Rather than link to my column this week, I am printing it in its entirety here so that it will forever be a part of this online journal of my family. It is a lesson learned I don't want to soon forget.--Jane
Finding Hope for the Holidays
For every bell-ringing Salvation Army volunteer wielding a red kettle, there are ten Fox Valley parents rallying to de-clutter their homes before the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas morning hits. Armed only with large, black garbage bags, their covert missions typically begin with a highly orchestrated smokescreen involving children’s DVDs and end with mysteriously full Hefty bags materializing on the donation pile. At least that’s what I hear. Ahem.
Recently, I sat down and meticulously crafted a schedule to prepare my heart and home for Christmas that seemed nearly flawless. There were old favorites on my calendar such as
It left me holding the bag (literally) and wondering what to do next.
It also left me contemplating my Christmas preparations. For what exactly, I wondered, was I preparing?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t left with much time to discern an answer as our baby daughter—newly adopted from
Sitting in the quiet of my daughter’s hospital room, listening to the hums and beeps of her monitors gave me plenty of time to reflect on this change. I sat puzzling and puzzling. Having watched A Charlie Brown Christmas every year for nearly four decades, I knew “the true meaning of Christmas” but wanted to understand how that translated into the happiness and joy that miraculously appeared each year at this time. And I began to realize that Christmas was drawing closer and closer whether we sang any Christmas carols or baked any Christmas cookies.
With a new resolve, I stood and walked out of my daughter’s hospital room. Crossing the threshold, my attention was drawn to the ceiling tile above my head. Lifting my eyes upward, I focused on the tile. Where did this come from? Was this here before? I scanned the hallway and noticed other, similar tiles, scattered across the ceiling and painted in bright colors. The one above my head was simple. Consisting of four letters each painted in a different color was the word H-O-P-E. How had I missed this? I had entered and exited that room many times during her stay. A nurse saw me staring at the tile and commented, “Aren’t those wonderful? They were done in 2007 by children staying in the hospital.” And it finally dawned on me; it had been there all along. Even still it remains. There it was spelled out in bold, childlike faith for all eyes to see. What I had been so busy preparing for had been there all along—hope.
So take in a live nativity at one of the local churches…stop by and visit a friend, neighbor or relative for a spell…drive around with the kids to see the lights in the darkness. Be sure to make time to clear the clutter of your spirit as well as your home. And if life deals you a different card than this; or your holiday plans, like mine, get sidetracked on the way to Christmas—don’t despair. Hope abounds this time of year, that’s for certain, but it doesn’t pack its bags and leave town on December 26th. Hope is all around us…all year round…simply lift your eyes upward and see.