Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve

I put Tommy in the car on that cold, stormy day and temporarily lost the true meaning of Christmas.

I rushed through the storms that were raging both outside and inside crowded stores. There were still a few gifts to purchase, cookies to bake, stories to read, presents to wrap, a house to clean, toys to assemble, batteries to buy, dinner to cook, church to attend. Through tornado warnings we rode home to shower quickly, fluff instead of iron and make it back out the door again just in time to meet Danny at our Christmas Eve candlelight service.

Again we ran through water puddles, with Tommy refusing to be carried and splashing through them instead of hopping over them. "At least it isn't 90 degrees," I thought, as we made it to the door, received a program and heard, "It's warm inside, little guy," as a response from a sweet old woman decked out in her Christmas sweater to Tommy's chattering teeth. We grabbed our candles and made our way through the crowd to find Danny in our normal spot...back pew, closest to the center aisle....always a necessity when Tommy attends a church service with us. All day I had felt hurried for no good reason at all. Sitting down with my little family was the first moment all day that felt "normal".

But my feeling of normalcy did not last long.

The sanctuary was beautiful. Thousands of tiny white lights glistened off of garland wrapped banisters,wreaths and however many Christmas trees that decorated the front. Candles were lit. Two chairs were set up to look like some one's living room for what would be children's story time. Everyone was joyful, including me, as we waited for the service to start. Our pastor walked the aisles greeting everyone and shaking hands with those he could reach. I admire that so much about him. It seems so many pastors are separated from their congregations. So many that I have seen seem to put themselves on pedestals and build walls between themselves and everyone in the church. We love that our pastor is not like that, regardless of how large our church is. Seeing him that night, truly caring about the people that had come to celebrate the birth of Christ, is what started it all. As soon as I saw Matt (our pastor), I thought about Marco (the pastor we are working with in Pueblo Nuevo).

Sometimes I do an OK job of living two very different lives. One day I may be working in Guatemala and crying my eyes out because I know that I will never be able to do enough and the next week I may be getting a $65 haircut. Yes, I live two different lives. And it sickens me. For the most part, I try to keep it the way I know is right, "practicing what I preach", giving more than I take...but there are times like Christmas Eve when that other side of me comes out. A week after returning from Guatemala, after trying all that time to push some things out of my mind to keep from breaking down, after vowing that this year Christmas would not be more...more...more, after praying for a way to just get through the holidays before really "feeling" all that happened the week before, God decided to use our Christmas Eve service to wake me up...again.

As I saw Matt in his nice slacks, warm sweater and dress shoes, I could not help but think about what Marco must be doing at that moment. He would have been dressed in his best clothes, likely a pair of slacks and a button up shirt and Leddy surely would have been wearing her best, as well, as they made their way from Parramos to church in Pueblo Nuevo that evening. They likely walked those few miles with their children. I could see him speaking to everyone they passed and when they arrived, I know that he must have spoken to most and I'm sure he shook a lot of hands, just as our pastor did. Different circumstances, same purpose...preparing to celebrate the birth of the Saviour that saved them both.

Children dressed in the cutest Christmas outfits skipped in with their parents. Shiny shoes, red ribbons and corduroy galore. What else could I possibly think of than Jesenia, Mildre and Jacquline...Maria, Yenefer and Angel...Yonni, Paola and Carolina...times 50? I know so many of them must have attended a Christmas service, but there were no shiny shoes. There is no way to care for shoes when you walk miles a day on dirt roads through the mountains. There would be no fancy Christmas dresses or dress pants. But there would be joy because they love to attend church. Different children, different parts of the world...learning about the birth of Christ...the same Saviour that is saving them.

The lights dimmed. Five people were baptized. I thought about more than 100 faces that had accepted Christ the week before. They would not be baptized. No baptismal and no body of water around. But that is OK. Same God, same acceptance...different ways of make do with what you've got. No water to baptize in Pueblo Nuevo? That's OK...acknowledge Him, say a prayer, start the walk. Either way, I can't help but believe that angels sing and God smiles.

The music started. A prayer was said. Tommy sang and danced. I could smell the lingering scent of bubble gum bubble bath and graham crackers as he happily sang along with songs he knows...Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful...

His voice was so sweet and I am so thankful for this third Christmas with him. Along with him, I could hear the voices that have become familiar to me even though they speak another language. I could hear their prayer and hear their songs of praise.

My favorite, O Holy Night, began and I closed my eyes to keep from crying. I know how blessed I am. I do not take this life for granted. I do not like to complain and I am not trying to sound ungrateful for all that I have been given. Our lives here are comfortable...far from extravagant, but no where close to lacking anything. I, along with everyone else, enjoy the luxuries that I have. But as I looked at Danny and Tommy that night, as I looked around a large sanctuary full of people, as the tears in my eyes turned all of the tiny lights into one big glow, I wanted to be far, far away.

I wanted to be in a tin room with a dirt floor, celebrating the birth of the same Saviour, just in a different way. I wanted to shed the black heeled boots, black sweater and makeup and trade it in for a pair of jeans, a tshirt and a baseball cap...perfect attire for sitting with children in the dirt. I wanted to be watching our son play with new friends and my husband joke around with Marco. I wanted to spend more time with the families that have left such an impact on my life this year.

There are times when I try to fight these feelings...times when I simply do not want to constantly dwell on Guatemala, on missions work, on poverty around the world...Ghana, Uganda and Cambodia. But this is who I am. I cannot help but to constantly compare my life to the life of others that I know exist because I have seen them with my own eyes. I cannot ignore each time I am so overwhelmed with the thought of being there (in the middle of whatever poverty stricken country He sends us to) that tears spring to my eyes, my hands tremble and all I can do is sob because we aren't "there" yet.

In the middle of our Christmas Eve service, I was thankful for all that Christmas means and wanting nothing other than a ONE WAY ticket to Guatemala with Danny and Tommy. Deep down (and not so deep down) that is all I really ever want these days and until it happens I will probably keep dreaming out loud. I realized that night why it has been so difficult for me to even think about our last trip...why I reacted so differently the day after coming home than I had after the June and October trips...why I have been so hesitant to post anything other than photos here. Now that I have been able to wrap my mind around it all, I will post my thoughts on the trip soon.

I was still joyful as we left that night. Actually, I was more than joyful. I am learning to be content in whatever situation I am in so for now I am content with living this over abundant life that we have been blessed with. It sounds weird to hear...I know. It sounds to strange to hear that I am content with hardwood floors, heat & air conditioning, 2 working vehicles and a closet full of clothes. It isn't that I do not want this life. I would happily go on living it for the rest of mine if that is what He wanted. Knowing that this isn't what my life is to be, though, makes it a little difficult to live it. Waiting for Him to make the timing clear isn't always easy.

None of this may make sense and it's ending abruptly. I am having a hard time expressing myself lately. All I wanted to say here is that for two very different worlds, different lives, different heart is in two parts of the world, in two congregations, with more than one family, but we are all doing the same things...loving the Lord, making Him known, loving and taking care of our families and just trying to survive. We have too much. They have too little. But we all have just enough in Him.

Our Christmas was wonderful. Seeing the joy in Tommy's face that morning was another precious gift, as was time with our families and each other. We could not have asked for a better day. Now, as new toys are scattered around the house, dishes are overflowing the sink and my eyes become heavy, I can clearly see the line that seperates my two lives. Until there is only one, this will always feel strange to me. My Christmas wish for next year will remain the same unless it comes before...a one way ticket to a poverty stricken, rodent filled village that is bursting with children that love big and most of their parents that know that even with nothing, they have more than enough.

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