They say that God gives us friends to make up for our families.
Now, before I say another word about that, if you are a relative of mine, don’t automatically assume I’m talking about you. Chances are, I’m not. And even if I am, you’ll never know it. So just go ahead and tell yourself, “She’s not talking about me. She’s talking about those other crazies, those nuttiest of nutbars on the other side of the family.”
Now that I’ve added that disclaimer, I will say that I believe that in many instances, the above sentiment is true. How grateful I am for God’s gift of friendship.
Today, I got to enjoy this gift by hosting my kids’ annual gingerbread house decorating party. We invite a handful of friends over to decorate psuedo-gingerbread houses made of graham crackers and it’s a lot of fun. Today the kids ended up playing football on the front yard most of the afternoon. Our party has grown a little each year, and if it grows any more, we’re going to have to get a bigger house.
Which would be really cool in and of itself, but I digress.
I have to be honest: part of me has been dreading this Christmas. I’m not usually like that, but (without going into detail) some issues with extended family members have cropped up, and all the “not-knowing” how it’s going to turn out was stressing me out, in a really big way.
Because I just don’t do conflict. I hate it. When I was seeing a counselor, during Donnie’s deployment to Iraq, I asked her about the basket full of foam baseball bats that sat next to the sofa in her office. When she told me they were for clients to use while working out their anger, I laughed. I told her I just couldn’t imagine needing to whack something with a foam bat to express anger.
She said that was probably proof that I, more than most, needed to do just that.
Hmph. I’m still pondering that one.
Anyhow, I won’t lie — the stress this December killed my joy. Just killed it. I kept trying to resurrect it, for the kids’ sake. Because that’s what we mamas do. We “fake it til we make it” because we want our kids to have childhoods full of happy memories. We want to make everything good for them.
But my heart was so not into the holiday planning. It just felt like work, tons of work, and for what? Did anyone even notice or care what goes into being a “happy” hostess through the holidays? I didn’t believe they did.
But today, I was reminded that it really doesn’t matter. What matters at Christmas is that God shows up.
He showed up 2000 years ago in a manger. And He showed up in my kitchen today.
And like the Grinch — his heart and mine about three sizes too small before God filled ’em up — tonight mine feels ready to burst out of my chest. And it’s all because some sweet, wonderful ladies came into my home and made me laugh. They listened, and talked, and ate and giggled, and loved.
And as I lay beside my baby Jonah tonight, nursing him to sleep, I couldn’t help but cry from gratitude over the the precious peace I received today. By opening my home, I opened the door to my Christmas gift. If I get nothing else this Christmas, I am content. I feared that family tensions would ruin Christmas for me — and who knows, by Saturday night, that just might be my report. But I’m ready to face it now, I’m ready to take what comes, with grace and with strength.
All because my dear, dear friends came and brought to me the gift of God’s love, wrapped up with a smile, and they left it here. That spirit I sought for, longed for, but couldn’t claim for myself? I still feel it surrounding me, like a warm, minky blanket.
Oh, how I thank God for the blessing of friends.