DSC02189 - Version 2Last year at this time, things weren’t going so well for her–as in “Worst Christmas Ever.”

It was bad enough it was her first Christmas without her son–her first Christmas with an empty stocking hanging on the fireplace.  Then it hit:

The fever, the chills, the head that would not stop pounding.  The seven-day flu, lasting from before Christmas until New Years—seven days of fever and body aches and every muscle drained of energy.

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DSC02093She was feverish when her husband left to lead the Christmas Eve services. Resting on the couch, she felt a tap on her shoulder and her daughter’s gentle plea, “I’m hungry.”

She dragged herself off the couch to the stove, where she dropped something frozen into a pot.

It was not her finest moment.DSC02086 - Version 2If she hadn’t been so sick, she might have cried.  But it hurt to stand and she turned the heat on high and stirred.

There would not be a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner here.  No candlelight on the table or homemade dessert.  The frozen-something-in-a-pot would feed her and the child and then she could rest again. That was the only goal—getting better.

Back to normal. Through the holidays.  On with life.

Little did she know how long this would last.

It dragged on through Christmas and the days after and then on to New Year’s Eve, when she realized she didn’t make any resolutions and didn’t even care if she celebrated. She was limping through New Year’s.

All those plans for Christmas break—the books she’d read, the movies she’d watch, the family activities—had to be tossed aside.  Instead she spent the entire time in bed, wishing for some sense of normal life, of the familiar.

Because we never long for normal more than when things are abnormal.

When we’re down and out, when we’re feeling out of place, when the music isn’t familiar or the faces aren’t ones we recognize—we struggle to find what feels right, what seems comfortable.

We long for something we know but cannot find: Normal.

As she sat and put a washcloth on her face to ease her pounding head, she began to understand that what she wanted wasn’t anything she could get on earth.

Because even in this life–

We never long for heaven more than when we feel the brokenness of earth.

That was the real truth of it

When families fight and words pierce hearts–when children split the day between their divorced parents’ houses—that’s the brokenness of this life.

We try to cover it up with New Year’s parties and resolutions for a new and improved life.

DSC02212Then real life sets in and we break those promises. We eat junk food and nag someone’s soul dry.  We don’t understand when we make resolutions, that’s our attempt to make the world right–to patch up the broken parts.   That’s our longing for heaven.

DSC02183When she finally woke up and did not have a fever, when the body did not hurt and the head stopped pounding, she breathed a sigh of relief and said thank you.  Not only did she finally feel normal, but she had made it through the week.

The hardest holiday did not break her.

Grace overflowed.

Folding up that empty stocking after the holidays, she held on to the hope of what lay ahead—of a place where the broken are mended, where we will understand what this great longing in our heart was all about.

It would be a new normal.

The longed for normal.

It would be as things were meant.

A mother holding a child with no more ache in the deep places.

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It would be for always.

Sara

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