I'm glad that Christmas is coming. Although, I must say, its timing sucks.
I have neglected this blog (and website) for so long, that I hesitated to post anything at all. I always grow a bit lazy during the summer, and I enjoy being outdoors, so I'm not a faithful writer then. During July, in additiona to that benign lethargy, I experienced a more serious form of inaction once I learned that I was not approved to become a priest in the Episcopal Church. This was a surprise, and it set me back for awhile. What really happened was that I decided to relax and enjoy the summer. That's what I did. Then I went on a personal retreat at the end of August, just to air out my brain and consider priorities for the coming year, including writing priorities, including plans for this blog.
Then, during the first week of September, a close family member was diangosed with lymphoma. The many of you who have dealt with serious medical diagnoses understand how life can quickly get upended. And I'm in my fifties now, and not as energetic as I was even a few years ago. Actually, sometimes it's not a matter of energy but of interest. There are simply more things for which I am unwilling to expend my energy. So I have allowed schedules and plans to slip every which way. Life has consisted of my full-time editing job at Loyola Press--for which I am enormously grateful--and helping this loved on get better.
"Better" is a ways into our future. I write this in the chair next to a hospital bed--now we're dealing with an infection, which is not uncommon in chemo patients. Also, it looks like some trouble with the pancreas, and some fluid in the lungs, both problems stemming from the chemo and/or lying in bed for long periods of time. We don't yet know if we'll spend Christmas in the hospital. But we did not plan holiday travel or anything big. Actually, that relieved me of some of the normal holiday-time pressure, and although I'm stressed about the illness, I'm pretty calm otherwise.
It's almost Christmas again, which is horrible timing but a very good thing. If we didn't have holy days on a recurring schedule, think of how often we would postpone them or skip them altogether. An illness in the family, or loss of job, or broken relationship, or death in the family, or general depression and stress--these disruptions would constantly nudge the holy days out of the way so that we could give all our energy to dealing with trouble.
But there's always trouble of some sort. And I don't think trouble deserves all my energy, just some of it. There will always be an excuse to put off rejoicing and hope. Always a reason to skip the party and forget to be grateful. Trouble wants to distract us from the core of things, to our basic participation in life and love. Thanks to the Christian (or Jewish, or other) calendar, the holy days arrive anyway. They insist that we remember the story that's bigger than the illness or loneliness or tribulation.
The Christmas tree is up--although it took us a few days to get the decorations on it. We chose to send fewer gifts this year. My over-the-top holiday baking was taken down a notch by necessity. But Jim is at church today, while I stay at the bedside. Later we'll drop in for awhile at the party of some good friends. We've made reservations at a restaurant on Christmas Day because we won't be in Atlanta or Portland or Joplin or Cherokee this time around.
I unpacked my growing collections of Christmas music and movies and books. Maybe I'll get through all of them this year, and maybe not. That's not important. What is important is the intent of my heart, the intent to pause and celebrate as best I can. If I can't rejoice and be grateful and hopeful now, when will I?
This reminds me of a favorite Christmas verse, by the late and wonderful Madeleine L'Engle:
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the child.
Peace and wonder to you this Christmas!