Anyone else feel as if Christmas was strange this year?! Our country's climate held record-breaking temperatures most of the week. Tornadoes were frequent in Alabama and the Northeast had a 75-degree Christmas Eve.
My household had its own bouts of month-long bronchitis infections and other colds that seemed to linger with the warm temperatures. I even wondered if I was suffering from allergies. Last week as I gazed out of my office window, I spotted two trees sprouting blossoms as if it were early April! Even the infamous cherry blossoms that usually dot East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., in early March bloomed this month (see photo of live webcam taken as I am drafting this blog!)! You can track the blossoms on a live webcam at this website!
Needless to say, we stayed home this Christmas, which is also strange because we typically travel to Chicago this time of year (I believe that the house fire that we had in May has changed our perspective of what it means to truly have a home). So we stayed put.
Although our Christmas was "reverent" (complete with the Christmas story of Jesus' birth, Angels and messages of God's love for us), we still gave extravagant gifts and received them in return.
But the Lord Jesus gave me an extra special gift in the most unlikely form. We received a visitor on Christmas Day. She is a dearly loved soul who has seen her share of ups and downs. Her life has never been easy. She seems to transcend earthly existence. Sometimes when she speaks to me, I am convicted of my selfishness and greed. Other times I suffocate under the weight of her extreme brokenness and need. I have learned a long time ago that I am unable to truly help her so the weight becomes unbearable. This "visitor" is my twin sister who has been mentally ill and emotionally scarred our entire life.
We spent this Christmas evening playing board games, laughing and holding a guinea pig that we are baby-sitting for some friends over the holiday. We also enjoyed watching some of my 14 year-old daughter's favorite videos on YouTube. We even enjoyed late night burgers and fries from Sheetz (McDonald's was closed for Christmas)!
Right before my sister left, she handed her niece and nephew each a $5 bill for Christmas. She apologized to me later for her seemingly "small" gift because she wished she could have given them so much more but she wants to make it through the winter with the money she has saved up from temporary jobs. She is very familiar with homelessness, rape and violence. She used to live on the street for 6 years drowning in her own mental "demons" that were bent on destroying her.
After her apology, I was immediately awash with guilt over the money I spent for Christmas, the things I enjoy everyday that she doesn't have, and the steady paycheck I receive that she hasn't had in nine years.
When she left, I stayed up for a long while and wept. It was a selfish weeping for my own soul who receives more than I give and who loves conditionally more times than I care to admit. I also wept for the gift that I received--GRACE this Christmas in the form of my sister.
James 4:4-7 reads--