This Christmas season has been so very different from any other Christmas I’ve ever experienced. I guess when you think about it every single Christmas is different…but this one has been REALLY different. The obvious change is that this is Zoe’s first Christmas. Wow. While many of you are probably getting tired of me saying it like it’s a new idea….the fact that I have a daughter…I say it like that because to me, sometimes, it’s still a VERY new idea. It fills my heart every single day. I look into that precious face, those eyes that are sometimes so serious and at other times so playful and it takes my breath away. She’s amazing. She’s literally the definition of amazing.
Secondly. and I have no idea why this is the case, but we didn’t go to a single Christmas party this year. Not a one. We went to that jazz thing at my church, but that’s it. Weird. Christmas time is supposed to be busy with parties and white elephant gifts and cookie making…not this year. At least, not for us.
Third, My family has been pretty disconnected this year. In years past we’ve lived in other cities (or countries) and we’ve been separated for the holidays, but this year was different. My mom left with my dad in his truck (he’s a semi truck driver) right before Thanksgiving and has only come back once in the past month. It was last weekend. We had a great time and then she was gone again. That was weird…really weird. Jess is off with her boyfriend in Alabama, Jon is with his girlfriend in Georgia. We’re just all over the place. On Thanksgiving Day I was the only Tate in Jacksonville. Weird.
Fourth, we’re broke. I’m naturally a frugal shopper, I love a good clearance rack, but this year I’ve had to be even more creative. In fact, up until last week brad and I didn’t know if we were going to be able to exchange Christmas presents. And we sat in the car and cried. Over presents. Not really….over a lot of other stuff, but for Brad, not being able to buy his wife a Christmas present was the breaking point. I can not describe that moment in words. It was one of the worst and best moments. As we cried I told him that there is no present he could buy me that’s better than what I have. That loving him and being loved by him is more of a present that I could ever have dreamed of. Honestly, if you could see the way this man loves me you would know what I’m talking about. His very presence in my life is a gift…every single day of the year. Who needs something on Christmas morning anyways? We cried and I prayed for God to do something. The next morning my mother handed me $100 specifically to buy presents for each other. We hadn’t told a soul that there weren’t going to be presents this year.
Fifth, and potentially most the most important, my heart has been filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and a profound acknowledgment of loss. I am overflowing with it this year. Every single night when I rock my daughter before bed I am thankful. I’m thankful when I sit beside my husband and hold hands on the couch. I’m thankful when I reach for food in the refrigerator (and it’s there!!!!). I’m thankful when the car starts and the heat works. I’m thankful. There’s a reason for it…..this year has been filled with unspeakable tragedy for people around me. My best friend got a divorce, for the first time in 10 years she woke up by herself on Christmas morning. My heart breaks for her. One of Brad’s best friends lost his mother in a tragic accident. My mom’s father died. Brad’s grandfather died. Another friend lost her mother. Another friend lost her father. Most recently a woman from church lost her son…he was 5 days old. As a new mother I can not FATHOM that loss. Her body is still recovering from birth….but there’s no baby to hold. Another family at church had a son who had this rare degenerative disease…he wasn’t supposed to live at all. It was the kind of disease where if he lived for 5 years they were lucky. And so for 14 years they took care of him 24/7, literally around the clock. He died Christmas Eve. My heart breaks for them. I have been brought to tears many times in the past week thinking about those two families…especially when I hold Zoe in my arms. I am so incredibly thankful….my heart is so full. And yet, it is simultaneously breaking for my friends whose hearts are heavy with sorrow.
Overall, it was a great Christmas. Not because of gifts or parties or carols being sung…..but because I saw God. He is there when I rock my daughter to sleep at night. And he is there in the hospital room when the doctor comes into the room staring at the floor because they couldn’t save them. He was there when my best friend woke up in her apartment. He breaks through that profound sense of loneliness. He’s there when that mom has to pack up the nursery she so carefully decorated. He’s there when I cuddle up to Brad on the couch. He’s there. He is here. He is Emmanuel….God WITH us. And that, my friend, makes any Christmas great!
May the peace of the Lord be with you.