Every Christmas, I send out a Christmas card with a picture or two of our family and some little phrase of well wishes. This year I set up a tripod, wrangled everyone (big and small) into some presentable looking clothing, and somehow got all five of us in the same frame when the timer went and the camera snapped. Four out of five of us even look somewhat decent. The photo on the back side of the card is more realistic, showing three grungy, mud-spattered children looking far less presentable, but wearing big grins after a spontaneous session of puddle-jumping.
The message says “Merry Christmas” and at the bottom I included three things: “Give thanks. Have faith. Love.”
It was a very tough fall around our place with my dad passing away earlier in September. We’ve experienced many peaks and valleys in the last few short months. Along the trail I’ve made some observations and learned a few things that all boil down to those three statements I wrote at the bottom of our card.
Give thanks. This year, we’ve been blessed to receive so much kindness from friends and family and it has been expressed it in so many different ways. Kindness showed up on my table in the form of a ready-made meal for my family, just when I was wondering what we were going to eat. Kindness was someone stepping in at the last minute to cover my responsibilities when I couldn’t cover them myself. Kindness has been a friend or neighbour who stopped me on the baler or stopped me on the street or stopped me at the grocery store to offer their condolences. Perhaps most striking of all is the kindness of perfect strangers. Someone who went out of their way to make our lives a little bit easier, someone who remembered us from one day to the next in a strange and unfamiliar environment, or the entire family of strangers who offered us prayers, Kleenex, comfort and even a place to stay if we needed when we were far from home. We are thankful to have wonderful people in our lives.
Have faith. We are never alone, even though sometimes it feels like we are. There were so many times this year when I needed my faith restored….and it was. Sometimes the message was loud and clear, other times something subtle would happen, almost like a coincidence, and I wouldn’t take too much note of it until afterwards, when I realized it was another piece of the puzzle. All along the trail this fall, there were many small reminders in different aspects of my life that would pop up in different ways, on different occasions, reminding me that when we are tested, sometimes the best response we can have is to just have faith.
Love. Christmas is a great excuse to bring people together from far and wide, cram them into a small space, add food and drinks, and sit back and see what transpires. It can be chaotic. It can be wonderful. Whatever the minute-by-minute feelings are that we are experiencing, remember that love is what brings everyone together. Life is precious and quick and we don’t know what will happen next. The best thing we can do is show our loved ones that we care.
It will be very different this holiday season. Dad won’t be there to light a fire in the fireplace on Christmas day, making the house so unbearably hot that we have to seek refuge on the deck. He won’t be tunelessly humming ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’ while we play Chinese checkers. There will be no fire extinguishers, or saw horses, or winter survival vehicle kits, or any other practical (ie. tax-deductible) Christmas gifts wrapped dad-style under the tree. It’s not the gifts we will miss but his presence. But we’ll share memories, and maybe even a laugh or two. Like it or not, we’ll have to create some new traditions.
Merry Christmas. Give thanks. Have faith. Love.
In the end, isn’t that all that really matters?