Ho ho ho dammit

how-the-grinch-stole-christmas2

It’s been a weird lead up to Christmas here in AGMAland.

After going away to Germany and France last year in December, I swore that I’d never go away right before Christmas. Things just were too hectic; too discombobulated.

No time to do Advent devotionals or meditate on the the true meaning of Christmas. Ohmmmmm…

The Christmas tree went up late, the baking was done late and there were no AGMA holiday cards sent.

So naturally we decided to go away again this year right before Christmas.

We got home from Australia on 12/1, but we might as well have gotten back last week.

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve hung 4 wreaths, put 4 fake poinsettia plants around the house, and put my 1964 scary stuffed Santa out. The under the tree manger set-up is still in our attic. Our artificial tree has been up for a week or so, sans decorations. I finally got around to hanging some ornaments on it last night.

Three days before Christmas.

Unheard of.

AGMA’s jumping on the minimalist bandwagon this year and have a minimally decorated home and tree. After 40+ years of Christmas decorating, we have tons of house decorations and a sh*tload of ornaments. That all takes time to unpack, unwrap, hang, then take down and wrap up again in a week to store away for next year.

Basically, I’m being lazy.

I also did all my baking yesterday. AGMA’s Christmas baking consists of three types of cookies so it’s really not as labor intensive as it sounds. It just takes time to roll each one of those little damn cookies in the nuts.

I was drinking spiked eggnog all night so it all worked out.

I don’t normally wait to do all this stuff only a few days before Christmas.

Old AGMA would have been going crazy waiting so late. Decorating the house and tree, and doing the baking were essential to have a successful Christmas. At least I thought so.

It really didn’t seem to have much to do with what it all means.

No wonder I felt let down deep inside. My family couldn’t see it, but it was there. Emptiness where there should be an abundant overflowing of fullness. Sadness when there should be joy beyond measure.

AGMA was kind of a AGMess.

But this year’s different. This year I get it. Again. I got it for a while as a child and teenager, and then when I was in my 40’s. But I lost it to time, life, circumstances…

Two very different things have helped me in my “rediscovery” of the babe in a creche.

#1 – Donald Trump. Weird right? It’s a very long story and I’m not even sure I can explain it. And I feel pretty sure you wouldn’t want me to try. AGMA has a tendency to blather.

But in the midst of the incredible hate and corruption and greed and danger that this unpresident elect and his evil hench people represents to humanity, I feel the movement of the incredible power of Love.

I see the face of a young middle eastern brown man with gnarled hands from woodworking with gentle, slightly sad eyes, and a heart that is both human and divine.

I hear this young man say, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who insult you and persecute you,” I also hear him say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, the meek, those who mourn, the merciful, the poor in spirit…” And finally, I hear him whisper to my heart, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

#2 – Ken. Ken was a good friend of mine at my church. He was a big man in his 50’s who went through a dark valley of alcohol and drug addiction for 25 years and came out on the other side injured, but alive.

He always had a smile for everybody and always called me beautiful.

AGMA liked that.

I have never met anybody who lived a more anti-Trump lifestyle. He was a man living on a meager disability income, yet who would take somebody living in poverty to Walmart and buy his groceries. He was devoted to the care of his 80 something mother. He drove people who didn’t drive to their doctor appointments. He recorded magazines and circulars for the blind – he had a great voice. He served weekly at our church’s Saturday dinner for the homeless. He lived his life serving others in gratitude for his own salvation from his dark night of the soul. What little he had, he gave gladly from his heart.

Like I said, the anti-Trump.

Ken died suddenly last week. It was his heart.

And my heart is broken. I’m still in shock.

I have it from people who are in the know that his last words were to tell his mom he loved her. That was so Ken…

The day I found out Ken had passed, I made him a promise. I promised to love more. Not only love more, but love with wreckless abandon like he did, not holding anything back. To love without regard to merit or status or color or nationality or religion or politics.

To try to love as I am loved, as the whole world is loved, by the child in the manger.

The child who grew up to be the young middle eastern brown man who taught Ken to give everything in the name of Love.

And I’ve felt that Love coursing through me. It’s really indescribable. And amazing.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”

With thanks to Dr. Suess…

Grinchy AGMA says may Love fill your home this holiday season!

Postus interruptus

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

 

So the next post I was planning to do was the third and final post on my recent trip to Europe.  I know you can’t wait.

ZZzzzz….

Well, you dodged a bullet.  For the moment.  I’m going to Plan B.

Do you remember the little kids song…  “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, but the other’s gold.”?

This past weekend I did an emergency trip to Cincinnati for one of those golden  friends.

A dear old friend of over thirty years who has become estranged over the last couple of years for reasons unknown to me, lost her mother to Alzheimer’s.  Her mom was like a 2nd mom to me for many years.

In this African-American family, I was the 4th, pale-skinned sister.  Miss Waldine made sure that I belonged.  She called me (and countless others) her “precious child”.  And I believed her.

There was no way I wasn’t going to be there for my estranged, yet ever golden friend to honor her amazing, loving mother.

Sound weird?  I thought it would be.

It wasn’t.

Turns out, when there’s a death in the family, the stupid things that separate you from life friends go out the window…

For those of you without a great grasp of U.S. geography, Cincinnati is about 470 miles (757km) and an 8 hour drive from Atlanta.  Google Maps says it’s 7 hours, but Google maps doesn’t know about the rain in the mountains just north  of Knoxville or the stand still traffic around Renfrow Valley.

Ugh.

So I spent 16 total hours driving up there on Friday and back on Saturday. I  only spent 17 hours in Cincinnati.

Crazy.  Yup – AGMA crazy.

But maybe not just AGMA crazy.  Maybe it’s just what lifetime friends do for other lifetime friends.  Irregardless if they have been pissy and weird with us.

It’s all about the love.  It’s always been all about the love.

When I got up there on Friday, my estranged friend seemed to have forgotten or at least put aside what she felt was the great divide between us.  I’m still not sure what it as all about. But there was no trace of it on Friday.

When I showed up at her house on Friday evening, she treated me like a sister.  Like we have always been.  Like it should always be.

On Friday there were hugs and tears and reunions and laughter.

I got caught up on her family.   This was quite revelatory since I’ve talked to her maybe 60 minutes total in the last 4 years.  During those 4 dry years, I’d ask about her husband and kids and grandkids and the rest of the family, and got the “They’re all fine.” answer.

Guess what?  They weren’t all fine.  And some of them still aren’t fine.  It all came spilling out.

I wasn’t going to bring up the last 4 years if she didn’t.  And she didn’t.

The family visitation Saturday morning was yet another chance to see other family members I hadn’t seen in years.  He son, her sister, her niece who’s like a daughter….  Kids who were itty bitty the last time I saw them now towered over me.

Honestly, where does the time go?

I said my goodbyes to her before the memorial service started because it wouldn’t be over when I needed to leave to head back home.  As we hugged each other tightly for nearly two minutes, the tears started to flow.  Both of us.  I made her promise that we wouldn’t lose touch again.  I told her I loved Miss Waldine.  I told her I loved her.

One of these days, I’ll ask her about the long, dry spell.  One of these days.

But not anytime soon.

“…one is silver, but the other’s gold.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A No Cute Cat Video Lent

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I’m not good at giving up things for Lent.  I either pick something really lame or get a start late.  Then I usually really push the boundaries of what I’ve given up.  

Last year, I gave up drinking mochas.  I love mochas.  I’m emotionally dependent on mochas.  Some days I live for my mocha. That was a pretty major thing for me to give up.  But I let myself switch to carmel lattes.  See, boundary issues…

As an adult coming to a Christian faith tradition that does the Lent “thing”, I get it.  I understand that it’s not about denying yourself just because it’s something a church says you have to do.  It’s about heightening your awareness, your senses.  Getting out of your normal cadence to a different pace.   Being present to something larger outside of you and something miraculous inside of you. Focusing on an immense hope and an overwhelming love.

This year, I started late.  Nearly two weeks late. Typical…  But I gave up a biggie – for me.  I gave up my primary mode of social interaction. Yes, I gave up Facebook.

Oh, the humanity!

No funny “Oh Myyyyy” posts from George Takei.  No clever “wine is wonderful” cartoons from Kay.  No “hiking in Arizona” pictures from Sandy.  No “Obamacare kills baby birds and causes locust plagues” posts from my Tea Party relatives.  Well – okay – I don’t really miss those…  No cute animal videos.  I guess I could go to YouTube and watch some there but, seriously, it’s not that bad…yet.

When I decided to give up Facebook, I went cold turkey.  Got rid of the FB tab from my Mac favorites bar and deleted the icon off of my smartphone.  Poof goodbye.  I haven’t signed on since.

And I’m lonely.

I’ve moved around a lot in the past 10 years.  And when you move as an empty-nester, 50+ something adult, it’s harder to connect with new people in a new city.  As a younger adult with kids, it’s easier to “fit in” – kids seem to be a natural way to connect with other folks.  As an older adult, sans kids, it’s much harder to build relationships when people already have their circle of friends and social habits well established.  Plus I can be a bit introverted around new people.  I know, hard to believe right?

So Facebook has been my best buddy these last few years.  It’s so easy now to stay in touch with far away friends and family.  Extra bonus – it’s helped me reconnect with people I had “lost” over the years.  Treasured friendships that slipped away because of the stupid neglect of youth or a “no longer at this address” written on an envelope.  Double extra bonus – I’ve also nurtured new, long distance friendships that would have never happened BF (before Facebook.)  We’re a very happy couple, Facebook and I.

So my late Lenten sacrifice this year is uncomfortable.  This is good. Whenever I have that urge to “just take a peek” at some of those Arizona hiking pictures, I remember why I said I wouldn’t.  It makes me think about my family and friends, and how much they mean to me; how much I love them.  And I think about the Great Love that holds the whole world in an embrace of goodness, mercy and healing.  I can wait a few more days until the 20th.

But remember how I said I have boundary issues?

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