[title subtitle=”WORDS and IMAGES courtesy Words and image Jessica Sowards”][/title]
The fact of my adulthood is, frankly, assaulting. Sometimes, I coexist with it more peaceably, but more often than I’d like to admit, it sneaks up on me, usually when I’m doing something particularly responsible, or when I notice the crow’s feet by my eyes or the grey streaking my hair like a glint of forceful truth.
The husband in my bed every morning doesn’t make me feel particularly grown. Actually, quite the opposite. I’d say he makes me feel younger than my years, what with how we laugh, how he routinely breaks through the silence with some nonsense behavior just to tickle me. Most days feel a lot like hanging out with my best friend, and most nights feel a lot like a sleepover. I’m actually surprised when I take a step back and observe us, going along our adulthood together, late at night watching a British TV show on Netflix while I cross stitch and my honeyed chamomile tea steams next to me. “Oh,” I’ll think, as I notice our routine habits and the silver shining in Jeremiah’s hair as well, and the reality of our adulthood strikes me again.
The boy that made me a mom became a teenager this year. His shoulders are broadening at an alarming speed. Sometimes, when I need to run outside to the chicken coop or to call the dog in, I slip on his shoes. They fit me now, but in another short year, they will be much too big. He is turning into a man right before my eyes, setting the sure precedence that his four younger brothers will do the same.
When Jesus gave the instruction to come to Him like a child, I took it as something of a life motto. Wonder has developed into a calling in my life which has produced unthinkable beauty and gratitude, with the unfortunate side effect of sometimes feeling a little lost in my own aging skin. I absolutely love experiencing the incredible joy of living, but sometimes I find myself observing the world with a tinge of helplessness. It just seems to move so very fast.
I think, perhaps, I was always inclined towards wonderment. I definitely missed it during my twenties, speeding through the motions of everyday life, focusing on goals and missing so much of the joy of having babies. I definitely missed it during much of my childhood and teenage years, feeling overwhelmed by the things I could not control. I think, though, the inclination to wonder must have been there because year after year, it came out full force at Christmastime.
Christmastime. The most enchanted time of year, when even hard-hearted people seem bent towards kindness, when nostalgia runs rampant. Oh, I do so love Christmastime. I’ve spent year after year giving myself to the joy of the holiday seasons, making the most of them, being swept away by them. I love the gift giving, the family gathering, the magic in my children’s eyes. I am a Christmas person, through and through.
It’s changed though, hasn’t it? As Black Friday has nudged its way into Thanksgiving, as Amazon has changed the definition of last-minute Christmas shopping, as the sales have gotten bigger and the expectations have gotten higher, the landscape of Christmas has surely changed.
I have a little tradition. It is my own little marker that I usually share with no one. On the first cold night of the year, usually when ghouls and ghosts still haunt the department stores, I go for a drive. It’s not hard to make the time. We live in the country and even the grocery store requires a half-hour drive. And on the first cold night, when I am in my car alone, feeling the first bite of the coming winter, I turn on the Christmas music.
And I cry.
O Holy Night. Silent Night. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Yes, I actually cry. It used to embarrass me, but remember, I have embraced my childlike wonder, and I genuinely love Christmas. And before the consumerism of modern Christmas, before the sale ads and before the frenzy and hustle and bustle, I take a moment all on my own to really, really lay hold of why I love this holiday.
I imagine, with the wild imagination of a child that does not worry about details or argue theology, the town of Bethlehem. I imagine a woman so great with child that a ride on a donkey must have been base torture. I imagine a barn, with the sweet scent of hay and the hushed and muted sounds of a farm at night, sounds that I am now so familiar with due to my own little farm.
I imagine the fear and fierceness that might have comingled in that young couple. I imagine how she must have cried out when she bore a King into the Earth. And I imagine the humility of a God that would come to His people in the form of a helpless, needing, newborn baby.
I imagine what it would have meant to curl up with that infant, nursing Him and holding tight to the seemingly impossible truth that He WAS Emmanuel, God with us. He WAS Messiah. He was God.
Then I think about the fact that all of the world existed just the same as they had the night before. In other homes that night, other babies were born. In some homes, people worried about putting bread on the table the next day. Some people woke at the inn and went back to their respective homes without a single clue what had transpired within earshot of them. Largely, the world did not know the miracle that had happened. They carried on with the cares and concerns that laid before them.
So, for me, Christmas is a time to bless those I love, to celebrate and spend time with family, but the fire behind it is this: Even if many people don’t know it, there is a glorious secret. I know what has happened in a manger, on a cross, in a tomb and now in the Earth. There is a King.
Wonder is a choice, but even more, it is the fruit of a deeply rooted belief. I am in awe of so many things, in love with life itself. But there is the constant pull to get caught up with the motions and forget the beautiful truth of what a gift living is. Christmas is a picture of just that. Isn’t it wonderful?
To watch Jessica’s garden tours, visit her YouTube channel, Roots and Refuge.