Can we really be this brave?
It’s past noon on Christmas Day. I’m alone and haven’t yet opened gifts. Because I first wanted to walk the river trail here in the forested village of SunRiver.
Five years ago this month, I had head surgery. My husband, Gary—dealing with the side effects of wretched chemo—whisked me away to SunRiver with a tiny tree and a few lights and a couple of gifts. It was an unforgettable, blissful, healing time.
We didn’t know it would be our last Christmas together.
Ever since stumbling into widowhood, I’ve wanted to return to this resort village on this holy day. Because when I do things alone that I’ve only ever done with Gary, I come away a little braver, a little more resilient.
This was the year it happened.
There has been no bittersweetness during this intentional three days of solitude. Just sweetness as I hiked along the river this morning, thoughts from the past crowding into my current rich life, along with the hope of a rather large and impossible ministry vision (but isn’t impossible what God specializes in?).
Burbling memories. Present goodness. Future anticipation.
I watched a video early this morning before heading outdoors. It beautifully depicted the nativity story from the viewpoint of a partially-lame shepherd.
The shepherd had presented one of his lambs to the religious leader in the small village of Bethlehem. Loudly berated by the Pharisee for not bringing a spotless lamb, his fellow shepherds distanced themselves from him, and the lame one was turned away.
On his own in a crowded marketplace, he bumped into a weary, dusty traveler with a very pregnant wife on a donkey. They asked where they could find water. The lame shepherd, having recently filled his water pouch, offered a drink to the thirsty young woman.
Without knowing it, this humiliated, left-behind man had just offered water to the girl who was chosen to bear the Christ Child.
That night, after a visitation from a choir of stunning angels, his fellow shepherds ran down the hillside toward town as the disabled one tried to keep up — breathing heavily and struggling with a foot and leg that wouldn’t cooperate. Then running with a slight limp. Then tossing aside his crutch and running in full strength and full healing with his friends.
They found the stable where the child lay in a feeding trough. And the once-crippled man held the baby Jesus, wonder radiating from his face, knowing—because of the angels’ message—this was the long-awaited Messiah who would be the perfect Lamb as the ultimate atonement for all mankind’s imperfections and sins.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6
I’ve written a good deal about community and staying connected.
But just as critical as families and tribes and networks and teams are, I think it’s also important to know how to be content alone.
I am learning to embrace—yes, and even create—times of solitude.
Even though no other human is with me on this holy day, I’m not lonely. And I’m not really alone. Because the Prince of Peace is here with me.
This thought from Vina Mogg:
For solitude is peace when we are content to be alone.
Can we really be this brave?
Yes. Oh, yes.
On Christmas Eve, I slow-cooked a ham, and sprinkled candied pecan crust over a pan of yams, and sliced fresh fruit, and smashed potatoes, and steamed a green vegetable, and rolled a cheese ball in chopped walnuts.
Friends from town came to my cute little vacation rental for dinner. So much joy in the preparation of this meal: my Christmas gift to these good people.
As it turned out, we were all wearing red socks—not pre-planned—so of course we had to take a photo.
Because this is what friends wearing the same shades of brightly-colored socks should always do. Should. Always.