I've been in quite the funk this December, dreading Christmas and just wanting to sleep through it. Work isn't going well, and I'm having my tonsils out on Wednesday to treat my sleep apnea. I've been trying everything to seek out joy: lots of Christmas activities, spending as much time as possible with friends, trying to give more, spending time in the Word. But none of it was "sticking."
I didn't even decorate my house or put up a tree this year. I'm normally a tree-goes-up-day-after-Thanksgiving kind of guy, and keeping it up until middle of January.
I was reminded of John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas. I definitely sought out Christmas outside my home, engaging as much Christmas as time allowed. But I've realized I wanted a year off here at home. My Christmas decorations are nice, but fairly simple, most of them inherited from my grandmother.
When I step back and count my blessings, I have a lot of them. Especially when I look at how I no longer travel for work and have more time at home and for ministry and hobbies. But I wasn't feeling grateful for those blessings.
I couldn't decide how to spend this Christmas. Mostly, I just wanted to sleep through it and pretend it wasn't happening. But part of me wanted to be in Orange County to see friends and family since I had been sick the week prior when I had really wanted to make it down for the Christmas service at VBC. I was half packed for a couple days leading up to Christmas, and there just kept being one more thing to stick around for here in Fresno: work, running, dr appt, giving Amy's kids their Christmas presents, living nativity, karaoke with the guys...the list kept growing. Christmas Eve dinner at Mom and Dad's was at 6p, but Mom said they'd hold it a little if needed. So at noon on Christmas Eve, I called it. I wasn't going down, even though I was salivating over the thought of Mom's ham.
I went to visit my neighbors Haig and Valerie on Friday night. I lived with them the summer before I graduated, when I had an accounting internship here in town. Then I ended up buying a house five doors down from them three years later. I went over to catch up and helped wash some dishes as Valerie baked. Haig told me how they were spending Christmas Day, by taking Christmas dinner to Children's Hospital where Valerie works, to the rehab dept. The kids there can't leave, and so it's a chance for them to have Christmas dinner with their families, as well as for the doctors and nurses working to have a Christmas dinner as well. They invited me to come along.
Once I decided to stay in Fresno, I knew that's what I needed to do. A lot of the reading I've been doing this year is around how God has a specific call for singles in the church to use their extra time to serve. I could tell when I woke up this morning that I had a purpose in doing this today. I would have otherwise flitted away the day watching Christmas movies. It was a wonderful day! Haig, Valerie, her sister Robin and I showed up at 8:30 to start prepping everything, and then put the food out around noon. People then just cycled through informally. I got to meet a few patients, a few nurses, but mostly doctors. I got to hear some of their stories and share mine. Everyone was so grateful to us for coming.
That finally got me joyful about Christmas. God always comes through.
Mom seemed okay about me missing Christmas, but was a little sad when we talked afterward saying, "You're probably going to want to start doing this every year, huh?" I'm not sure yet, but probably.
Another highlight was our Christmas Eve service at CBC. Jim gave a wonderful message about the history and significance of giving gifts, turning GIFTS into an acronym of gifts we can give each other: Grace, Improvement, Forgiveness, Time and Salvation. Got to see several families, but seeing Steve and Kathi was the highlight. Former missionaries to Japan, they now train future missionaries while living in Fullerton, but were visiting Fresno to seeing their kids whom I went to FPU with. Megan came with her fiance Yenisaw from Ethiopia. Megan is like a little sister to me, and it was nice to finally meet Yenisaw and feel reassured that she picked a good guy.
All (that I currently recall of) the wonderful Christmas stuff I did this year with friends:
-Messiah Sing-along with Hanna and her parents Harold & Linda
-Tuba Christmas at Manchester Mall with CBC families
-visiting model train aficionados open houses with CBC families
-walking Christmas Tree Lane with Amy and her kids, with a fire, hot chocolate & cider at my house afterward
-baking for 10-year-old Rebecca's Compassion International bake sale with Katie M.
-Christmas caroling in the church neighborhood with CBC families
-Awana's "Trim Your Leader" Night
-Second Harvest and Project Touch with VBC, getting to spend the morning with Nicholas, a kid I had in my 4-year-olds' Sunday School class 10 years ago
-visiting with as many VBC families as possible on my one weekend down there when I really thought I'd have three weekends down there
-making 150 lbs of Almond Roca
-Karate class Christmas Party & White Elephant gift exchange
-Spades night & $5 gift card exchange
-adult Christmas Choir concert at CBC
-walking Candy Cane Lane with my Sunday School class, borrowing three of friends' kids whose parents were up to going, and spending the evening with the SS class for cookies at Garry & Jenny's open house
-Christmas cookie exchange with coworkers (and being declared better than Quinn because of my almond roca and forgotten cookies)
-visiting the living nativity in Riverdale with Haig, Valerie and Drew
-singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" (first verse in Latin, which drew much applause) at karaoke with the guys
-Christmas Eve Service at CBC
-serving Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & Robin at Children's Hospital
-eating Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & family at their house afterward
-watching lots of Christmas movies throughout the month