“Where there is great love, there are always miracles. Miracles... seem to me to rest not so much upon... healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that, for a moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there around us always.”--Willa Cather
One of the best gifts I could have received this Christmas came early. It came without boxes, it came without ribbons, it came without....you get the picture. Actually, it came via Facebook. Seriously.
Earlier this month, in the midst of an overwhelming moment when I felt I had more to do than the time to do it all, I did what all self-respecting procrastinators do and dove into Facebook to hide from reality. While scrolling mindlessly, the words do less caught my attention as I scanned a post from Fr. James Martin. I stopped for a moment and read his entire message (which is featured in its entirety here). The gist of the message was simple: He basically advised doing less this Advent. He advised making space and time for reflection, prayer, and the people who matter most. He advised that maybe, just maybe, the end of the world would not come if we all missed a Christmas party or two, didn't send out Christmas cards, or bought every single teacher, volunteer, and mailman we know a Starbucks gift card. (So I am paraphrasing. Those are more my words than his. I don't think Fr. Martin mentioned Starbucks. But, you get the point.)
I am not a reflector. I am not someone who prays, meditates, or, let's face it, sits down for more than five minutes.
I have shit to do, people.
I had a Sweet Sixteen to execute, a ten-year-old boy's birthday to plan, dozens of cookies to bake, hundreds of Christmas cards create, address and mail, two annual children's photo-journals to draft, create, and print, Christmas portrait sessions to take, books to read, at least a hundred presents to shop for, trees (three) to decorate, Christmas concerts and recitals (four) to attend, staff parties to plan, intern gifts to buy, traditions to follow--like annual trips to the Conservatory, the Festival of Lights, the train display, a visit with Santa, tree lightings, ice skating--just to name a few. I had luncheons and Christmas parties to attend. I had a car that needed to tires and breaks, and a trip home to plan.
And I had to work (and feed the darn kids...like three times a day). Oh, and I had to figure out how to pay for it all.
I was stressed. Maxed out. (So were my cards). I was damn-near close to a complete meltdown. The entire year was a crescendo to this annual month of do-do-do. It was a slow, but mighty build-up, and I knew something was about to explode. My husband said he would wake up at night and hear me talking in my sleep. He said I would repeat on endless loop, "I need a miracle. A miracle. a miracle." (I have no recollection of this, and only can take his word, which I don't doubt for a second.)
Turns out the miracle came in the most unexpected way. It came as a lung infection. Yes, you heard me. My body has an uncanny way of shutting me down, when my brain refuses to. The cough I caught in September that wouldn't go away (not resting might have something to do with it), got worse and worse in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. As December rolled in, I fought through it--even though I couldn't breathe or sleep, and I coughed so hard one night I thought I had thrown up a lung (to quote Ferris Bueller). Apparently, you can't throw up a lung, but you can throw up a stomach, as in, the stomach can rip through your diaphragm and force its way up through your esophagus from the force of coughing. This, of course, I now know is possible, because the CT Scan I had last week showed I had in fact done just that. Hiatal hernia for Christmas anyone? By the time my son's birthday came along on the 18th, he was sick too. We got up on his b-day and did our best to power through. He lasted till 10 a.m. at school. A gift in itself, I got a call from the nurse and had to go get him. Together that afternoon, we slept. We lay on the couch and snuggled. (Yes, I got to snuggle with an otherwise wiggly ten-year-old.) After I woke, I sat beside him and for the first time in months, I rested. I was able to look at him. I was able to sit and look at all the photo-journal books I had made of him over the past ten years. I was able to be still. To pray, to reflect, to marvel.
By the next day, Colm was feeling back to himself. I had lost the ability to speak--and as it turns out--move. As I lay on the couch I thought to myself: Well, I will no doubt do less this Christmas, Fr. Martin.The Christmas cards will not go out. The annual photo-journals will not be made. The Christmas Eve meal will not be planned. I will not attend the Festival of Lights, take the kids ice-skating, and I won't be getting the mailman a Starbucks card. But miracle of miracles, the world, not surprisingly, will not end.
It will go on. As it has from the beginning of time. And on the 25th, the real miracle of the season will once again present itself. He will be born again. I will be with my kids, my husband, and, I'll be done with my Zpak (and, I hope, this cough). I will get in the car and drive to see my parents and siblings in Connecticut, and we will sit, laugh, eat, drink, and rest. I will enjoy every blessed moment. I will marvel at the year I have had--all the new friends I made from all over the world, all the amazing experiences I had, all the amazing experiences my kids' had, all the trips we made, the dinners we ate together, the fires we sat around, the surprises we enjoyed, the health we lost and restored, and the life we have, but most importantly, the love we share. It's all proof--proof of miracles.
Merry Christmas and here's to a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2016 to you all!
"He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted" (Job 5:9).