I went into the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving dreading it this year and ended up enjoying it very much. Even if it did take two days to pack up and put away the decorations. Just yesterday, I was still locating items that I had moved in order to make space for the sparkle.
At first, I had to force myself to listen to the music and enjoy the atmosphere Christmas brings to the house but as time went on, everything I had chosen to see... and hear... and read... had a profound effect on bringing peace.
The process taught me a Truth that will be necessary in 2021. That is... what I allow in my immediate surroundings will either bring peace or distress, sanity or confusion, and truth or deception in my life from now until I enter Eternity one way or another.
I began to feel peace at Christmas after I surrounded myself with the stuff and sparkle of the season that brought memories of people I care for now and who are no longer present, past seasons that were lovely and those that were tinged with sadness and grief, stories I have read and stories I have told, God's Word and God's people.
Each ornament, every decoration, the songs I have listened to for decades... they were like altars of remembrance and anchors of Truth in a whirlwind of change. These people and the values I hold true were not fleeting images of a way life only in memory. They were and are real. They are still important.
I had been feeling that I no longer wanted to be part of a world such as we found ourselves in 2020. It wasn't the pandemic, not really. While the pandemic brought distress to many people, it was only an inconvenience to me as I have had to stay at home during the flu season for many years, anyway.
Whenever I was annoyed when that which I needed at the grocery store was unavailable, I thought of the people throughout the world who live with these inconveniences every day of their life. With more hardship than most of us have ever known. That brought it all into perspective.
No, it wasn't the pandemic that had made me heartsick by Thanksgiving.
While I found the election commercials annoying, in many ways they were not that much different than we have had every four years in America for a long time. For decades, by the time the election rolled around, if one believed everything that was said, neither candidate should be running the country.
The events around the world with wars and rumors of war were unsettling but not unexpected if one believes we are near the return of Christ. Earthquakes in diverse places? Check. People living as in "the days of Lot"? Check. A world filled with violence as in the "days of Noah"? Check.
None of the above was something I wanted but honestly, none brought on the heart sickness and the emotional fatigue that I was feeling. What I realized during those quiet Christmas days was that these emotions were coming from what I see happening in the Church.
I had already become spiritually fatigued as I saw more and more Christians put down those of us who still hold true to Biblical principals and the Bible as ultimate Truth. I expected that from the world in general but not from people in the Evangelical and Conservative Catholic churches.
Over Christmas, I came to realize why most of my friends who are my age and older are depressed. This is not the world we knew. These are not the values we were taught in these very same pulpits one or two generations ago. It feels like an alternative universe but this is not a scifi film, it is the world in 2021.
Our finite bodies... and minds... and emotions... are not equipped to handle everything coming at us as it is today. Not when society is changing as fast as it is. It was hard enough on people when there was only the radio during the world wars and newspapers before that.
I know society has never been sinless and that each country has many imperfections. Even in the "good old days". However, there was a very different culture that permeated society. One can see it when viewing older TV shows. Most of us really were on the same hymnal page. Even those of us who did not grow up in church-going homes.
At the same time, there is no looking back with nostalgia for a simpler time because this is the hour and the day and the year God has chosen for us to be alive... to be salt and light in this very fallen planet. We wouldn't be here if we were not a part of His plan.
How am I choosing to go ahead in the coming year, knowing the challenges that may be faced? Just as I put everything in place at Christmas that would bring joy to my days, I am laying a foundation for the next months that I hope will help.
I have been making some changes to my social media intake and that seems to be working. I have been un-following people and organizations that I really like but that have not been a part of my life for a long time. It helps to streamline and limit all social media that way, leaving that which is most important right now.
I am putting into place some ways that I hope will help draw closer to God and His Word. I decided to opt out of the Amazon Audible subscription for awhile, especially since I have a backlog of audio books ready to "read". Instead, I subscribed to receive the material from She Reads Truth for a few months to see if that is a way of studying the Bible that fits my learning style.
I am not entering a convent, although, come to think of it... that does sound appealing right now. It wouldn't work because they probably wouldn't let me watch the latest episode of NCIS on Tuesday nights or order a pizza while watching a favorite movie.
I mean, I am seeking truth and peace but I am not ready to leave this world behind completely. There is still that first cup of good coffee in the morning. And pizza. There are wonderful kids and kids-in-law and grandchildren. And coffee. And pizza.
Those of us who hold what the world would call "old fashioned" Christian values may be entering an even more challenging time in this country but it has not taken God by surprise. He knows all about it. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and that God who knows the number of hairs on your head.
Maranatha!Image: The County Road in front of our place after a big snowfall a few years ago. Very peaceful if one does not have to drive anywhere.