Today is our last day in California, the final day before we head back to Seattle, where our soundtrack of pain and uncertainty inevitable plays on. Luckily, I think we can turn back on the radio and the Christmas carols will be over. No offense to anyone out there who loves them, I normally am right there with you, but this year I couldn’t get behind them. If it had been up to me I think I would have taken this holiday season off. Perhaps, called in sick or at the very least, opted for a pinch hitter. Yet, at the request of my husband, who so desperately deserved time away from work, and the opportunity, to clear his head in a sunnier state with the support of family and friends we boarded a plane and headed to California.
The day we left for California was Nate’s 30th birthday and instead of meeting up with family right away, I planned for us to spend some time alone in the city. Not for a celebration, because of course we had ruled all of those out, but for a time where the two of us could acclimate to the holiday cheer we felt bombarded by. It was our opportunity to take a minute, just he and I, to rest on a comfortable bed, relish in our anonymity in a city busy with holiday preparations, and for me take one more deep breath before having to see anyone who might expect anything from me. Even if those expectations were as small as a smile, a hug, or a simple answer to a question. As time inched closer to our impending arrival with family, my anxiety arose.
My dad welcomed us into California by picking us up in San Francisco and driving us to San Jose to meet up with the rest of the family. I remember feeling shame the first time my eyes met the soft, gentle eyes of my dad. I was embarrassed and sad that his little girl, the child of his that relied on him so heavily and still called him just to “talk” would never present him with a red-headed, freckled grandbaby. Maybe a child as pale as the two of us. Earlier in the week I had expressed to Nate that I was frustrated that if perhaps I ever got to a point where I thought I could adopt, by the time the financial resources were all in place, I was incredibly nervous that our children would never have the opportunity to be loved in the same capacity and for the same length of time as my nephews have experienced. In my head, they are delighting in the golden years of Missy and Scud and had my time table worked out (which of course we know that’s never the case) I’d have two little ones being loved by sweet Grammy and Gramps now too. I’m not sure if my dad knew when I look at him as I gingerly got into the front seat for our drive to my sister’s house by my tear filled eyes, but I wanted him to know I was sorry. I had already told my mom the same sort of thing.
When we arrived at my sister’s we gathered with the whole family for dinner. Unlike usual, I quietly ate my soup and just kind of took it all in. I was exhausted from traveling and overwhelmed by everyone around. What I had wanted to do so badly was walk in there like everything was just peachy. What ended up happening is I left earlier than anticipated, needing space to breathe, to rest, and to be in pain in some peace and quiet.
The rest of our time for myself was quite uneventful. Something I’m ashamed of because while I can normally pull it together enough to carry on in the face of my physical or emotional pain, this time around has been much different. Nate and I stayed at my brother’s and his wife’s house and for the majority of the time they were out of town. Most all of my days consisted of laying in bed, while Nate went over to my sister’s house to be with the rest of the family. For the life of me, I could not bring myself to do it. I was afraid I’d be reprimanded for having been in bed so long or than I’d be interrogated for every thought rushing through my head. While I still am physically battling a grueling recovery from my operation, my heart is a deep chasm that keeps me separated from so many things.
I missed Christmas Eve service at Church because it took me much longer than anticipated to wrap everyone’s gifts and it was so out of character for me to show up over an hour late to our family celebration for Christmas Eve dinner because I couldn’t find an outfit that was suitable attire and yet still fit my swollen body. When I found myself barely smiling for family pictures that evening and back in bed directly after breakfast on Christmas morning I knew there was no way to hide it. I was in a bad, bad place and it wasn’t something we could all just easily ignore. I wanted so desperately to go “home.” To that new apartment where I still wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not sure where I am at. To the place where I sit lonely and afraid while Nate is at work and I must sit and work through all levels of this pain head on. All I knew is I wanted to leave my original “home” because I was the big elephant in the room, the broken one, who sometimes got out of bed for a bowel of cereal, rarely had enough words to say that could actually be counted as a full sentence in the English language, and for the first time ever avoided her nephews because of a new raw, open wound sort of pain that they unintentionally represented.
I never made any plans with anyone while in California. No catch up dates for coffee, or after Christmas shopping. No day-long road trips up the coast to go exploring with Nate. Every plan became absolutely nothing other than me. A fight against my pain, my menopause, and my pride for feeling overexposed to my family. And while I avoided as much as possible the celebration of Christmas and the merriment that would easily send me into a panic I did not forget what this true season was about, which I think in some ways made it a bit harder to digest. We weren’t exchanging Christmas presents this year or decorating the house with all the usual trimmings, this year we were just waiting for the Savior. For Jesus to be born as a baby, so that he could come to Earth and we could have relationship with Him. As silly as it sounds, while He’s the only baby I will really ever need I didn’t want to think about a baby this Christmas and as I was searching for songs of comfort God presented to me the perfect non-Christmas carol anthem.
The song, I’ve been playing on repeat is called, “Winter Song,” and it talks about how our Savior arrives and how God reveals himself to us. How he comes in like a winter snow. Quiet, soft, and slow. Falling from the sky in the night, to the earth below. It mentions how he could have come like a mighty storm, or the strength of a hurricane, perhaps even the force of a forest fire. It says our sweet Jesus, our savior could have swept in like a tidal wave or rushed in like a flood but he gently just came in like a winter snow.
Clearly this winter snow can be compared to a baby but this year it was best for me to just picture him like a blanket of soft snow. Gently rushing in- softly, quietly, slowly, and covering all the earth. Our Savior met us here like a Winter Snow.
It’s hard to imagine leaving California tomorrow. As ashamed as I am for where I’m at physically and emotionally and while there is comfort in thinking I can hide away in an apartment, in a city, in a state, where I am so clearly a stranger- I have already panicked a few times this week at the thought of leaving, knowing that my family isn’t a couple of blocks away, or in the next room and while I may be prideful or embarrassed for how not together I am, sometimes it’s nicer to know they are there waiting in the wings.
24 hours from now that old familiar soundtrack will be playing- pain, uncertainty, brokenness, and grief will fill the air. But I’ll add to the playlist “Winter Snow” and recognize that despite our desire to ignore Christmas all together He came in like a winter snow. He blanketed the Earth below, by softly covering all the earth in a pure cover of peace. With all His authority and power He could have raged into our lives and demanded our attention but instead He so gently let us see His beauty. He did not come down in the form of a natural disaster or violent plague but as an infant, like winter snow. And somehow I think that a blanket of this winter snow might keep me warm.
I’m sorry that when the question arises of how I’m doing my answer still remains the same. I’m hurting. I’m in pain. We are fumbling through this very, very messy part of God’s plan for our life and it’s like He may have forgotten to send in the cleanup crew. But I suppose for now, in times of panic and absolute destitution I will reach out for that blanket of Winter Snow, realizing His gentleness, quietness, and softness that He has offered to surround us with.