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on the loss of wonder

I’ve always loved Christmas. I know, I know. It’s still too early. Well, you can go read up on the wonder of Thanksgiving elsewhere I’m sure, but please bookmark this one and come back to it when you feel it’s appropriate. Thanks!

Christmas was always such a pretty and joyful time. It had a kind of magic all its own that I couldn’t name as a child, but I knew it was there. I knew there was something amazing and special happening even to people who didn’t know it or recognize it or even admit what it could be. Christian or not, true believers or not, the Christmas story is unavoidable and fantastic, whether you believe that a baby was born to save the world or not. It’s really quite the tale as tales go.

But we grow up. We find out Santa isn’t real. (Sorry if I just blew that for you.) We discover that Christmas is tiring and expensive. We start seeing our calendars fill up not just the weekends but it seems like week nights too starting some time in November through New Years Day. It’s a chaotic whirlwind that leaves us scratching our heads some time mid-January like what all did we do and let me sit down before I open the credit card bill. As adults, Christmas means money and effort and to do lists. It means thinking of EVERYthing and EVERYone and making sure you are squeezing the most stupid relentless cheer you possibly can out of the month.

But then you watch your child’s eyes grow so big when she sees some mysterious white substance fall from the ceiling of Yankee Candle, and without you even having to say so, she reaches out her little hands to touch it. And she laughs with glee and claps, trying to catch it to further examine, for science, of course, but you don’t see anything else for a couple seconds because your eyes are completely watered over. No, it’s the fake snow. I’m just reacting. I must be allergic. Um, yeah, that’s it.

I’m reminded of the wonder. I’m reminded in that moment when my little girl’s mouth gets as open as it can when she sees a gigantic glowing tree rotating around. I’m reminded when some random child gets on the lap of that white bearded dude in red and is so ridiculously gleeful you can feel it on your cheeks 100 feet away. And I don’t believe in Santa, but this kid clearly thinks this guy is awesome.

And I’m reminded of the miracle of life. The life we so often take for granted. The life of every single person walking around me. The life that my little girl gets to have. The life of her older siblings holding her hand and showing her all the coolest stuff in the toy shop. I’m reminded that life isn’t as easy to come by as we’d like to think. It isn’t a guarantee that this child in my body will make it. A humbling, sobering thought. My little girl inside is a miracle, a series of fortunate events, gelling together to make a wondrous amazing beautiful stunning creature, one of a kind, full of purpose and worth and value and hope. I can not lose that wonder. I refuse to. I refuse to forget how fantastic a tale it is that my little girls exist. I refuse to lose sight of their infinite worth. I refuse to make any choice that sets limits on their worth. I refuse to assign worth based on their behaviors or how I’m feeling that day. I refuse to cheapen someone’s worth for any reason at all. I have tried to believe things happen randomly. I’ve tried to go the route that says nothing matters and life is what you make it. It just never added up to the beauty and the glory of what I see now. It just doesn’t give me the eyes to appreciate the mystery and awe of life and human potential to rise above our sinful, selfish tendencies and become so much more than we even dreamed we could be.

But then I’m also reminded of how ignorant and cruel we can be. As we are driving out of the parking lot, my window open on a beautiful fall day, we hear a girl probably about my step-daughter’s age say “Stupid Asian.” It was clearly directed at me. I look at her. She laughs and looks away and then looks back again. I stare at her. I think about the situation. I realize the driver, who I assume to be her mom, was trying to make a turn and though I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, my car blocked her view of the oncoming traffic. I think this through. My kids are in the car. I quickly try to decide if it’s worth saying something to the girl. I think through what I would say, the immediate thoughts being all full of stupid insulting retorts and crazy rants. I decide to focus on the act of driving and getting out of the parking lot safely. My mind starts processing what I need to say. My stepson says, did she just say what I think she said? I say yes and explain that some people are just angry and don’t know how to express themselves without being mean and ignorant. I take the opportunity to tell them how I have faced it my whole life and how I try to never stoop to that level, how I refuse to be mean and insulting no matter how mean and insulting the other person is. I am not them. I am me. And by the grace of God I have learned that there is a better way and that their actions will not ruin my day. It’s mostly true. I feel it was a God moment to show my kids what maturity and grace look like. I say a quick prayer in my head that they will see it.

Because I refuse to let wonder be strangled out by cynicism and ignorance. I refuse to let anyone else take away the beauty I see with their ugly hearts and careless words. I hope to teach my kids that. I hope my girls will grow up to see beauty in spite of the ugly, that they will learn to create beauty where there is none, that they will cling to the grace that gives them eyes of clarity and allows them to see the grandeur of God’s redeeming work even in the darkest of night and the strongest of pains. It happened with Christmas. A son was born in a manger. It wasn’t pretty. But it was beautiful and wondrous and pure magic. Don’t let anyone or any circumstance take that away. Never lose the awe of life and the hope of a glorious future. Both life and hope came with the highest price tag and the best value of the season – free to all who believe! How wonder full!

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