How to make time for worship.
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How to make time for worship.
Is there a sense of a relief that Christmas is over?
For me, YES. Hallelujah. Let’s move on.
Christmas is about inviting relatives over for white rice, chicken adobo or ham, and strawberry cheesecake from Costco.
It’s about brotherly love and peace. And celebrating Baby Jesus’ birthday. Right? Not quite at least for my side of the family.
They all come over to dinner on December 24 to celebrate.
Our condo is small. So my husband gets uneasy. He is a germ-a-phobe who is allergic to pet hair and big family gatherings.
We did talk about having my family over. We do this every year.
He quietly says “yes” with a sour face.
So, I know there will be nothing but discord in our relationship from December 23 until December 26. I had moments this year when I thought of of canceling dinner. But why I should I? I’m going to his mother’s on Christmas Day!
About ten minutes before everyone comes over, my cell rings.
It’s my brother, Harold.
“Lola, is it OK to bring two friends for dinner?
“Alright, we are outside your door. Buzz us in.”
On Christmas Eve, I live by this rule of etiquette: when others have no place to go, I open my door.
That’s because I always think: What if my boys don’t have a place to go for the holidays? I would want their friends’ families to welcome them in.
Everyone arrives and the turkey is done. My husband is in the kitchen with his arms crossed. “When do I carve the turkey?” he demands.
“According to Good Housekeeping magazine, you have to let it sit for 30 minutes.”
I pour myself a glass of Merlot.
With eyes closed, I wish I was in Manila playing catch with my one-year-old Napoleon and listening to his giggle.
My nose inhales the scent of dark wood and I can taste a trace of cherry in my wine. It goes down soft.
Like a symphony, all my senses are in sync–just for a second.
Brewing in my head is : Why did he marry a Filipino? We have big families! I take another sip.
Sitting in front of me is my sweet sister-in-law Alice. She has animals at her home. I can spot a few dog hairs on her lovely gray sweater. Her five-year-old Arthur, who has blonde spikey hair, is running around with a red nose and shaking his water bottle filled with apple juice.
Randy, my brother’s friend, is sitting on our couch. He is under the weather. I tell myself to relax.
After dinner we open presents. Thank you God for my brother Earl’s sense of humor. My husband gave him a poster-sized gift for Christmas.
“Is this a blown up selfie of you in a yellow thong?” Earl asks.
Finally, my husband’s frozen jaw thaws.
“A thong and a halter top,” he replies. I see a smile.
After opening presents, we devour the strawberry cheesecake.
When everyone has gone home, I want to scream at my husband, “Was that so bad?” Nah . . . I give him the silent treatment instead. It’s more powerful.
I retreat to the kitchen with my wine. Rinsing dirty dishes relaxes me. The condo is silent, but the talk and laughter of my family lingers in my head.
Was it worth having my family over? I think as I nibble on chicken and rice. Yes, but it is always complicated because my husband had a different kind of Christmas when he was younger.
With ten years of therapy, I have come to understand my husband.
He loves his space; he is not a big family kind of guy. And to add to that, our boys are not with us so we are both suffering in our own ways.
However, it’s important for me to speak up and say that I love having my family over–once a year–for three hours.
So where do I go from here? I count my positives in life. Doing that restores my breathing to a relaxed rhythm.
I sip the last drop of wine and I close my eyes and dream of wonderful Christmases to come.
Help us be who you want us to be in the coming
new year. Shape us, guide us, renew our
our thoughts, and our perceptions.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to
give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29v11.
Every year in December I play John Lennon’s CD.
I insert the CD into my car’s stereo system and drive to the gym.
The words to the song Happy Christmas (War Is Over) make me cry.
I feel as if John Lennon is talking to me.
The tears well up around my eyes and a cocktail of uncertainty about the new year wells up in me, too.
Insecurities–am I confident enough? worthy enough?–seep through me, traveling in my veins.
Soon, black mascara is smeared all over my glasses.
I’m a mess when I reach my gym.
“Why play the song? ” you ask.
“Because I like to go through mild misery before getting to the gym.”
The first verse and chorus of the song go like this:
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun . . .
A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
With out any fear
The title of the song ought to be:
What Have You Done.
As I sit in my car I IMAGINE
What if he was talking to me face to face having coffee? Haha.
A Beatles member talking to me . . . work with me here . . .
This is how it would go.
JOHN: AND SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS
Lola: Yes, John. I’m well aware that this is Christmas. There is stress all around me as people shop for for food and wine and mindlessly pick up gifts to give. Some will spend Christmas Eve with a small group of friends or, like me, they will have 15 relatives come over for Christmas Eve, for honey baked ham and egg rolls.
JOHN: AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
Lola: Gosh . . . let’s see . . . [sigh] . . . such a loaded question. Let me tell you what I have NOT DONE. Not a whole lot. Nothing over the top that will get me inside the castle to have noon tea with the Queen of England. I won’t get to ask if she texts her grandkids.
Sadly, I have not done any acting to be considered a contender for this year’s Oscars. People Magazine didn’t include me on their list of 25 most intriguing people. I’m not intriguing enough, I guess.
My best seller is in its gestation stage. I didn’t find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
However, this is what I HAVE DONE.
In April, my husband and I began walking/ hiking 20-25 miles a week.
It was our way of getting to know each other all over again since our grown boys have moved on to start their careers.
At first we started out with short walks, then they got longer and longer. Our steps at times are in sync; other times he leads and I walk behind. Something like a marriage.
There are quiet moments and that’s OK. I know he is not tuning me out. We are both thinking and dreaming. Then, I recall something funny and giggle.
“What’s so funny?” he asks.
The sound of the pebbles under our feet when walking on the beach or going through the woods have become meditative. Our long walks have become something we have started to look forward to.
By the end of summer, I realized it was God’s way of telling us this empty nest is not so bad. Give this new space a chance. Breathe.
There’s no reason for us to uncouple just because certain famous people are doing it.
In July, I started writing again and like everyone else, I got my own blog. I prayed about it; then took the leap.
And one lesson I learned this year is to close your eyes, hug all your fears, and JUMP!
The net will appear.
If what you are doing feels right God will let you know. If not, he will slowly close the screen door.
Bloggers have viewed my site. This is a good sign.
In September, I joined a Bible Study Fellowship. Instead of laying in my bed watching the sky turn to dusk, I decided to take the leap and join a class.
And I feel I’m in the right place. Being with a group of ladies who share the same faith has sparked an interest in becoming more involved–I’m considering becoming a welcome committee director.
In November, I traveled to Manila to visit someone more special than the Queen. I went to visit Napoleon.
I taught him how to “high- five.”
For sure, that was more enjoyable than having tea with the Queen.
My humanitarian efforts this year include driving my 90-year-old Aunt Lucy every Monday get her dentures fixed and to buy a week’s worth of food at Safeway. This takes five hours.
I also care for my aging mother every Wednesday.
. . . to be continued . . .
I got excited decorating the tree the other day.
Then, our son Ralph called from New York.
“Mom, I can’t make it for Christmas. I only have four days off. To get to Seattle, two days of my time would be flying.”
This would not have happened if he had moved to LA instead of back east.
At his words, my world came tumbling down as fast as a newly cut Christmas tree.
Now my Christmas will be crawling in my warm bed with one of John Grisham’s legal thriller paperbacks plus all my pillows and blankets to cushion my wounded soul until Dec 26.
This is the first year we don’t have any grown children with us to spend Christmas.
After talking to Ralph, I felt like crying, but I couldn’t. I stared at my walls with photographs of my boys and Napoleon. With my shoulders slumped, I told myself to breathe deeply. It was the only thing I knew how to do–breathe to the next moment.
But, in my next breath I had an A-HA moment. This holiday season is teaching me something: acceptance.
There is nothing to add or subtract.
Just: Let it be.
This is what happens when kids grow up (and grow old, too) and move far from home. And that is what they are suppose to do.
It’s in their DNA to leave the nest.
When I was 19, I moved all the way down south to a big scary city with lots of freeways. It is called LA.
I wanted to figure out a few things on my own.
I managed to make new friends, I worked 9 to 5,
I attended acting class at night, and I went out dancing on Fridays until 5 a.m.
Kids have to explore, to be a trailblazer at whatever career God guides them into doing and that uses all their gifts and talents.
THIS IS WHAT I TOLD MYSELF as I stared at all the photographs on the cream walls of my home office.
I do know that giving my children their space and meeting them where they are in life with a smile is what I do best.
When I talk to my boys I’m mindful to NOT say How come you never call? or How come you never visit? I know this would get them running in the opposite direction. I actually learned this lesson from my mother-in-law. She would pose these questions to her son and guess what? He doesn’t visit often.
I also know now what my own mother feels when all her five grown children are not together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the occasional Sunday dinners.
There is a small part in a mother’s heart that is not complete when her precious children are not with them in the same city.
“I’m not feeling JINGLE BELL ROCK this Christmas. Our boys, Ruth (my son’s girlfriend), and our grandchild Napoleon are not with us.”
I unload my emotions on my husband as we walk along the beach talking about Christmas and the weather.
“I’m sad.” he says.
“I’m in good company!”
“We have each other.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
It gives me comfort that I can lean on you for whatever comes my way this Christmas.
This is what I can do–pray without ceasing.
Pray that your spirit is with our boys to protect and care for them.
Bless them with friends to be with at Christmas so they will not be alone. Thank you for my prayer life. It keeps me from panicking and freaking out. I know you will take care of all things.
I ask for your blessing around the world to keep the world in perfect step with you.
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