage to cross into forbidden territory, telling complete strangers—and children at that—how even Santa knows what Christmas is really about.

“Excuse me,” I began, “I heard you talking to those two kids, and I’d like to take your picture, if that’s all right.”

He seemed surprised by my request, but posed good naturedly.

“I’m not afraid to tell people the truth anymore,” he explained. “Every morning I get up and ask God what He wants me to say before I come in here. This is a ministry for me, and I love it. I’ve found my purpose this year,” he concluded.

We let our kids believe in Santa when they were growing up because it didn’t interfere with the solid foundation we were teaching them about the birth of Jesus. Last Christmas, I searched out an ornament I’d seen and wanted desperately to hang on our tree. It depicts Santa Claus kneeling, hat in hand, at the side of a manger where the Christ Child lays. I don’t think Santa competes with the true meaning of Christmas, and that little ornament shows how he can be a complement to the reason for the season.

Today, I met a man who brought that ornament’s representation to life, living it out truthfully because it’s part of who he really is. “I’m here to glorify God,” this Santa told me. “It’s my ministry to point people to the true meaning of Christmas. I hope the store will invite me back next year to do it again.”

Finally, Virginia. The solid proof to the answer given you all those years ago in The New York Sun. There is a Santa Claus. You can find him worshipping at the feet of Jesus. In Santa Claus, Indiana.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!

Tonight is the night.

It’s Santa’s big scene. Cookies await him, milk’s in a glass, stockings are hung on the bookshelf with care . . . since they won’t let us have a fireplace in our town. Scrooges. We fixed ‘em though—we bought a DVD of a crackling fire.

You do what you gotta do. Pretend if you have to. When I was a kid, we lived in a trailer in California. Not only did we NOT have a fireplace, we didn’t even have a house. (Even then, real estate was crazy expensive.) I was pretty anxious about how Santa was gonna get inside with all his loot until my dad said they’d leave the door unlocked for him. That should have worried me, but dad was always packing. Which should have worried Santa.

I guess they had a secret code worked out so the Big Fat Man With The Long White Beard wouldn’t leave with any flesh wounds.

There’s a lot of fantasy at Christmas. Sometimes even the ‘make believe’ is make believe. My husband and I did some shopping at a Home Goods store a few weeks ago. For a shopping addict like me, that’s like Christmas all by itself. I like Home Goods a lot better than Ross or TJ Maxx—it’s bigger, full of great stuff at the holidays, and a lot more tidy. In December, it’s loaded with elaborate wreaths, sparkling ornaments, and dozens of embroidered stockings. But on this day last month, we stood looking kind of confused at one display of decorations.

It started with the angel shelf sitter. She had a sweet, well, angelic face and was wearing. . . a bustier. Really??? I have no words. We decided it was a quirk. Until we saw the St. Francis of Assisi angel who was shelf sitting next to her, which in itself seems highly inappropriate somehow. I just don't think they should be hanging out together. That’s a unique idea, too—a celestial monk blessing forest animals who perch on his wings. It’s a good thing he had wings, though. ‘Cuz apparently he’d had a knee replacement gone bad. At the end of his hips were two springs connected in the middle by a glass bead joint.

It still makes me shudder thinking about it.

We began to inspect the shelf more closely. To the monk’s right stood a fourteen-inch-tall cloth doll dressed in a faded red dress wearing a tall, pointy red hat. On the front of her apron were pockets we could only assume represented Advent since they were each numbered. The problem was there only eleven of them, in random order, between one and twenty-five. I looked around with no success for a matching cone-head doll wearing an advent apron with the other fifteen. Hmmm, I thought. Another communication failure on the outsource contract.

There was a plethora of nutcrackers, none of whom would ever make the grade in a traditional German Christmas celebration. They represented doctors and firefighters and hula dancers (okay, maybe I made that one up) and the ultimate—a sushi chef nutcracker, complete with rice rolls and chopsticks. That’s what did it. Finally, it hit me.

This is it. This is where Santa does his Christmas shopping. In Home Goods. And this was The Shelf of Misfit Toys. I’ll never watch Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer the same way again.

And I bought the sushi nutcracker.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


“. . . hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor,” the Bible reads in 2 Timothy 2.

Well, they should.

We live in a neighborhood surrounded by lush green fields where corn, potatoes and sorghum grow. Some farmers across the street harvest alfalfa—I love its fragrance when it’s freshly cut. Other fields yield acres of snowy cotton puffs that soften the desert landscape. But all I reap from any of these crops is the view.

It all belongs to the farmer.

Which, for some reason, made me think about raising kids. I guess after giving birth a couple of times, I always think about my two children when I see the word “labor”. The hardest thing I ever labored over was my kids.

By comparison, pregnancy and childbirth were the easy part. We labored for twenty-three years to raise our kids as mature adults who know God intimately, love others honestly, think for themselves, and have strong characters.

It’s a tall order, I guess. And they aren’t perfect. In part, I think, because they didn’t have perfect examples. But I wasn’t called to make them perfect. I can’t “make” anything. I was called to love, nurture, train, and release them. I did all I knew to do and then some.

I did not know how to answer all their questions or relieve all their fears. I spoke into their lives anyway. I did not know how to educate them. I did it anyway. I did not know how to heal all their wounds or carry away their sorrows. I held them in my arms and prayed to the One Who could.

And now they labor in their own fields. Between the two of them are four little girls and two little boys who rely on them for love, protection and guidance. It is no small calling. It’s demanding, confusing, and sometimes frustrating beyond all description. Joy and delight are also in the mix, but that’s the easy part. The hard part is in knowing that failure at some points is not an option—it’s a certainty.

Wouldn’t you think—if you were God—that you would place babies in the care of people who actually knew what they were doing? And wouldn’t you--if you were God—place your Son, a/k/a Savior of the World, in the care of professionals? Adults with experience who wouldn’t learn how to parent on the fly, or wouldn’t be practicing on your kid while they figure it all out? Wouldn’t you?

Well, I would. If I were God.

He didn’t.

I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Why does God give the care of innocent, impressionable lives to inexperienced, fledgling adults like us? And how could He take such a risk as to place the infant Messiah in the care of sinners? What is it about becoming parents that changes us?

We don’t learn to be sacrificial until we love someone more than we love our own lives. We may never show our warrior hearts until we’re standing between our children and the enemies who threaten them. And when the time comes to let them go, we’re only able to do it because we’ve already spent years on our knees learning to turn them over to the One Who loves them more than we do.

In the beginning, we don’t know how to do any of these things. The arrival of each miniature monarch demands that we do them anyway. And as we become sacrificial for them, we see the sacrificing heart of God. When life has them backed in a corner and we don’t know how to help, we watch our Warrior God ride in on their storm as we cry out His name. When we look into the nativity and see the only Son of God, we know He already knows what it means to let go of the One He loves.

In the end, it’s all His work—the whole thing. The growing us up along with our kids—He’s the Gardener, cultivating our hearts. When it’s all said and done, He’s the One reproducing Himself in us.

I heard Beth Moore say once that God’s glory is the way He makes Himself recognizable.

It’s a beautiful thing to see. I’m enjoying the view.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Woobies make everything better.

My darling little granddaughter, Juliet, has a woobie. Soft and satiny, it looks like a rabbit—ears and everything—that morphs into a miniature blanket. She can’t sleep without it. It’s her best friend. She lies down without a fight as long as Woobie is in her arms. Sweet comfort in pink velvet, her mom or dad pick her up, hand her the rabbit, and she clutches it to her chest with one hand, simultaneously puts her middle two fingers from the other hand in her mouth, and then cuddles into the curve of her parent’s shoulder. Snuggles and Woobie. Together they make everything right with her little world.

He usually waits for her in the crib. He hardly ever goes missing that way. Juliet’s mommy got a back-up in case of an emergency, but Jules wasn’t born yesterday. She knows her best friend from the “fake woobie”, and won’t be conned by an imposter. The only way her parents can sort of fool her, if necessity or desperation arise, is if her room is totally dark before they try to bring in the understudy. She’s got to be pretty tired, even for that. And chances are the stand in will still be tossed out.

Last fall, Juliet went on her first plane ride and, of course, Woobs did, too. By the end of the trip, the floppy eared guy with a rattle in his head became more important to Jules’ mommy than her ticket and ID. Now she and Juliet’s daddy joke that Woobs is the most valuable possession they own. But after sixteen months as the star in Juliet’s firmament, he’s getting a bit tattered from being dragged all over the place. So what will Juliet’s mommy do when, eventually, Woobs comes undone? “I’ll patch him up as best I can, I guess,” she told me. Of course. When it comes to woobies, there are no substitutes, no stunt doubles. He’s irreplaceable and priceless.

Now that our little angel is up and walking, bumps and bruises are more common. But as long as Woobs is around, there’ll be no broken hearts. After one recent misstep that left Miss Juliet fallen on her pride, her daddy picked her up in his strong arms, handed Woobie to his weeping daughter, and watched the tears dissipate. “Woobies make everything better,” he told me.

I smiled. "Yes, they do," I answered. Then I sighed. I wish I had a woobie.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Just Eleven More Miles

“About the time we hit I-40, I’ll be ready for a break. Get some sleep and then you can drive for a while.”

On the road again, we were traveling the old fashioned way—by car, anti-TSA style. It’s how our pioneer forefathers did it, but we have more horses in our horse power. After a hectic week of preparations, we were off to spend our first Christmas with our son and daughter-in-law since they had a baby. Kentucky or Bust.

My husband does most of the driving, but sometimes I spell him a little so he can nap. I did my part on the first leg this morning and snored all the way to Gallup, New Mexico, where we stopped for gas and bathrooms. Still a little groggy, I bought some caffeine, switched seats with Rob, and we took off.

With Rob snoozing now in the passenger seat, I put in a Christmas CD, nibbled on homemade cookies, and admired the snowy prairie landscape while I drove. It all felt so holiday-ish. Every so often, Rob would slip out of his coma and ask how I was doing, which is partly code for "need a restroom?"

“Doin’ fine,” I’d tell him. I didn’t drink all my Pepsi. I’m a big girl—I could hold it. I just knew I could wait til Albuquerque for a pit stop.

I don’t know what happened. One minute I was fine. The next, I felt like a water balloon about to bust. I needed a bathroom now. Sensing a storm, Rob woke up. “Still doing ok?” he asked, rubbing his eyes and adjusting his seat.

“Yeah, I…I’ll be fine til Albuquerque and then I’ll need a restroom.”

He pulled out the map. “That’ll be in about forty miles,” he said.

Nature nudged my bladder and an exit magically appeared on the horizon. I squinted.

“There’s something over there,” I began, edging toward it like a hound on a hunt. “Maybe I’ll go ahead and stop now.”

“Well, it’s just a plain gas station,” Rob said, “but there’s a big intersection coming up in eleven miles. I think I remember a big travel plaza there.”

He’s almost always right. Ninety-five per cent of the time he’s right, and when we’re driving, his average shoots up another twelve points. So I turned off the blinker and kept driving. He encouraged me as I began shifting in my seat. “It’s only eleven more miles,” he said.

“Here it comes, exit 126, but . . . um . . .” His average began to falter. “There aren’t any buildings at that exit,” he ended.

“What?!!” I said, swerving a little on the road. “You said exit 114 had a whole bunch of bathrooms. Where are they?”

“Now the sign says exit 140 has the bathrooms. And I never said exit 114 had a bunch of bathrooms.”

“You sure did! Back where that dumpy gas station was you said in eleven miles there’d be a bunch of bathrooms!”

“No, I said there was a big intersection at exit 126, but there aren’t any buildings there. I said that while we were at exit 114.” I ignored my number confusion and cut to the chase.

“So you just assumed there were bathrooms at exit 140 because the map showed a big intersection?”


Silence. Silence and pain. Silence and plots of pain. But mostly, silence.

Then came the cheerful chatter. From the guy who never has to go to the bathroom because God gave him a bladder that can hold three cans of Diet Coke and four cups of coffee all at once. He can’t even spell diuretic. I could spell it when I was three.

“Look at that sign over there,” he began, and then tried to distract me with reports of wind velocity and antelope descriptions. I didn’t answer him. I was too busy holding my breath so I wouldn’t create any bladder vibrations.

Finally, I looked at him. “Just for the record,” I began, “this faux pas of yours more than makes up for that unfortunate Battle Creek, Michigan, detour I took us on in ’94.” He began to snicker.

“You’ll be fine,” he said. "It’s only eleven more miles.”

As we crested the last hill before exit 140, a distant mirage of buildings refused to evaporate. It was the Promised Land. I edged out two semi’s who, recognizing the look of desperation on the face of the woman in their side view mirrors, stayed in the right lane where they belonged. I blew into the parking lot where there was no available parking, drove to the front door, threw it in "P" and yelled over my shoulder as I ran inside, “You’re in charge here!”

A few minutes later I was a new woman, celebrating life, liberty and my new-found happiness. I walked outside without a care in the world, hiked across the parking lot towards our Tahoe, and gave a friendly knock on the locked door to . . . no one. There I stood in 45 degree weather without a coat or key or husband. I lay my forehead against the driver’s window and cursed the Pepsi-Cola company.

A few minutes later, reunited with Rob and with him in the driver’s seat, we got back onto I-40.

“You realize,” I warned, “this is so going on my blog. When I said Kentucky or Bust, I was using it figuratively!”

He acted like he hadn’t heard a word I said. Just sat there staring straight ahead, looking like he was busy concentrating on speed limits and work zone warnings. But those shaking shoulders gave it away.

It was the best laugh he’d had all month.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Icing on the Cake

“YaYa, do you remember when you and I went to the dog park?” My three-year-old granddaughter, Allie, and I were headed home from a shopping spree at Target when she charmed me with her question.

“Yes, I do!” I replied.

“Do you remember when you and I saw a big parade?” she followed up.

“Yes, I do!” I answer, delighted that we’re making memories she’s old enough now to remember.

Why do you remember?” she asked me. At three and a half, she’s spent the last year adding the question, “why?” to every other question, like icing on a piece of cake. But I’ve figured out how to get around it. I turn the “why?” question back to her. So that’s what I did today.

“Why do YOU remember those things, Allie?” I asked, feeling a little sneaky, and kind of proud of myself.

“Because I love going places with you, YaYa,” she answered.

And she won the question and answer game. I was washed out by tears.

Three-year-olds don’t play fair.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Airing My Dirty Laundry

I hate doing laundry.

It’s just so . . . needy. It annoys my inner soul. It annoys my outer soul, too—the part that hates being naked and forces me to sort and separate. Bah, humbug.

When I was a newlywed, I had a friend who sent all of her laundry out. I know! Who deserves that kind of luxury? Plus, I thought they only do that in Singapore or New York City or something. She didn’t sort anything—just piled it into giant bags, handed it off to a driver who magically appeared at her front door once a week, and the next day they brought it all back, clean and hung up. That woman was my hero. She had her priorities straight—life is too short to waste time folding underwear.

I, on the other hand, had devised an entirely different way of handling weekly washing. Since I didn’t have a dryer, all our clothes hung outside on a clothesline under giant oak trees. Where they stayed indefinitely. It looked like a garage sale in our backyard. Whenever we needed something to wear, we went outside, searched along the clothesline and brought in that day’s outfit. (I’m pretty sure even Jeff Foxworthy would drop his dentures at THAT redneck confession. I’m so embarrassed.) Then I set up the ironing board and my husband did the pressing. Did I mention I also hate ironing? Well, it was (and still is) an act of self-protection on his part—he thinks it’s tacky to wear uniform shirts embossed with the brown outline of a sole plate.

In my own defense, we lived in sunny Florida at the time, so all those laundered clothes smelled sweet and fresh from hanging out in the sanitizing sunlight for days at a time . . . which lightened their color somewhat . . . and provided creature comfort for tiny life forms. Hmm. I guess that didn’t do much to rationalize anything. To my horror, twice Rob and I were awakened in the night by the sensation of tiny feet crawling on our sensitive skin. That’ll jolt you out of a deep sleep. The first time it happened, I instinctively grabbed my assailant and threw what turned out to be a giant palmetto bug (known in these southwestern parts as a sewer roach) across the bed where it landed feet first on the bare back of my comatose husband. Wow. I didn’t know firemen could jump that far.

Two weeks later, I flung a two-inch centipede from my neck in a move that should have earned me a brown belt in ka-ra-te. My sensei would have been proud. Rob was just grateful I missed his innocent body that time. Honestly, I think the clothesline should have been located far away from the oak trees—to discourage hitchhikers—and closer to the house, making it easier to bring in petrified laundry.

I’m happy to tell you, though, that since I joined a twelve step program for sudsaphobes, I actually have clothing hanging in my closet. It’s not generally the stuff I need on a daily basis—those items are hanging in our laundry room—but winter coats, outdated shirts and formal wear definitely give the illusion of a proper closet. The other night I told my husband he didn’t need to go down the hall to locate his socks because I moved the clothes baskets into the living room in case one of us wanted to practice folding. Now he can conveniently search for his shorts while he watches Monday night football.

Hey, at least they’re not hanging outside under a tree.

(Photo courtesy of nick see's photostream at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Remote Control Hell

I’m in remote control hell.

Remember the good old days—when only toy airplanes had remotes? Now everything except the microwave comes with one, each with a minimum of fifty-seven buttons on them. As far as I’m concerned, most of those buttons are nothing more than wasted plastic which should be reported as a crime against humanity. They only exist to drive me crazy.

When I was a kid, I WAS the remote control. Anytime my dad wanted to channel boogyboard—come on, you can’t call it surfing when there are only three stations—I was the one who got up off the sofa and changed the program. I turned the knob. On the TV set. With my own hands. Watching TV used to be aerobic—for kids.

Sounds downright primitive, doesn’t it?

The sad truth today is I don’t even know where the power button IS on our TV set. Is there one? And if I ever get snowed in out here in the desert—okay, fine, if I ever get DUSTED in out here by a haboob—and run out of batteries, I’ll be stuck with a 55 inch TV and one network. ‘Cause our TV is so beautiful, it didn’t come with channel changing buttons lest we diminish its aesthetics. Which leads me to the real definition of a haboob—he who relies on electronics to run electronics.

I had to buy a special box to corral all the remotes it takes to run our house—it’s the size of a suitcase. There’s a remote for each of our three TV’s, the DVR, the two DVD players, the VHS (stop laughing), and the sound system—which is ironic because none of these devices talk to each other. There’s a remote for the ipod base, our CD player, our floor fan, my digital photo frame and our overhead light. Some people’s homes even have remotes to open and close the drapes, but I think that’s just being lazy.

Last night when my husband came home from work, he scared me by walking into the house through the front door. “Why’d you come in THAT way?” I asked with concern. He started to reply, “Because I live here,” but thought better of it. “Because the batteries died on the garage door remote,” he answered instead. I think if we staged a revolt and threw all the remotes in the trash, our whole house would deflate like one of those giant vinyl Santa’s lying face down on my neighbor’s lawn. I’m telling you, it’s a conspiracy by Duracell to take over the world.

This month we bought a new television. That changed the rules of the game completely. Our old Sony TV—the 50 inch son-of-a-gun that cost us two thousand dollars five years ago—wearied of my ineptness and went postal on us. The whole TV screen turned a pukey shade of green and couldn’t be repaired, thanks to a design flaw Sony refused to admit to until a class action lawsuit changed their minds. As one of their victims, they offered us a three hundred dollar discount if we’d spend another seven hundred on a replacement set they were trying to clear out of their warehouse in Taiwan. We politely declined in sign language.

Which forced us to take a risk on another foreign manufacturer’s version. And now I have to re-write my house/dog sitter’s book on how to survive when she stays here. Particularly how to use the, count them, THREE remotes it takes to turn on the TV and all its appendages so she can watch “Twilight, The Series”. You laugh, but with all these remotes lying around, her very survival depends on my brilliant novella. Of course, she’s nineteen and has probably been writing user manuals since she was three. I should have asked her to give ME a demo.

The other night, after pushing every conceivable button on the TV remote, I still couldn’t get Wheel of Fortune to look right. I hollered into the kitchen for some husbandly advice.

“Honey,” I whined, “you made the TV screen bigger and now Vanna looks fat. How do I make it normal again instead of freakish?”

Big sigh from the kitchen.

“Just push the menu button,” he responded.

“Which one is the menu button?” I asked.

“It’s the little gray one next to the miniscule dot marked THI.”

I squinted at the black remote with the black buttons.

“I pushed that one. Now there’s a tiny box in the upper corner of the screen and no sound.”

“Then you pushed the HTI button. That one’s next to the one you want.”

“Which one do I want again?”

I swear he aimed a remote at me and pushed something. I haven’t been able to talk for a week.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas

It doesn’t snow here. Not the sticking, piling-up-on-the-ground kind, anyway.  Every couple of years a few flakes will escape a cloud en route to Flagstaff and settle on top of a saguaro for photographers to ogle. It happened this morning in Scottsdale. But it doesn’t snow at my house.  The last time there was official measurable snow in Phoenix was 1937.  I can dream of a white Christmas all I want to, but a dream is all it will be as long as I hang my stocking in a house in the desert. 
I do my best to get in the Christmas spirit, though. I love to sit in my chair, snuggled under my mass produced quilt while I drink a cup of hot decaf, and watch the LED lights on our pre-lit artificial tree. Thanks to Pandora, the sounds of George Winston’s “December” float up easily from my laptop and set the mood while I watch a DVD of a crackling fire on my HD television.
Ah, Xmas.  I can fashion quite a holiday atmosphere when I get all my props in place.  But one thing always eludes me. 

It doesn’t snow here.

If only it would.  I’d never get out of that comfy, cozy chair.
Where did I get the idea that snowlessness diminishes my Christmas, though?  I did a quick search of Christmas carols and realized only Irving Berlin’s grammy winner sets that bar so high.
Don’t you hate to question beautiful little unrealistic ideas of how things are supposed to be?  And questioning traditions is sacrilege! I mean, that’s why we call them traditions—because they’re . . . traditional.
My daughter asked me last month which part of the Thanksgiving meal was the most important to me.  She and her family wanted to change up the menu a little—maybe grill some burgers. “Well, to me, the turkey and gravy are essential,” I told her, “and I love chestnut stuffing, with mashed potatoes on the side.  And your dad has to have homemade cranberry sauce.  But that’s about it. Maybe some pie for dessert.”   

Change Thanksgiving?  What was she thinking?? The next day I heard that our Pilgrim ancestors didn’t dine on turkey at all for their first American feast. 

Figures. I bet they grilled hamburgers.
I remember how disillusioned I felt when I found out December 25th isn’t the actual date on Jesus’ birth certificate. Turns out he was probably born in summer or fall.  See, that’s when shepherds are out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night—when it’s warm.  It snows in Bethlehem in December, but even with all that white wooly fluff for insulation, smart little sheep don’t bed down at night in snow drifts.

Even Jesus didn’t have a white Christmas.
So what is it that my heart is really looking for while I pursue traditions?  Contentment? Security? Peace?  If I can’t have a real tree anymore because we’re allergic to them and they’re a fire hazard anyway, is that a deal breaker?  If the kids grow up and move away and have their own lives and no little voices wake us up at five a.m. to see what Santa brought, will that throw me into a depression?  If the economy is bad and the Grinch does steal all the decorations and presents, can he steal the song in my heart, too? 
If I never live where it snows, can I still enjoy Christmas? What am I REALLY dreaming of, if a snowy Christmas morning isn’t the panacea I’ve always believed it to be?
I’ve watched so many Hallmark movies, I think I’ve been blinded by the tinsel.
Far away from all the wrapping paper and decorations and exhaustion, a baby sleeps while angels celebrate and shepherds stare at Hope disguised in swaddling clothes. A teenage girl recuperates from childbirth and wonders what qualifies her to mother the Son of God. And a world bathed in darkness for thousands of years squints in the first Light since creation.
It’s time for me to pause.  To let go of unrealistic expectations.  If snow in December was all that great, there’d be no such thing as snowbirds. It’s time to relax, refresh and rejoice in the promise of God’s unconditional love and the Package in which it was wrapped. ‘Tis the season . . . to let go.
I think I just saw a snowflake fall.