What Hallmark Channel is Selling Me.

I’ve been watching a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies, and here’s what I’m being sold* while watching:

  1. A magical eyebrow shaper.
  2. Nordic Track/Bowflex/Peleton.
  3. Wayfair. All the time, Wayfair.
  4. Life Alert bracelets.
  5. Balsam Hill Christmas trees (which, by the way, can run up to $1,000).

 

*In addition to the science-fiction fantasy that Christmas is a magical romantic time where all my dreams come true.

Merry Christmas

I wish I had anything profound, comforting, or funny to say this Christmas, but I don’t. I didn’t decorate, I didn’t embark on a baking extravaganza, I barely did any Christmas shopping.

My heart is heavy, has been all year, really, and as such, it’s been hard for me to feel much of anything this Christmas season. But on Christmas Eve, in lieu of attending a nearby evening service, I watched movies and cleaned out my RSS feed. I found two messages that restored my hope.

Every year that I spend Christmas alone, my heart is increasingly tender towards those for whom Christmas is just heartbreaking. But as glib as “Jesus is the reason for the season” often sounds in the public square, these two articles reminded me of the gravity of that phrase. He is the reason, not only for this season, but for all seasons.

Today during our Christmas program at church, I thought about the month after Jesus was born. How long did it take the Holy Family to make it safely to Egypt? Was the road bleak and hopeless? Were Mary and Joseph worried? Anxious? Maybe even a little sad at leaving their home?

Often this is how I feel in January, after I’m back at school and in the throes of musical rehearsals, getting to know new students (a perk of teaching semester classes), and rarely seeing sunlight. Bleak and hopeless. But because of Jesus, I need not let those feelings take over. He is the reason for all seasons of life–bleak and bright, hopeless and hopeful.

Merry Christmas.

An Advent message

When Christmas is hard

A Letter to December.

Dear December,

I’m not sure when it started happening, this horror you bring to my life every year. Perhaps it’s always been this way and I’m just now noticing it. That’s entirely possible. So I shouldn’t be quite so angry with you. It’s mostly my fault.

But other months don’t do this to me year after year.

This week alone I was out until 8 or 9 p.m. every night–three nights work-related, one night spent with friends, one night running errands because of the other four nights spoken for and Saturday completely booked.

This morning I was going to wake up early, go to Jazzercise and run more errands before picking up a friend to go see the musical “Waitress” and then attending a church Christmas party that has had my stomach in knots for three weeks.

When I got home last night at 10:15, my whole being chided, “Julie. Tomorrow morning you are going to sleep in. You will eat your favorite yogurt and a bagel for breakfast, while in bed watching something mindless. Spend a little time writing. You’ll eventually get up and get ready for the day, maybe even vacuum, maybe grade a few papers, maybe even get a jump start on holiday baking. You are taking the morning off. It’s the only way you won’t lose your mind.”

The problem with that chastisement is I have goals I set last January, and guess what, December–you make it nearly impossible for a last-minute push to meet any of them. Plus I have a mountain of tasks, all priorities, that need tending to. I feel guilty for taking a morning off.

So I have to make a choice: meet my goals and complete my tasks, or lose my mind. What would you have me do December?

All the things.

That’s what you would have me do, because it’s what you have me do every year. All the things. Which, for a month that is supposed to be about love and joy and peace, seems counter to your alleged theme and purpose.

The only positive thing I can say about you at this point, December, is that this morning is December 16, which means you are half over, and then I don’t have to see you again for another year.

But I am taking this morning off.

Sincerely,

Julie

 

 

A Long November.

So November is over and I didn’t write as often as I’d planned, but I did do the following:

Spent time with friends.
Spent time with family.
Saw one play and two musicals.
Kept my environs tidy (a big deal this time of year).
Watched movies.
Read books.
Listened to music.
Called senators.
Called congressmen.
Graded. And graded. And graded some more.
Laughed with my students.
Laughed with my colleagues.

Tomorrow is December 1 and a Friday, so for my Friday Morning Soundtrack I will fire up the Christmas music and on Sunday, start thinking about Advent. Time keeps ticking, and while I spend a decent amount of time every day in existential dread, I also spend a decent amount of time every day living a pretty great life.

And I can’t think of anything else to really be grateful for besides that.

38 Days.

Thanksgiving is Thursday, which doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. Today at church we sang “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing” and “For the beauty of the earth” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” I reflected on my week and wrote in my journal and led a discussion with other women about how we can do better at fellowshipping. I sang at a choir rehearsal to prepare for the Christmas program.

The holiday season is here, whether I’m ready. I feel I have much to do–at school, at church, at home–but I’m going to breathe. I can only do so many things in one day. I can do quite a bit in one day, of course, but some things can wait. Family, friends, sanity each deserve space and attention.

I count 38 days between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day. Our focus for those 38 days can either be “Ugh I’m so busy” or “Waah I have so much to do.” Or.

Or.

Or you can “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” that your life is full and messy and even though you left the green beans in the microwave and slightly burned the rolls and the cat destroyed the ornaments and the gift wrapper at Barnes & Noble needs to just work the register, the holiday season still is not a disaster.

Lin-Manuel Miranda said it best this week, when he tweeted:

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I hope starting tomorrow, and this week, then 38 days after Thanksgiving, I can remember to start with grateful. And I hope you can too.