Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blue Christmas

It snowed! Yay!!!

I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Snow is our thing. We may not have winning sports teams or ocean views or swanky ski resorts but we have snow. That's our claim to fame. We are Winterpeg - except almost we weren't.

This year has been unseasonably warm. Like mow your lawn in December warm. That NEVER happens here but it did. It was halfway through December and we could still see grass! How depressing! How unWinnipegish of us!

I've not felt very Christmassy this year. I've just not been 'into' it. I blamed it on the lack of snow. I wasn't excited to decorate. I couldn't care less about Christmas baking. I felt blah about most of our traditions. In fact, I didn't even wear Christmas socks but once or twice. All of this I blamed on the warm weather and green grass. I blamed and I believed it to be true.

I thought that once it snowed proper I'd feel Christmas. Well, it snowed and I'm still in a funk. Like, seriously. Whatever, man. Christmas, you suck. We're breaking up.

I actually do feel bad for being so bah-humbug. I also felt very alone in my holiday grouchiness - and this made me feel worse about the whole thing - until I had a little chat with a friend yesterday. We were at our kids' Christmas concert rehearsal and she leaned over and whispered, "I feel bad even saying this but I'm so not into Christmas this year. I know Jesus should be enough to make me feel joyful but … "

I exhaled as if I'd been holding my breath for weeks because I kind of had been. I felt elated, sad and at home all at once. This dear, precious friend is walking out a tough journey in her life. She is moving through each challenge with grace, dignity and joy. Every day I am in awe of her. Every single day. And yet, here she is, not feeling the feeling and feeling bad for it.

"He is enough. And you are a human being with real deal stuff. You are joyful just not happy. And that's okay." I said those words as much to myself as I did to her because I suddenly realized they're true. It's not the snow that has me down. It's life. It's missing my dad. Missing my house. Missing my people. Missing who I was while I try to recognize who I am. It's feeling All the Feels that have piled up this year. It's being a grown up. It's missing and loneliness and heartache. It has little to do with snow and everything to do with being a human being with a human heart.

I left the practice feeling less alone but no more Christmassy. On the way home, Joyboy and I stopped at the store for a few things. As we hopped over snow banks he said, "I know you really like the snow but I think all this must be hard for people in wheelchairs. Y'know, like that really independent guy at church. Today must be hard for him to get around."

"I do like the snow but you're right.  I was also thinking about homeless people today. This weather is really hard on them, too."

"Sometimes it's hard to be happy at Christmas, isn't it?  Especially when you really think about all the stuff people have to live with," he sighed and squeezed my hand. And in that moment, it felt like Christmas. It felt like love and care and understanding and kindness. It felt like comfort. It felt like Jesus was near. In our sadness and concern for others, it finally felt a little like Christmas.

I never used to understand people who had a hard time at Christmas. I didn't get how the Magic of Christmas wasn't big enough for some people. But I get it now. I get how sometimes it takes more than a happy carol and a good snowfall to break through All the Stuff. I get how a joy-filled person can not be as happy and as excited as they once were. I get how Jesus is enough and yet All the Feels are still there. I get how peace can reign where heart ache still exists. I get it.

So, I'm a little blue this Christmas - and that's okay. I will still laugh and make memories. I will still celebrate and cherish. I will still participate in our traditions and love all the moments with those I love. I will keep Christmas despite all of the other stuff. And I will not feel bad about all the other stuff - because Jesus is in that, too.

I will feel All the Feels because He is feeling those Feels with me. He does not abandon me or cast me aside in my heavy-heartedness. He holds me tight. So tight that I can feel His heartbeat next to mine. So close that His breath fills my lungs. So gently that my broken heart finally feels safe. So securely that I rest, the deep, healing rest of one who is well loved. For I am well loved this blue Christmas … as are you, Dear One!

"I've never quite loving you and I never will!"
~God, Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)

Friday, December 4, 2015

In the Frame

I was missing for a while. I was missing for about 10 years, by my calculation. There were a few rare sightings of me during those years but for the most part I was missing. And I didn't even realize it at the time. I didn't know I was missing until I looked back. Until I opened the photo albums. That's when I discovered that I was missing.

Like most moms, I don't love having my picture taken and when my Wee Ones were wee I avoided the front side of the camera at all costs. I wasn't happy with my post-baby body. I rarely had time to do my hair or make-up and most of my clothes were far from trendy and barely clean. In those Survival Years, I hated seeing myself in pictures mostly because I didn't recognize myself and I was uncomfortable and slightly ashamed of the person I had become.

And then cancer showed up.

In November 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 35. My kids were 11, 9 and 7 years old. We are all too young for this. Too young for cancer. Too young to confront my mortality but here it was and here we were.

The tumour was huge and growing fast. The word the doctor used was 'aggressive.' My life was being threatened from within and yet the only thing I could think about was how I had cancer and how cancer kills people and how there were no pictures of me. I had gone more than a decade doing everything I could to avoid the camera. There were almost no pictures of me with my kids, with Mr. Awesome, with my friends at this point. There was virtually no record of me actually participating in my own life. My vanity had kept me from capturing my joy, my love, my crazy on film and now it might all disappear.

My surgery was scheduled for December 19 so I planned a family photo shoot for the week before. We were oh-so-broke so I asked my mom to come with us on a drive through the city so she could help take pictures. I captured some incredibly precious moments of my kids interacting with each other because I love taking these kinds of pictures but I made sure to turn the camera over to my mom so I could be in the frame, too. The result was dozens of pictures of my family with me! They turned out beautiful! And surprisingly, I had fun in front of the camera. I loved showing my love in such a simple yet meaningful way. And the kids had fun seeing me having fun and being free.

Cancer died and I didn't. I lived - am living - and now I am intentional about capturing my life with me in it. There are pictures of me with my kids, my man and my friends. I don't only take the pictures but I post them, print them, frame them and celebrate them. I take goofy selfies with Crafty and cuddly close ups with Joyboy and I even force Dude to pose with me as often as I can. I take pictures of me and Mr. Awesome for no reason and for every reason. I get my friends in the frame, too. I smile, try to hide a few of my chins and hug tight the ones I love … including me.

A few years ago I wrote about my struggle with my body image (Falling in Love with Me) and today when I read that post I can't help but to feel proud of myself. I've come a long way. The more pictures I've allowed the more I have found to like about myself. There are certainly pics that end up in the delete folder but most of the snaps survive. What's more is that I can say something nice to myself about myself with each picture of me I see. I try to be as kind to me and I would be to you.

I have really nice eyes. I like my smile and my freckles have been my loyal companions for nearly four decades. I think its funny that my eyes nearly disappear when I laugh because of my ample cheeks. I like that I am tall enough to wear long tunics and sweaters but not too tall to feel good in heels. I like me. I like to see me with the people I love. I love that I get to live this one life the way I do with the people I do. I love that there are pictures to remind me, and to inform my children and future grandchildren, that I have a great life.

Lovelies, especially you moms of tinies, step into the frame. Cuddle up with your loves and snap a picture of two. Force your pals to join you in front of the camera. Snap some random pics of yourself with your folks. Leave a photo footprint of this life you love. Forget about your cow-licked hair, your half finished make-up and your 'extra padding' - just be bold, be lovely, be you and snap a picture or two this Christmas. And then share those pics! Use the hashtage #SRMIntheFrame to share your pics on social media with our blog-reading Lovelies.

More importantly, share these pics with the people in your world. Post them, print them, frame them, celebrate them.

Celebrate you!

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.