What Christmas Means to Me

So, I got some interesting feedback about my “I’m failing at Christmas” video, and I thought I’d just address it here. Lots of people seem to think that I’m not aware of the history of Christmas, or the origin of many of our most popular christmas traditions. Rest assured that I’m aware. Nowadays, anyone with a computer can become privy to the details without investing too much time. So yes, I’m aware that a Christmas tree has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m also aware that Christians have co-opted many traditions that they themselves did not create.

I’m aware.

I’m educated.

This is not about that.

This is about what Christmas means to me, and before I get to that, I need to share some history with you.

This might come as a surprise to you, but I’m not perfect. (Shocker, right?) Actually, if we’re going to be totally honest, I used to be a pretty rotten person. So if you were unfortunate enough to know me (or perhaps date me) many years ago…I’m sorry. Basically, I was a bitter, cynical, mean, selfish jerk. I was manipulative, and took advantage of a lot of good people. But, because my misdeeds aren’t the point of this post, we can leave it at that.

I was incredibly judgmental, and I didn’t like most people. Christians, specifically, were probably my least favorite, but religious folk in general were intolerable to me. I thought they were stupid (belief in Creation), lazy (“God’ll keep forgiving me, so I can keep on sinning as much as I want!”), hypocritical (Christian marriages end in divorce as often as secular marriages), mean, judgmental (treating my tattooed/pierced friends like demons), intolerant (“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”), and hateful (Westboro Baptist Church, etc). And guess what?

They are.

We all are.

Not just Christians, but people in general. People can be pretty wretched. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly have our shining moments, but in general, we all are very very far from perfect, Christians included. But that’s not the point. Perfection I mean. Perfection is not the point.

So, at some point, in the middle of all of my partying and raining on everybody’s parade, I met a few new friends who represented Christianity differently to me. They were way smarter than me for starters (Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Organic Chemistry, to be more specific), and more thoughtful, and just happier in general, and as much as I wanted to dislike them the way I disliked most other religious people, I couldn’t, because they were different. They didn’t pretend they were holy and above reproach, and I respected that. And I think that’s, in part, what made it possible for me to give God and the Bible a chance. (Like, a real chance.)

I already knew a lot about Christianity and God and the Bible, because I was the kind of person that would argue points of the Bible with Christians until they broke down and cried in front of their friends. I did that. (True story.)

Eventually I made the decision to give God a chance (which felt TERRIBLE, like, almost humiliating in some ways) and considered the question “what if what they say about God is true?” And slowly (v-e-r-y slowly), I began to see things differently. Opening my mind (and heart) to the idea that maybe, possibly, I didn’t “know” as much as I thought I did, kind of set a change in motion, and I haven’t been the same person since. Which is so totally cliché that I feel nauseous even writing that. I didn’t have some radical, in-the-moment conversion experience, and even if I had, I don’t think I would have believed it. (I’m still too cynical for that kind of thing.)

So my mind began to change about some things, and as I started to learn about God as a Father, my heart began to change, too. Growing up, I never had a Father, and my Mother was never really interested in me enough to set any kind of standards for my behavior, or an understanding of having healthy boundaries or anything. Basically, there was no one in my life offering any sort of guidance, and no one was really into me enough to care about who I was becoming or what kind of person I was. And I ended up engaging in a lot of behaviors that are totally embarrassing to look back on now.

Once I began to realize that I do have a Father in God, and that he created me intentionally, and that I’m accountable to Him, I naturally shifted away from my old lifestyle, and started living in a way that a child of God would live. And it felt (and feels) SO GOOD. I think a lot of people see living life with God as their father as restrictive, or boring or whatever, but it’s so totally the opposite. Even in my down times, I’ve never been happier, and I can say with complete honesty that every day gets better. Even when crummy things happen. If I seem happy at all, it’s because my deepest joy is totally unconnected from the events of the day.

So, nowadays, I call myself a Christian, albeit reluctantly, because I know first-hand what many people think about Christians. But now I know that being a Christian is about knowing God as my Father, and understanding that he loves me enough to trade all of my nastiness for a life with him, through the redemptive work of Jesus. It’s about knowing that even though I’m still not perfect, and never will be, that He will always be my Father, and will always want me as his child. He loves me enough to care, and that’s huge. For someone without a father, and with no contact with her mother, it’s a lifeline. Sure, the fact that I don’t have like, real physical parents makes me sad, but knowing that God is my father…that’s where all of my joy comes from. (And you can psychoanalyze my daddy-issues as much as you want, that’s fine. I sure have. You wouldn’t be the first to do so.) I’ll never be able to convince you of anything, but at the very least, you can trust that I’m being sincere.

So Christmas, to me, and to some other people, is a celebration of God’s love for us. That he loves each of us–you too even if you don’t know it–and desires us as his children. (Yes, even if you are a total Christian-hater like I was.)

He wants us to recognize and claim our role as his children, because here’s the thing: we’re all equally flawed. Knowing God as your father isn’t, like, limited to just the “good” people. Don’t let those holier-than-thou Christians keep you from experiencing life with God, just because you’re gay, or divorced, or have a prison record, or a substance addition, or have persecuted Christians to the point of tears, just for sport (that one’s all me). He made you and He loves you, regardless of whatever messed up stuff you’ve done. Christmas is a remembrance of the day that God turned his love into flesh and blood and revealed himself directly to the world, just like he promised he would. Christmas is a promise kept, and a promise of a future with God. For everyone. Equally.

I can’t convince you that anything that I said about God is true, but really, that’s not my goal. All I can do is share my story, and how I’ve changed, and what I believe, and listen to your stories and your perspectives. And I hope that you give as much value to me and my experiences as I give to you and yours. Chances are, I used to be in your shoes.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays!

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One Thing I Never Prepared For

The time is 11:20 PM, Mike is sound asleep in our bedroom, The Bean is (noisily) asleep in her bassinet in the living room, and here I am, on the couch across from her, plunking away at my computer. I know, I know, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I’ve got a cold and I’m exhausted, so I should be sleeping like a baby (ha!), but I have a hard time sleeping when something’s bothering me. Prepare yourself, because we’re delving deep fast: Why is it that during the happiest time of my life I sometimes feel so, I don’t know, empty?

For starters, and I know we’re (i.e. new moms) not supposed to say this in “public,” but I’m lonely. Example: I had the television on because the sound was keeping me company, but the light would cause Ellie to stir, so I turned it off. I’m embarrassed just typing that. It makes sense though: I spend every moment I’m awake with a 7 week old infant, and I have very little interaction with people my age, or people capable of carrying on a conversation for that matter. I would not trade a second of my precious time with Elliott, but the matter remains; I feel like part of me is shriveling up as a result of lack of use. Couple that with the guilt I have for feeling the way I do, and you’ve got yourself the ingredients for a late-night confession in blog format.

I miss my friends, and I miss my coworkers but most of all I miss my husband. (There’s a sad kind of irony that he’s sleeping soundly one room over, and here I am feeling like I’m slowly being emptied out.) Let me save you the time of telling me what I already know: I know it won’t always be this way, and I know some of my sadness could likely be attributed to all of the recent hormonal changes, and I know that my life is actually perfectly wonderful and I’ll look back on this time later in life with warmth and nostalgia, and I know that comparatively my life is a cake-walk. I’m so blessed to have such a perfect little daughter, and a wonderful, loving husband, and the ability to stay home and care for our adorable tiny treasure. I know that, and I believe that, but man, I miss myself you know? And how I used to be fun and creative and social.

Maybe this is the time where I’m supposed to reflect on the woman I was before the pregnancy and birth, and look forward to the woman I’m becoming? I already know that this experience is changing me for the better, and I look forward to growing into a new, more refined version of myself that I see on the horizon. I guess I just wish I wasn’t so alone in the process.

I’m sure my sentiment in this matter is not unique; this is probably something many new moms go through, but I was not prepared for this. Breastfeeding, diapering, swaddling, I over-prepared for everything. But loneliness? This is an entirely new arena for me.

I’ll attend another moms’ group tomorrow (I already belong to one) with the hope of meeting some new moms and maybe talking about something other than the adorable smile Ellie makes before she toots. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen it– it’s magic.) And hopefully, albeit slowly, I’ll replace whatever it is I’m losing with all of the wonderful things I’m gaining.

And as always, if you’ve got practical advice, I welcome it.


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