A few years ago, on Christmas Eve, I sat down next to my mom and said, “I think I’ve over done it, I’m weirdly exhausted.” It was the beginning of a fever, that tingly, fatigued decline, but it was Christmas and I wasn’t gonna go down like that. I slipped into a warm Christmas denial, and shortly after, my family made our way home.
We made it home safely, but I felt like we got hit by a speeding Amazon truck. It took herculean effort to get my girls in their pajamas and pretend giving a crap about leaving cookies out for Santa. “Baby, just pick a cookie, he doesn’t care!” I was in fast decline and by the time I made it to the couch where Rob and I were to hold our Christmas Eve tradition of eating cookies and watching our favorite Christmas movies after the girls have gone to bed, I wrapped myself in a blanket and said, “I really, really don’t want to say this out loud, but I think I have a fever.”
The next morning, with a 103 fever, I forced myself out of bed, put on a robe, Ugg boots, and a scarf, gathered my coffee and watched the girls open their gifts. I was shivering so badly, I remember jostling my coffee about, spilling drops onto my robe.
After gifts were opened, I belted out a weak, teensy little “Yay!” and then collapsed down on to the couch. I recall waking maybe three times or so, each time the girls playing with their new toys around me. On Christmas morning, I usually make french toast casserole, or cinnamon rolls, and put on a festive brunch. I have no idea what Rob fed the girls that morning, but it was probably toast. My parents were supposed to come over that day too— I was making a prime rib dinner. After arousing some time in the afternoon, I looked over at Rob, watching a movie, wrangling the girls. Eating a sad ham sandwich. “I’m sorry,” I said. I love making festive, Christmas ambiance with good smells and good food for my family, playing games with a little rum in our eggnogs, and Rob LOVES to receive it.
“It’s not your fault,” he said gently, the disappointment still present in this voice. “I’m sorry you’re sick.”
In other words— I’ve had some super lame Christmases.
Most years, my parents, sister, brother and our families gather together for a huge Christmas Even bash. But this year, tons of us are sicker than dogs. Some with the flu or COVID, while others are recovered, but fatigued and scared to death of catching something else. We’re mostly going our separate ways, although my family just recovered from the flu so we’re healthy KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD EVERYWHERE and visiting my mom and dad today who don’t have much energy, but do seem to have good cheer. The girls are sad to miss their cousins, their aunt Jenny who they adore, but the smells of baked cinnamon rolls and the promise of gifts is keeping their spirits up. Disappointments are part of life, and they can come during the worst times.
I’ve been thinking on this as our neighbor, a single mother, with an infant and a toddler, knocked on our door just yesterday. She moved in to her elderly mother’s home just a few years ago and I can tell she’s doing everything she can to survive. It was the wee hours of the morning and she asked if Rob could take a look at her car that wouldn’t start. She had a small SUV, dead, already in her drive way that she couldn’t afford to fix. And her latest car, a true clunker, had apparently thrown in the towel. After a short time, Rob returned and told me it was beyond his ability to fix. So I threw on a coat and knocked on her door. She opened it, holding her tiny baby, her eyes red and swollen from crying.
“Do you need a ride a work?” I asked her. “I know you take the babies with you, we have carseats.”
“I have someone coming,” she said. “But thank you.”
“It’s the least I can do— I know how bad this must suck. You can feel helpless, it’s stressful, it’s expensive, and it’s the holidays!” I said, exaggerating my arms to make her laugh. But she burst into tears instead and I stood with her for a moment, in sub zero temperatures. “This too shall pass,” I said gently, unable to blink because my eye balls were frozen.
Yes, the holidays can be hard for reasons far more devastating that what I’ve shared here. But this I know for sure— we can make merry with the littlest of resources, and I think that’s one of the best surprises, one of the greatest miracles, God can give us.
I’m going to take a beat, maybe a week or two, to do absolutely nothing with my family. To play games where the girls cry a lot and Rob steals my “star” putting me in last place and ticks me off so bad I don’t talk to him for an hour. Then he looks over and says, “You mad bro?” and then I kill him with my bare hands.
To think and pray and dream. To laugh a lot.
I’m going to put all paid subscriptions on pause so no one is charged during my brief hiatus lest anyone say, “What the heck, man?” which you’d have every right to say. To all my paid subscribers, your support has encouraged me beyond words. I am so grateful for you.
And for all of us, thank you for reading my words, sharing your insights, reading my books, adding your two cents and laughing with me. Christmas is the time of year where I realize the true purpose of my life. It’s so much higher than my earthly desires. When I think about the baby in the manger, I remember I am loved beyond belief. That there is more to life than flesh and bones. And the very best gifts we can give one another are fruit— love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
This is what I wish for you and yours.
And a very cozy, warm and deeply meaningful Christmas, whatever your circumstances. I’ll see you next year.
I always glad when I take the time to read your emails. They make me smile and ponder life all at the same time..l