Don't forget to stop by How Sweet The Sound to read about lots of PINK traditions on December 19 and lots of inspiration at Spiritual Sundays on December 20!
Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year, always has been. First of all, I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth. I've always loved Christmas trees and lights and just the excitement and cheer surrounding the holiday. But the older I get, the more I appreciate it for the right reasons. Sometimes you learn the most valuable lessons through experiences you believe at the time to be the most terrible losses.
A tradition my husband and I had for many years was our Christmas party. When I was a young wife and mother I was a perfectionist work-a-holic. I kept a spotless house, I volunteered for every committee and job I could find at church, and I was a maniac at entertaining. Let me just say, not to blow my own horn or anything, but a party I could give, and lots of them! Our Christmas party was attended by about 100-120 people every December. I prepared for months. I started cleaning at Halloween (even removing the light fixtures to clean underneath!) and I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Then I
baked, packaged, and froze from Thanksgiving until the party date. I always served hot and cold hor d'ouvres, then a hot buffet, followed by a dessert buffet - I always baked 12 dozen cookies, plus tarts, cakes, cheese cakes, and candy. Of course in addition to the entertaining, I shopped and did all the family preparations for Christmas as well. I LOVED working and cleaning and ironing. I know, weird...maybe even a little crazy! I prided myself on my clean house and my organization. Plus, I worked full time as an administrative assistant. I could out work any woman I knew. But most of all, I loved entertaining. Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday.
Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday. Hmmm. What's wrong with that statement? Didn't I start by writing "I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth" ??? Why, yes I did. So what happened to remind me of what I should really value? I got sick. I do not believe God punishes us by making us sick or allowing bad things to happen. But I do believe that God allows us to learn valuable lessons enabling spiritual growth through some of life's most traumatic events.
About fifteen years ago I began to develop some weird illnesses out of the blue. I was hospitalized multiple times for odd ball serious things like meningitis and unusual pneumonia's. I developed arthritis. I developed an overwhelming fatigue and was almost never well. I eventually had to quit my job and I could no longer work at home as I always had. I saw doctor after doctor but it was only 4 years ago, two days before Thanksgiving, that I received a diagnosis. I have a very rare white blood cell abnormality which effects my health and energy in general. The silver lining in this storm cloud is that there is a treatment. The unpleasant part of the treatment is that it is an IV infusion at a chemo clinic every three weeks. Every three weeks of my life. As long as I live. So long, party queen, hello 110 year old hag. That's how I felt when I got this diagnosis.
To make a long story short, I had a chest port implanted and I have been receiving infusions every three weeks for almost four years. I hate every minute of every treatment and I resent the intrusion in my life. But having said that, I know how blessed I am. There is a treatment for my disease and it is working. Is life the same as it used to be? Nope, far from it. The treatment itself often makes me sick for days. I have about two good weeks out of four. Even with the treatment I still get sick a lot. I still have arthritis. I have a 400 times greater risk of developing lymphoma than people who do not have my disease. Life is very different for me and for my family now because of this hateful disease, but has it ruined my life? To the contrary, the lessons I've learned these last four years have blessed my life.
Priorities. Don't we all want to set the right priorities? I know I did. And I thought I had. But really, did I need to remove the light fixtures from the ceilings in order for guest to enjoy my Christmas buffet? Did my kitchen floor really require a toothbrush scrubbing so 120 guests could walk over it during a Michigan winter? And did my guests actually notice that every room in my house had at least one Christmas tree - each one following a perfectly matched theme? Did our extended family members appreciate the elaborate hand made gifts I created for them each year or the packages wrapped as if they came from the finest shops? Did any of these things hold a fraction of the importance I thought they did?
It's taken me four years to get to a place where I can say that I am truly more content than I have ever been in my life. For me, it took a serious illness to teach me the truly valuable things in life. I still like a clean house - even sick I can out work half the women I know! The difference is, I don't have to work until one or two in the morning to feel ok about myself. I am still a perfectionist, but now I usually know when to stop. I'm ok with a store bought gift just like every body else and this year I don't even have bows on my packages! Yikes - I can't believe I said that! I don't spend sleepless nights making mental lists of things I need to do the next day. I can enjoy watching a movie sitting down rather than only while doing dishes or ironing. Most importantly, I spend time of true worship and prayer during each day. I can allow myself to drop everything and leave a job half finished to spontaneously go to a movie with my husband or babysit my granddaughters or sit down and really enjoy a guiltless phone conversation with my daughter or my mom or a friend. I see the value in things I used to view as wasted time. This Christmas Day my husband and I will sit around our family room with our son and daughter-in-law, our daughter and son-in-law, and our two granddaughters. We will go around the room, each one opening one bowless gift at a time, lavishing in the joy of the moment. There will be no rushing to pick up wrapping paper, no obsessive gathering of coffee cups and cinnamon roll plates. This family tradition will add new pages in our book of cherished family memories.
When I learned of my diagnosis and the nature of this progressive disease, I thought my life as I knew it was over. Well, it was. But what I thought was going to be the most terrible loss of my life has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life. Don't misunderstand me, I really wish I didn't have this disease! But that's just the way the cookie crumbles. I do have it and I am doing just fine. Better than fine, I have learned to trust God with every aspect of my life. God never fails and He never makes a mistake. He knew exactly what he was doing when he made me with too few white blood cells. And He also knew I wouldn't be happy about it! He knew He was going to help me see beauty in a more simple life and He knew I would see more opportunities to praise Him and to witness for Him.
I'll finish this post with some pictures of our home decorated for Christmas. We're not having a party, but we are celebrating. It's almost Jesus' birthday!
I am wishing each of you a blessed Christmas with those you love and a new year filled with joy!