There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
The past few weeks of my life have been
…well…let’s just say…
And now, today…
6 days after Christmas and
3 days after a 3-day family gathering
at a 7 bedroom lodge in mid-Ohio
with all 8 of our kids,
and 6 grand-babes…
And with flight cancelations behind us,
and most of our kids and grand-babes back to their respective homes,
I am left with the aftermath of our time together,
and a home that looks like a Class 5 Cyclone swept through it!
Everywhere I look I see “stuff!”
- Piles of gifts and clothes and laundry not yet put away
- A tree with branches beginning to droop and ornaments bending toward the floor
- Furniture out of place
- Piles of shoes & boots clogging the shoe rug
- Mounds of laundry needing to be washed, folded & put away
- Diapers, diaper bag and toys scattered here and there (from my one-year-old grandson and daughter who are staying with us while my son-in-law completes their newly built home addition)
- Mail needing to be sorted and tended to
- A stack of Christmas letters and cards I want to re-read
What I have is chaos.
What I crave is order.
What I am …is tired.
Perhaps what I need now is a vacation from my vacation!
(moment of silence imagining sitting ocean side on a beach-chair)
It does not help, that I am somewhat of a perfectionist even though, as a mom of eight, I learned to give up on many of my perfectionist tendencies a long time ago!
The truth is,
We did not have a ‘perfect’ Christmas!
(That is…if you measure perfection by what we are inundated with leading up to Christmas via commercialism and Madison Avenue standards)
No,the Stretar Family Christmas wasn’t perfectly executed and all did not go off without a hitch:
- I was not able to book the nicer, bigger, lodge that I wanted
- I did not give all the gifts I wanted to give (I never do).
- I did not get my second Christmas tree up with 32 years of kids and family ornaments, or lights hung outside
- Three family members were not with us for various reasons
- Our family ‘Christmas-movie-theme scavenger hunt’ never happened due to bad/cold/wet weather.
- We never had our family bon-fire
- And, my helpful yet impatient husband tested my patience when he put the steaks on the grill before the ‘appointed time’ creating a bit of marital Christmas ‘BLISS’!
Not to mention the great cost it took for our far-away travelers to get home, and the personal and financial sacrifice and inconvenience experienced by almost everyone who had to pack up babies, and baby stuff, and travel to our secluded lodge 3 hours away.
But at the end of the day, my imperfect family and our imperfect time spent together was
an unforgettable gift from God.
And in that light,
it was imperfectly Perfect!
Although I am tired, and sick and very weary… those feeling do not compare to the overwhelming feeling I have of deep gratitude for the time we had together.
So as I take a few more moments to ignore the chaos of all the ‘stuff’ that still lingers from time spent with those I love most, I find myself reflecting on some very special lingering memories.
Precious memories of:
- waking up to a family room filled with Christmas balloons as the children opened their gifts
- babies being visited by Santa and playing with new toys
- the tears we shared as a family when my military son presented his boys with Certificates of Appreciation from the NAVY for the incredible sacrifice they make in their father’s absence
- the laughter and fun we shared from our White-elephant exchange
- an intimate time of each person sharing their joys, fears, and concerns
- a very memorable ‘surprise’
- playing games and laughing like silly kids
- the challenges and humor that took place during our family photo session
- and our ‘adult’ dinner enjoying each others company.
Good memories – hilarious memories…
But also very sad and difficult memories…
marked by honest, raw feelings of personal pain, disappointment, and various types of loss.
- the mother of one and a father of another battling cancer
- a son separated from his two boys by military life, divorce, and living in opposite parts of the country
- a daughter longing for a career more conducive to family life and area of passion
- relational division and tension felt by some family members
- and disappointment of family members who were not with us
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Areas of our family life still in need of God’s grace.
I recently figured out that of the 25 people in our immediate family unit:
- Each person has a relational connection with 24 other people (25 x 24 relationships)
That means the Stretar family consists of, get this:
600 inner-connected relationships in all!
Is that crazy or what?!
And yet, as crazy as our life is…
We would do it all over again…
despite the cost,
the lack of sleep,
and all the chaos of big-family living.
This holy chaos of our crazy big-family-life has a way of keeping me dependent on God and to seek His intervention and help as we recognize our need for a greater capacity of love for each other and our need for more unity, generous grace, deeper joy, and the peace of Christ to reign and rule in our hearts.
So my journey of picking up my life where I left off and beginning the daunting task of putting things back together as-they-were before the holidays, begins.
As we usher in the New Year, and the Christmas season comes to a close, and after I take a very long nap, and begin the task of pitching, and cleaning, and organizing, and making my GoodWill drop-off…
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
And as I resume my writing life
and as I pursue new ministry opportunities
I hope to continue to surrender
more of my life and personal ambitions
to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I want to embrace all that the Lord brings my way in the coming year…don’t you?
This may mean saying goodbye to certain people and hello to others; it may involve restoring relationships with some and severing ties with others.
The coming year may also involve speaking up more for the widow and orphan and the poor and the hurting and the lost, despised and rejected.
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
I want to continue to practice quieting areas of my heart and mind as I wait, trust, and pray for God’s leading and direction for this next chapter of my life.
As we look to the New Year, may we grasp more of the height and depth of God’s love for us. And may our hearts grow to love more of what God loves and hate more of what He hates.
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
So no matter how messy, chaotic, or complicated life gets, remember that we have all that we need in Christ. He is Emmanuel. He is God with us. And he is very good!
He has indeed…
made everything beautiful in its time!
Until next time…
May the the chaos of life around us be silenced by the peace of Christ who longs to reign and rule our hearts and every aspect of our sometimes chaotic lives.