Sometimes I just need help with an Ugly Cry.

The links have begun to pour in. Stories telling me of the importance of diet and of exercise, stories of how to organize the house and my life. Lots of links about bullet journaling, mostly because I am rather obsessed with this right now.

Links about new starts and plans for the new year. I wrote yesterday about my intention to avoid resolutions this year, my intention instead to focus on embracing more how I am wired and figuring out how to make that blossom.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Psalm 139:14.   In all my haphazardness and all my inconsistencies, in all the things that spark wonder within me, and all the things that bring life to me…I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creative God who has marked me as His own. He has left His Image upon me.

Part of that, I think, is this deep affinity to story.

And that is why, I think, one of the links which continued to pop up in my FaceBook feed caught my attention.

The Wall Street Journal. The Need to Read.

The Need to Read.





Beyond just a tag on to my days, or something that would be nice to fit in to the schedule, there is a need to read. Will Schwalbe writes in the article above that the need to read is tied to a need to be exposed to ideas beyond just our own. We are able to experience and understand different ideas and people through reading. This is such an enormous reason to read.

It is not the only reason.

Right now, as I near 47 years old and parent kids from five to fifteen, I realize more than ever the need for wonder and story. That image of God marked on my soul? Part of it is is this innate affinity to story, this perking of the ears and the heart to a good story. Being drawn in to the characters and the setting, wondering what will come next and how the characters will resolve their challenges. Rejoicing in their successes and feeling that ache of heartbreak over loss and suffering.

In fictional stories.

Yep.

Crying those messy, snotty, tissue-necessary cries at the end of a story that releases our emotions. *

Sometimes we need that release. Because we have had to hold things together in the midst of a world that is stressful and filled with heartbreak. We cannot walk in mourning or anger or fear or sorrow all the time, even though we have valid reason for all those emotions…we have to learn to keep them in check and function with some sense of health in the midst of a crazy world.

Sometimes we need the catharsis of a good cry, the release of getting really ticked off at a villain worthy of our anger. We need our wonder sparked and ignited by the heroism of a fictional, or historical, character. We need our authors to give us a moment to release our emotions in the safety of a story so we can return to our realities of bills and parenting and teaching and health issues and dementia and cancer and fears and hopes and sports and joys and all that makes up our lives. We return with our hearts enlargened and ready to love well, to wonder well and, yes, even to have anger when needed.

Stories give us room to feel. They give us room to listen and to experience beyond our neighborhood. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity.

So, do not take it as a burden, and surely do not add it as a resolution…but go buy a book and read. Something. Ask a friend for a recommendation and find something worth reading.  If you need a place to start, check out this list over at The Rabbit Room.  Or, better yet…tell us in the comments what you are reading to start this new year! Currently I am reading Scarlet Pimpernel and Pride and Prejudice.

*The last book that left me in that state of an ugly cry (messy, tears falling and snotty nosed), was The Warden and the Wolf King…the last book in the Wingfeather Saga. You haven’t read these? Go…now. Read them to your kids, starting tonight!

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Birth of Wonder

This originally was posted in 2013, yet the words hold true today….

 

This year a little elf doll has made an appearance at our house.  This is the first time we have taken part in the whole Elf on the Shelf phenomena, and we only did because two boys asked. They asked with this sense of wonder in their eyes and this delight. And now, each morning they immediately make a search for where this little stuffed toy has settled.

 

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This will  be part of their memory of Christmas. This will be part of their tradition. Along with bundling up and loading in the truck with hot chocolates and popcorn to drive through the city and look at Christmas lights. Listening to Christmas music. Practicing for the Christmas program at church. Decorating the Christmas tree and the house. All of these combine to create an atmosphere that stands out as special; as infused with wonder and something different.

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I remember the Christmases of my childhood. I remember lighting the luminarias and setting the table for Christmas Eve. I remember the anticipation, looking over the presents under the tree a hundred times. I remember the delight in looking at all the ornaments and sitting and staring at the tree with all the other lights in the house off. I remember the special food, the aromas and the scurrying around the kitchen. I remember the little cinnamon rolls that came out only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The special Christmas china and the red and green goblets. Velvet dresses and Christmas sweaters and shoes that pinched. Acting out the story of the coming of the Babe in the Manger.  Loading up in the car and heading to the Episcopal church downtown for midnight mass and remembering the hush that fell upon that place and the sense of awe. Christmas morning was fun, but all that led up to it is more imprinted on my memory than the gifts and opening presents.

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Everything was set to perfection, and I know there was stress involved, but it was set to perfection with a sense of delight, to lavish and to create a sense of the special.

 

Now…the one who was at the helm of setting the tone and the table  is lost in a place where she does not even understand the meaning of the word Christmas. We have not had a meal like that in years, and Dad has not celebrated Christmas in quite the same way in some time. Of course, Grandparents pare things back, but we have set aside the wonder because she does not understand. Until this past Thanksgiving…my brother and his wife brought Thanksgiving to my folks’ place.

 

Dad set the table and each piece was still able to carry memories. It is amazing how these inanimate objects bear our thoughts and hold our emotions, releasing a flood of memories just by being brought out into view. Now Dad walks through setting the pieces out, and Mom shadows him. She takes some pleasure in seeing the pieces, but she no longer is the one setting the tone. She no longer is the one welcoming the guests with beaming smile. She is no longer orchestrating.

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I realized something. I have many friends for whom the holidays are truly difficult, and I imagine that infusing wonder into those moments can be daunting. Seasons which invoke feelings of dread and fear and depression, or where loneliness is the dominant emotion rather than wonder or joy…these are not seasons marked by memories of anticipation and hope.  Rather, they might be seasons where we want to simply close the door and ignore.

 

I would offer that all the more, though, we need in those moments to affirm the irrationality of Christmas, as Madeleine L’Engle says.

In the midst of the terrors and the depressions and the fears and the angers and the hopelessness….in the midst of those is where we need to hear the wonder.

We can manufacture some sense of wonder with Elves on Shelves and twinkling lights. Enough to capture the attention of the five year old, or even the ten year old. Enough to enliven their imagination so they have memories to look back upon as they age. Enough to spark their wonder. But, they are mere glimpses of wonder, and they do not sustain. Let the children play and enjoy…and spark their wonder.

Then, remind them of the One who tells of the truest wonder of all.

When the true terrors of reality come, we need the irrationality of Christmas. We need the imagination of the God who has the power to overcome, and to birth true wonder.

 

The Birth of Wonder

Madeleine L’Engle

When I am able to pray with the mind in the heart, I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.

As I grow older

I get surer

Man’s heart is colder,

His life no purer.

As I grow steadily

More austere

I come less readily

To Christmas each year.

I can’t keep taking 

Without a thought 

Forced merrymaking

And presents bought

In crowds and jostling. 

Alas, there’s naught

In empty wassailing

Where oblivion’s sought.

Oh, I’d be waiting

With quiet fasting

Anticipating

A joy more lasting.

And so I rhyme

With no apology

During this time

Of eschatology:

Judgment and warning

Come like thunder. 

But now is the hour 

When I remember

An infant’s power

On a cold December.

Midnight is dawning

And the birth of wonder.

She Littered our World with Glitter and Pink

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This face. This little one who changed our world.

 

She was not expected. In fact, she was a surprise which left us feeling a bit overwhelmed when we first learned she was arriving. Funny how God’s surprises can be exactly what we need…even when at first we don’t know how or why.

 

 

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This little one, five years ago, changed our world of all boys to a world littered with glitter and pink.

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And wonder.

So much wonder. Her imagination staggers me. All the boys have been creative and imaginative…but Miss Madeleine Jane takes it all to a completely different level. I will catch her running through the house, stop sharply, lean over and whisper something to the air, and take off again. Playing some game with some imaginary friend. Giggling and laughing her way through the day.

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This little one is filled with humor and sharp whit. She understands and grasps the world around her in a remarkable way. She is delightful, wonder-filled, fierce and brave.

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The other day a friend asked her if she was brave when she saw King Leo on the trailer for the new Jungle Book Movie. “Yes. I thought I would be brave, and I was  braver than I thought I would be.”

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She loves worms and teacups in the same degree. She can embrace you with spontaneous hugs or scream at the top of her lungs…within seconds of each other.

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We had no idea we needed so much pink, so much wonder and so much love in our midst.

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We celebrated her fifth birthday with a fairy garden.

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We gave her some ingredients, and she is already filling them with life.

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She is already learning that there is danger around her. She asked the other day if there were bad guys in real life. Sadly, yes there are. She is preparing herself though, listening to fairy tales and truths. Learning about courage and wonder. Filling her heart and her imagination with stories of bravery and of humility and of wonder.

We will keep giving her the tools, and we will keep looking on as she twirls and delights and reminds of so much good. She will continue to shape our world to have more laughter and more love than we could have imagined. What a delight-filled surprise she has become.

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Happy Birthday, Maddie Jane.

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“To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace—the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us.” – George MacDonald

Five Words I Love To Hear: Mom! Please, Don’t Read Anymore!

 

Each night for the last couple months I have been met by this exclamation from my youngest boy.

 

The lights are dimmed, he is in his bed and the Littlest Princess (I’m still settling on their nicknames for this blog) is in some degree of resting. Prayers are done and we have read one chapter out loud from our latest book.

 

We have been taking our time, savoring George MacDonald’s books. About Princesses. Yes, reading my boy books about princesses.

 

But these are George MacDonald books about princesses.

 

 

The Princess and the Goblin.

The Princess and Curdie.

 

The Lost Princess (or The Wise Woman: A Parable)

 

Books which greet us with comments like these:

“It was foolish indeed – thus to run farther and farther from all who could help her, as if she had been seeking a fit spot for the goblin creature to eat her in at his leisure; but that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.”

 

“There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection.”

 

“What honest boy would pride himself on not picking pockets ? A thief who was trying to reform would. To be conceited of doing one’s duty is then a sign of how little one does it, and how little one sees what a contemptible thing it is not to do it. Could any but a low creature be conceited of not being contemptible? Until our duty becomes to us common as breathing, we are poor creatures.”

 

These are books which carry weight, and I have been happy to read slowly. The other night, though, I thought we might read two or three chapters so we could finish the book that night. The Youngest Boy would have none of that.

 

I get carried away reading books. Looking up I will find that I have read for two hours when I only meant to take a few minutes to read. This boy, though…he has restraint.

 

Stop reading.

 

Savor what we have.

 

He wanted me to stop so the book would last longer, so we would have more nights to think about Rosamond or Curdie or all the other cast of characters. He asked last night if there were any more after this…I told him there is this little one called At The Back of the North Wind.

 

There will be plenty of time to be swept away by stories and read for hours….there is something priceless about a 9 year old being aware that we need to savor the moment. He knows there will come a time when we have read all the MacDonald books, and he wants to hold that off as long as possible.

 

There is wonder, and sometimes we just glance and acknowledge what should make us stop in our tracks. The absolute-out-of-control laughter of children. Sunsets which turn the sky to fire and make our hearts beat faster. The smell of honeysuckle.

 

The reality of a God who creates all these things, and who cares for all of us. And for me. And for you.

 

Wonder. On a Monday it may feel far away….but think about the last time you took something in just a piece at a time to make it last. Today, take in just a piece…

 

Peace.

 

Grace.

 

Mercy.

 

Love.

 

Forgiveness.

 
Resurrection.

 

Creativity.

 

Don’t rush. Show the restraint of a 9 year old.

 

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Allergic to Wonder

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Everything is in bloom. There are, it seems, a limitless number of shades of green all around me at the moment. The trees and the grass and leaves on the flowers and the plants…everything is crying, “Life!”

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The temperature has warmed, and the desire is there to be outside. The pull is there to work in the garden, to add a touch to the beauty that is natural.

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The only problem is…I cannot breathe when I go outside. The allergies this year have been brutal. Not only does my chest tighten and I begin to cough and reach for my inhaler, but my eyelids break out in hives. The back of my knees break out as well, and my eyes become red. I last for just a few moments before I have to return to the shelter of the house and reach for something to help stave off the effects of pollen.

 

The beauty around me draws me, and yet because of this flaw, because of this brokenness, I just cannot take it all in.

 

I cannot enjoy the wonder.

 

Some are not bothered in the least by allergies, but thoroughly embrace the changing of the season.

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Today we blew up the inflatable water slide and Sammy, Maddie and a buddy had a ball. They didn’t notice the colors of the leaves and the grass and the flowers. The didn’t notice way the water splashed and caught the sunlight.

 

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They didn’t stop and contemplate.  They just jumped in and enjoyed the wonder. The feel of it all and the delight.

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They played in the water, and they broke apart a “fossil” Sammy had made in Science class.

 

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“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” -G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

 

I love this quotation from Chesterton, and have used it often, probably because I need to hear it myself. We need to kick around in the water slide a little with an almost three year old and a few boys. We need that prompt of childhood that doesn’t have to analyze the wonder, but steps in and tastes it and feels it and delights.

We have to learn to belly-laugh again!

 

There is something deeper, though. There are times when wonder takes our breath away. There are times when something is so beautiful – whether it is a sunset or an infant – that it brings an ache to our heart. That ache, I think, tells us that we know we cannot fully take it in because we ourselves are not completely whole yet. We cannot give ourselves completely to the wonder around us until we are whole, and we know that somehow.

 

Sometimes, the brokenness we have and the wounds we have gathered hover around us and cling to us. They become a boundary like the allergies in the Spring. We can see the wonder from a distance…maybe even gather the strength to embrace it for a moment, but we start to break out in hives if we get too close something beautiful for too long.  We are more comfortable with pain and with chaos and with suffering…we are more familiar with crisis.

 

There is much around us to weep over. The state of the girls in Nigeria. The situation that continues in Ukraine. The ongoing saga of Pastor Saeed. The abuses of children that continue to make headlines. Brokenness. Sin. Wounds.

 

There is, however, much around us to bring delight. There is wonder, and it is not wrong to delight in wonder….even when there are wounds around us.  This life will always be a balancing act.

This week is leading towards Mother’s Day. Like billboard reminder that my Mother is present and yet…not.

 

Another marker and reminder of brokenness. Hindrance to the wonder, or another opportunity to reflect?

 

And yet…I have four little wonders right around my feet delighting in life, and calling me into wonder and laughter and life. Balance…the awareness of the absolute wonder of love and life and spirit that God has blessed, alongside the awareness of brokenness and need for His grace and salvation.

 

So…we run into the wonder as we can, and we know that sometimes it will overwhelm with the very richness that makes it wonder-filled. The reality of wonder may highlight our pain at times, and may heighten our awareness of the need for healing. We may only be able to delight in wonder for a moment, and then have to run back into our shelter and recoup. Sometimes the wonder itself will bring healing, will bring refreshment.

 

Some day, we will be healed and whole and able to splash and delight and embrace and love whole-heartedly and with abandon. For now, maybe our artists and our singers and our children will be those who help us learn to move in our brokenness and embrace the wonder. They can draw us from our brokenness, and from our habits of hiding, and give us the voice to delight in wonder. Even when we are in pain.

 

 

 

The Color Green

“And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop
And every house must have it’s builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

And the wrens have returned and they’re nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now
And I’m amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house
And with the rocks I cry out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise”

Rich Mullins

Advent hits a Wall…

I have to be honest with you. We have hit a bump in our Advent procession.

Well. Maybe a wall.

Things have been busy. The kids have not been into the readings. We have been stressed. Steve began a new level of management, which includes being called in at 4am some mornings…and working on until his usual 6pm. We’ve been grumpy and stressed the last few days.

Add to the mix that I realized I needed to give up the goal of writing our own Bible curriculum this year as I have lost most of my study time with all the other changes. Loss of study time leads to grumpy Sarah.

So yesterday I was uber grumpy and we did no readings, no lighting of candles, no talk of Advent.

I gave up. Kids were bickering and I just let them and let them know I was disappointed in them and, well, this kinda sucked.  Yep. A few of those days.

Here’s the thing though…this morning, I still hid the Elf on the Shelf. He is hiding with a marker in his hands that he used to draw mustaches on all the family members in the pictures on the bookshelf. And I wasn’t grumpy when I did that. I was thinking about Sammy when he will come downstairs looking for that Elf.

Sammy at seven is in that perfect age to wake up every morning and ask how many more days until Christmas. He in in the age of wondering aloud about all the magic of Christmas. He is in the age of embracing all the wonder and all the excitement. He asks me when we are going to load up with our hot chocolate and our popcorn to drive around and look at the Christmas lights. All the kids love Christmas, but my Sammy…he is the one.

He is the one who keeps me in the wonder.

I know that part of my frustration and part of my “grumpiness” is fueled by the ache that comes in from Christmas lost. The ache in knowing I cannot share any of this joy in seeing my kids enjoy Christmas, especially Sammy or Madeleine, with my mom…and that is hard. There is pain there and sometimes instead of just acknowledging that I try to ignore it. Instead it comes out in frustration and seeps into the rest of the season as an overarching grumpiness.

So many have aches and loneliness and pain through this season.

Hurt and sorrow. True, deep pain which this season seems to bring a spotlight upon. We need to have grace for one another and realize that sometimes when we are being grumpy and short, or even just wanting solitude, it may be our way of tending to that ache.  It is hard to see any wonder in those moments.

I came across this in my reading, and it eased the ache, and I hope it does so for you as well. Buechner once again brings me back on track in my Advent pursuit. As a mom, I needed this this morning. If you’ve had a few days of the kids being wild, which tends to happen at Christmas time, if you’ve had a few days of feeling ragged and frazzled…take the time to read this. Maybe in the bathroom. Or another dark corner. With a coffee and Reeses. Not that I did that.

Seriously though…we cannot quiet the truth of Christmas because the truth is so dramatic. Even when we get sidetracked. Even when our aches and our sorrow and our loneliness become loud. Even when we get frazzled. The truth of Christmas is not shadowed by the Elf on the Shelf, or by Rudolph.   It survives because it is not fairytale.

The truth of Christmas…well…read on:

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed—as a matter of cold, hard fact—all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space/time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.

-Frederick Buechner “Whistling in the Dark

So, today, if you have been side-tracked from the deep reality of Christmas, let it strike you once again. If you, like me, have hit a bump in your Advent pursuit it is okay. We still have two weeks to dwell with this reality. Sit and dwell with the reality that it is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her hands. It is not tame. So much in this passage to think on.

Regroup. Take a deep breath. Allow your kids the wonder of the season and remind them again and again and again that God became one of us and that is the truest wonder of it all. As we remind them of that, and think on the deep reality of God made flesh…the wonder begins to infuse everything again.

Enlarge That Imagination!!!!

Okay, I know I am repeating one more article, but again it says what I want to say. Part of the wonder of Christmas, and part of the wonder of the Advent season, is story. I have a multitude of friends who enjoy participating in the Elf on the Shelf tradition. This year Mr. Creative, our middle boy, has been pestering me for an Elf on the Shelf. He is at that precarious age where he knows Santa is not real, and he knows these things are imagination and play…and yet he is not quite ready to give them up. He doesn’t want to say outloud that all of this was fairy tale and play.

So, we’ll pick up an Elf. And we will heartily play with our imagination that this little doll can come to life at night and we’ll try to keep the cats from eating him. And hopefully we will expand our imaginations a bit, and we will mark the season by joy and by laughter mixed with the awe and amazement of the true Story of the season. All of these other stories are truly just play…and they pale as we begin to talk of the God who created the heavens and the earth, and then walked that earth.  Here are some thoughts again from last year:

December 22, 2012    Enlarge that Imagination

I did not know that the sugar cookie recipe called for orange zest, so I had to run back to the store. Yep, that sugar cookie recipe that I mentioned the other day…we’re making Grandma’s sugar cookies tonight and the kids are decorating so they can take them in the morning the Children’s church workers. They are, well, children-decorated. You can tell the kiddos did the work. We’ll do some more that are a little more, well, less “sprinkly”

Back to the story, though. I didn’t know it called for orange zest, so I had to run quickly to the store. The show ‘This American Life’ was on NPR, telling stories of how people celebrate Christmas across our country. The story I caught made me stay in the car in the parking lot at the store…it was a story about parents who made Christmas amazingly magical. The children, now around 30, were telling the story. Telling of the elf that lived in the attic before Christmas: they could hear him working wood up there, hammering and sawing. They would go up and find wood chips after Christmas. Their uncles and Dad would tell of how this elf could do great mischief, sharing stories of the past.

Then, they told of Christmas morning when the rather bedraggled looking Kris Kringle showed up. One of the boys said it felt a bit like they were helping him out; that he had had a tough night and they were giving him a little bit of rest before he went on his way. Then, one year they were walking near the golf course by their house and they saw someone ahead of them hiding behind the trees. Their father encouraged them to go and catch him. They did, and found another of the Santas, this one Klaus. His clothes were a little worn and he had a bag of toys. Well, sort of. He pulled out vegetables and finally bones. Telling the children that the bones were from Rudolph and it was what he used to call the reindeer.

Then the children, who had been 2, 4 and I think 8, told how this Santa, Klaus, asked them if they wanted to go on a sleigh ride to the North Pole. Only, it could only be the kids…no adults. And all three kids told how they were scared to death, even though a part of them wanted to go. Only, that part didn’t happen. Turns out the “Santa” never invited them on a sleigh ride…it was a suggestion of their dad when they were talking late that night.

The story goes on, talking about when they finally found out that all of this was an elaborate…very elaborate…ruse that their parents had developed. It was part of the story of their childhood and led to many discussions and a myth that their childhood chased after.

I was completely caught up in the story…laughing out loud in the parking lot. I was completely caught up in the lengths they went to in the attempt to create something magical and filled with wonder and imagination and surprise. The capers of the Santas, because they believed there were several different ones working together, became part of the lore of the family. To the point that the oldest boy defended Santa to his Junior High class and got in trouble, and even later blamed his parents for his inability to trust. He laughed about it as well, though.

So, here is what struck me. As I sat and listened to this really delight-filled story, I watched the people coming and going from the store. Heads down, furrowed brows, heavy hearts. There was not much wonder or joy or delight.

It seems to me that children grab hold of stories of delight and wonder and they cling to those stories. I have friends who do the Elf on a Shelf, and I know their kids look forward to the antics. It is part of their lore. Our oldest just really came to grips with Santa not being real…but now he is excited about being in the lore himself and helping to keep it alive for his siblings.

In a world where terror is very real and where fear is easy to imagine, I think it is important to give our children a framework of fantasy and wonder and imagination. These stories, whether it be Santa or the Hobbit or Star Wars or Cinderella, they enlarge our children’s imaginations. They open their eyes to something beyond what is before their eyes. The create a lore for their childhood. When they hear their parents talking about the stress of some fiscal cliff, or they hear of children slaughtered in their classroom, or they hear of 9/11…they may not understand, but even the innocent little ones in our midst get the glimpse that there is something bad out there. These stories…they tell the children that there is also great good, and that that good is strong and creative and surprising.

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” G.K. Chesterton.

I do not think that the story of the Gospel, or the story of Creation, or the story of Easter is diminished because we played around at the stories of Santa and the dragons and the hobbit. Rather, I think the mark of our Maker is a great creativity and imagination…and as we create a framework for wonder and surprise our children find that the greatest surprise and the greatest wonder is that the most amazing story….

Is true.

We play at Santa and we play at fairy tales, but the reason we keep coming back to them is we have this itch we cannot scratch…this desire for there to be someone, something, that puts it all right. Someone who rescues or who simply knows that we are lonely and we are desperate to know someone cares and will save us.

And the Incarnation, the Gospel….Jesus…tells us that that itch can be scratched. That ache we have to be known and to be saved…it can be fulfilled. The fantasies keep our attention and keep us coming back because they hint at the truth. Santa is fun to play at, but ultimately the truth of the Incarnation brings us to our knees.

So, I hope that I can have an inkling of the creativity of the family I listened to today. I hope that I can live in a way that inspires imagination and fun and wonder and creativity….but I also hope that as we laugh and giggle and tell stories the children catch when the hush comes over our voice and we proclaim…Unto us is born this day….in the City of David…A Savior…who is Christ the Lord.