Merry Christmas 2011

Last January I wanted to find the perfect snow day picture. I think I came pretty close. The barn and the trees covered with snow paint a picture of peace and serenity.

I wanted to write the perfect Christmas blog, but I couldn’t find the perfect words. These will have to do.

A couple of days ago I made a quick trip to a convenience store to buy some cleaning supplies. I couldn’t tell if the woman in front was older or younger than me, but her eyes told me she had lived a hard life.

I was in a hurry, but the lady wanted to talk. “Today has been a bad day,” she said to the cashier. The cashier said nothing but scanned and bagged the items.

“My mother died today.”

All of a sudden it didn’t matter to me that I was in a hurry. The cashier looked up with empathy and muttered, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

I knew I had to say something. I felt this woman’s pain even though we had never met before. I told her my parents had died recently and that I was so, so sorry that she had to go through such a difficult time. I didn’t have anything else to offer her except a sincere heart that said I cared.

“Yeah, no one’s ever died on me,” she said. We stared at each other for a few seconds. I just kept telling her I was so sorry. Then the cashier handed the woman her bag. The woman and I looked at each other again, but I was out of words. My heart hurt for her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said and walked out the door. I never saw her again.

I believe with all my heart that people’s paths cross for a reason. Some people call it divine appointments. God lets me call it serendipity. I hope that my simple, imperfect words comforted the lady who had just lost her mother. She needed to tell someone. I didn’t do much, but I was there. All I had to offer was a sincere heart.

The last blog I wrote was all about my obsession for shopping, but the truth is material things really mean nothing to me. I wrote the blog because it seems everywhere I turn everyone seems so perfect, especially at Christmas.

People throw on their cloaks of piety and perfection and mask their true natures. They give handouts of grace and mercy to the unfortunate. Once Christmas is over, however, they take off their cloaks and then wrap themselves in self righteousness. The grace and mercy go back in the attic until next season.

The most important gift anyone can receive at Christmas or any other time is love, specifically Christ’s love, but nonbelievers turn away from the gift because they don’t feel worthy of receiving it.

I don’t know about you, but people who demand perfection make me uncomfortable. Sometimes believers come across that way. I hope no one thinks I think I’m perfect. I am far, far from the target.

But what I do know is that God loves imperfect people, and He can make the impossible happen. Even when we make bad decisions, He can choreograph life so that we can get back on track and be happy again.

I always wanted to be a writer, but teaching wasn’t my original plan. Yet through teaching I have met my audience, the teens for whom I want to write, and I have learned from them, and I’ve learned to love them.

Christmas day is coming to a close, and I still haven’t found the perfect words. I simply am not perfect. I don’t say the perfect thing at the perfect time, but God has given me this heart that loves like crazy.

So that’s it, all I have to offer, just a few imperfect words and a very sincere heart.

Merry Christmas.

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21 thoughts on “Merry Christmas 2011

  1. Teresa, I knew that Christmas would be hard this year for you. It is hard for us because we remember the people that we have made memories with over the years – and in the case of our parents – our entire lives. I, too, have had feelings of loss this Christmas. My Aunt Johnnie, Aunt Cat, and my Grandmother are people that I especially miss during the holiday. My Aunt Johnnie was the most awesome candy maker that I have ever met! Her fluffy white Divinity candy was like a little piece of heaven on my tongue. My Aunt Cat always had a warm smile! She could even make fruit cake taste yummy…I almost had a fight when my husband tried to eat her last fruit cake cookie one year. My Grandmother had the entire extended family for a meal and a present exchange on Christmas Eve each year. Although I miss them all terribly, I have started building my own traditions: working on putting a tree in every room (in the style of Ms. Christine Vaughn, but I could never compete with her), eating in the dining room no matter how many hours it takes me to clear a path, and spending time playing board games with the family. It isn’t thirty five of my favorite relatives eating home cooked noodles, a giant turkey, and jam cake – but it will do.

    BTW, we need to start writing that book together – our modern day version of Up the Down Staircase. I am serious! Thanks for sharing.

    • It has been a difficult Christmas, but I do have special memories. I know you’ve had some difficult times too. I think it will be toughest at midnight New Year’s Eve. My dad always called me. I’ll miss that call. But you are right. It’s time to make new memories and traditions. I’m working on that. As for writing, I hope 2012 will be a year of renewal. Let’s see what happens. I like your idea.

  2. Sincerity is much more valuable (and important) than perfection. Simple words often have the strongest impact…. You offer MUCH more than you know.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

  3. Tee~ I have not had the best year ever, and this Christm,as has been especially hard on us financially, but when I read this blog, tears came to my eyes. You always know how to bring someone right back to where they need to be. You words offered me comfort in a time when I was feeling grinchy, and brought into perspective the real reason for the season. I can only offer thanks to you. I know had you not been my teacher 20+ years ago, I would have never become the person I am today. I love you and respect you with all of my heart, and I admire you. Please remember that always.

  4. I love you. Our chapel theme at Freed for the Fall Semester was “Perfectly Imperfect,” and you my Dear, are just that. I want you to know that I love you, and I hope that your Christmas was a very very merry one indeed. ❤ Check your phone… I am texting .

    • Thank you, Logan. 🙂 Christmas was a little tough, but I hope the new year brings some good changes. You are an inspiration! Thank you for always finding kind words to encourage me. You have made a difference in my life.

  5. I often find myself at a loss for words– even now as I’m typing this I am struggling to organize my thoughts and feelings. I believe we are similar in the fact that we both have such large hearts– and our nature is that we should reach out and care for those around us. True- this is the Christmas Season– but the one thing that we should remember and carry through our entire year is that love and support are the greatest gifts that can be given.

  6. Chris, you are such a giving person. I’m so proud of you. You bring joy to so many people. I look forward to seeing you “clown around.” I am ready to laugh.

  7. You have a good, kind, and caring heart. Always remember that. I have to constantly remind myself I will never be perfect despite the urges and thoughts that I should. However, it always reminds me of the one true perfect one. Being perfectly imperfect is the only thing we can be.

    • I have learned a lot from teaching two types of English classes. My Motlow students are so good at what they do they are afraid to take risks, if they make mistakes, they become angry. Part of them expects to be perfect; part of them expects to fail. I want to reassure them that it’s okay not to be perfect. My other students sometimes don’t try because they expect to fail anyway. I guess I understand both feelings, and I just want to help people get beyond that feeling. I have always been a perfectionist, and I have been greatly humbled multiple times. When we expect perfection in ourselves, we don’t see our own flaws, and we can’t see past the flaws of others.

  8. I always worry about what to say when someone I know (or don’t know as in the case of you and the lady in the store) is facing a trial. Years ago, I offended a good friend of mine when her mother was killed by a drunk driver. I never in a million years meant to offend her. The friendship ended and I still try and figure out what happened. You reminded me that there are no perfect words. The best we can do is let someone know we are thinking of or praying for them. Looking back, I think our friendship would have ended anyway. I don’t have any perfect words either….but if you ever need a listening ear I can provide that. Thanks for your imperfect thoughts. :O)

    • Thank you, Liz. Words are so powerful. You understand the stress of being a teacher. We carry it home everyday. When I first started teaching, I had students calling me at all hours to chat. It was crazy. I had one girl who made a bad grade on her book report. She called me and cried without talking for what seemed like an hour. I finally had to get an unlisted number. Then another adult gave my number to a student, who called me. I exploded, and I hurt the student’s feelings so badly. I regret that situation so much. Now I try to always be nice always. I am not very good speaking directly to anyone. When I do, it takes much courage, and I don’t always say things the right way. I guess that’s why I like to write. I can take more time with my words. But I do try to speak from heart. Thanks for reading, for listening, and for taking time to lend me your thoughts. It means a lot.

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