Zoe turned five on Friday. Although it hasn't been the easiest five years - she still refuses to sleep in her own bed all night, (can you say "exhaustion"?) - I'm relishing this final year of having the last of my children at home. She is extremely creative, highly inquisitive and the hours I spend with her, no matter how quickly fleeting, are always filled with her new observations and analyses.
Her latest "game" of sorts is kind of like "I Spy." Wherever we go, driving in the car, her little mouth never ceases. "Did you see that bird, Mommy?" "Oh look, they have a flag with butterflies on it." "Look, look, an icycle!" I try very hard to "see" what her eyes have found, while also keeping my car on the road.
Last week, my Ellen missed the bus - again. It had been a horrendous morning. I took Derek to work with kids in tow. I thought it would be nice to grab the girls some breakfast at the golden arches so we wouldn't be rushed to eat cereal when we got home. I had also realized I ran out of coffee at home and convinced myself if I just bought one cup from Mickey D's, I'd be good to go for the rest of the day.
I handed Ellen the keys and my coffee while I carried Zoe (wrapped in a blanket) to the door of our home. I still don't know how it happened, but as Ellen fumbled with the keys in the lock, my single cup of coffee crashed to the porch floor and exploded. I've never been one to scold children for spilled drinks because, hey, gravity happens. But, nonetheless, Ellen burst into tears. So by the time we got the tears dried and soul mended, her teeth brushed and her hair patted down (don't ask,) the big yellow school bus with the obnoxious flashing light on top went zooming past our house. Ugh. Back out into the cold we go!
On our way home from dropping Ellen off at school, Zoe started her game again. It's especially exciting for her right now with all of the Christmas decorations.
"Oh, Mommy, did you see that? They have a Santa Claus on their roof!"
"Mommy, Mommy, did you see Frosty the snowman?"
And then the one that struck me funny, "Uh-oh, Mommy, those two houses still have their lights on. That's a waste of e-lec-tricity. They should turn their lights off, huh, Mommy?"
I found myself explaining to this little mind how some people forget to turn off their lights, but then found myself preaching to myself as the words flowed out of my mouth. "Zoe, some people don't worry about what electricity costs. They are just happy to continue to let their lights shine. They know it brings happiness to others."
Ouch. Conviction. When I am convicted, my heart physically feels like it's being squeezed, perhaps by the hand of God. It's almost as if my heart stops beating for a moment with one last thump in my chest and my soul speaks to my head, "Did you hear what you just said?"
Yeah, I heard it.
For many of us, this season hasn't been too merry so far. I know there has never been a time in my life when I know so many around me are experiencing such drastic loss. For many, there will be no presents under a tree. For many, there will be no tree. For many, there will be no home in which to put a tree, much less presents.
But there is still Light.
I found out in recent months, having always know that Ellen's name means "light," that Ellen's name truly means "God's light" or "God's radiance." The word "El" means God. I also knew when I named Zoe, that her name means "life." But in recent years have discovered the great mystery of what "zoe life" - life immersed in God - truly means. I also think it particularly funny how my favorite song when I was three was "You Light Up My Life." Coincidence? I think not.
We have light and life to offer others. We have been graced with the presence (presents?) of God in our hearts, His wisdom in our minds, His spirit in our souls. But how often do we find ourselves completely bogged down by the physical reality of this world right now and before sharing our light and life to others stop and think, "How much is this going to cost me?"
I have always considered myself a giver - a generous spirit who will give you the shirt off my back if you need one. You need me to clean your house? What time should I be there? You need to stay in my home because you have no heat? Come on in. You need me to drive you forty-five minutes away because you don't have a car, and oh by the way, you can't help me out with gas money either? Get in, buckle your seatbelt. But lately, folks, it's been a different story.
Oh, I still give, and give, and give. But I've been guilty in a different way. After spending the day cleaning someone else's home, the little "self elf" says, "Well, there's a day wasted you could have been cleaning your OWN house." After sharing my washer and dryer with a neighbor who doesn't have one, the "self elf" speaks again, "Water bill, electric bill, oh yeah, and think of YOUR family's laundry you could have gotten done today."
Guilty. Convicted. Sitting here rebuking myself for how much I preach to those around me to take care of "the least of these" when my own heart has't been in it much either.
But again, there's Light.
Through a simple observation of a child, God's light shone on my heart and reminded me of the one Truth. God never stopped to ask Himself, "How much will this cost ME," when He gave us His Son. Jesus never stopped to ask Himself, "How much will this cost ME," when He gave us His Life.
It's more than the "Reason for the Season," friends. The message is meant for us to wrap our lives around it, internalize it, live it. Simply put, we need to SHINE.
We need to shine harder and shine longer, maybe more than we ever have before. We need to dig deep into our souls and find His love which will serve as our Energizer batteries to keep us going selflessly, because guess what? Someone else's life might depend on your light today.
I hope someone calls who needs help today. Maybe God will put someone on my heart. He's really Good at that.
It's only 10 in the morning, but I think I'm going to go turn my lights on. PP&L has nothing on me.
Oh, and by the way, "Merry Christmas."