Quitting Christmas. And what I should have told you sooner.

At 3:07pm on a Monday afternoon, while sighing restlessly alongside other anxious Target customers, I quit Christmas.

I realized I had ruined Christmas. Straight messed it up. Mangled it. Done it a disservice. Boxed it, botched it, in a way I never thought possible. And so there, with my hands full of snowman-decrepit cards that prove to be the only thing left when you shop the week before and a slew of sweaters I never actually needed, I placed my basket on the floor and I walked out of the store. I quit Christmas on the spot.

This is the point in the post where I apologize profusely to Target store employees for being "that" girl and overdramatizing my quitting of Christmas to the point of leaving stale merchandise in the middle of the floor for y'all to pick up. I am sorry. Very sorry. It was necessary for the completion of this blog post though.

The last few days have carried a melody of heartbreak that I never knew existed.

A tragedy 30 miles away. Hands I’ve once touched entangled in the devastation of an atrocious shooting. Twenty children pulled out from this earth before they ever learned the fine art of tying shoes and spelling bees. Our worry heightened. Our safety shattered. Our conversations inflated with gun laws and mental health,  and someone always trying to edge out the last word on Facebook, when we all might need to hush and stay silent for a while. We’ve never been the quiet nation but maybe we should learn?

The tragedy huddled us closer. The closeness of holidays made our hearts a bit weaker. Because lights are hung. And stockings won’t be filled. And Tonka trucks and toy  dolls will stay in the closet or be returned to the stores instead of being wrapped & tucked beneath an evergreen. It’s too much of an image to handle. It is a watercolor of the mind that will break you on the spot if you think too long of it.

But why now, and why this season, did we think that it was time to hold one another closer? And send cards in the mail. And hang ivy. And sing songs. And understand this mythical “reason for the season” that becomes all too cluttered by our shopping experiences and to-do lists that grow longer as the holidays grow near. And why now, do we shower the children will love and toys. And we scour the world for that perfect way to say “I love you” with a diamond or pearls. And we finally take a little time off.  And we breathe for five minutes before we start furiously plotting a newer year.

Why now? Wasn’t this the forgotten purpose of our yesterday? Wasn’t this the reason for even being here in the first place?

I think if Christmas had legs, it would walk right out the door. It wouldn’t come back.

I think if Christmas had fingers, it would head to AT&T, buy a phone, and make a Facebook. It would pounce up screaming in ALL CAPS on the endless statuses of people complaining or forgetting their children to voice their latest of opinions, and say, “Get off the dang phone and just go clutch someone, would ya?”

We are in desperate need of clutching. Of holding one another closer in a way that was more fierce than yesterday. Of facing one another to admit how hurt & broken & damaged we are. And admit how we screwed up yesterday but, as long as Tomorrow comes to visit in her bright red cape, we should start over. We should be closer. We should not worry so much about our image or our status or our need to always be right and just unplug long enough to see the pain in one another’s eyes. It’s there. It’s living. It’s bright. And it stitches every carol with a feeling of falsity. Because our troubles won’t be miles away. And we have to just face that. We have to just work with that. And, whether we think it or not, we are strong enough to over come that and make it through the troubles.

It is not a season to be merry and bright, so much as it is a season to finally admit to someone else, “Look, I need you. I need you on every one of my calendar days. And I love you. And I should not have waited for the stores to don red & green just to write that in a card to you. And I’m scared. Really. Petrified. Really. Because our world seems pretty broken. And I realize I cannot fix that. But I want to do better for you. Is that ok with you? I. Want. To. Do. Better. In. Loving. You.”

Tomorrow I might slide off the calendar. Tomorrow I might not be here anymore.

I don’ t want it to be the lights & the trees that convinced me to find you in the mess of this crowd, pull you out, tell you loud:

This life, I never understood it.

There was so much pain, there was so much hurt.

But you were always good to me.

And you filled me with a joy that felt like foam overflowing the mug.

& I’m Gonna See You Soon

& I Miss You Like Heck Already

& Be Good Until We Meet Again

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner, But You Made All of This Worth It

& Just Hold Me Now, for the moment you have me, and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

Are you there God? It’s me, Hannah.

“It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.” Donald Miller

On a mediocre day it will take me four or five attempts to get into the perfect position. Sitting Cross-Legged. Curled into a Ball. Knees Folding Beneath Me.

Shift. Shift. Shift.

All to look upward, bow my head and attempt to speak with God.

“I know you are up there, God. But it is awkward.” Shift. “I believe in you, no doubt. But I have no idea what you want from me.” Shift. “Couldn’t you just send me a book, God? I mean, your Bible is great but things might go smoother with me if you could just beam down a packet of cliff notes.” Shift. “Then I would always be doing what you wanted from me, right?” Shift. “A picture book would even suffice, God. A Single Water Color Glimpse at the next page or a chance to see the Bigger Picture from the last few years.” Shift. “God, did you really think this through? Honestly, why did you send me into this Mess of Skin without a legitimate chapter book? Chapter 11: You fall short. Chapter: 26: You leave on the Northbound train. I need to know these things.”

It is in my shifts and position switches that I realize one thing: God will never give us a book. Not an instruction manual. Not an eHow. Not finding it on Amazon.com tomorrow. I better quit praying for one.

As of lately, I can hear Him countering my thoughts, asking me, “Child, why would I waste my time with a single book when you have an entire library before you?Big Swooping Bookcases, Packed Up to the Ceiling. A Library full of Individuals from all over this world, each one packed with endless Stories & Lessons to Learn. Waiting to be cracked open with that first hello or finally closed with that last farewell.

Why sit and read chapter 19 when you could be out living it? Why wait longingly to read the next few chapters when God has granted the world with pencils & paired them with courage to do the scripting?

A Great Friend of mine led an amazing prayer on our mid-year retreat this past week where he asked all of us to close our eyes and envision our lives during the last four months in the volunteer program as a strand of single moments instead of One Long Journey. He guided a group of Close-Eyed Missionaries through a Wide-Eyed process of picking out specific moments of Chaos & Joy and holding them up to the light.

With my eyes closed tight I envisioned a strand of Pearls. Strung together. Simple but Poetic in their Arrangement. The Hard Moments. The Estranged Ones. The Elation. The Spontaneity.

I realized for the first time: Maybe I don’t understand the purpose to all of these moments. Maybe I never will. But none of these moments have been by accident.

All of our moments are like stars in the night sky, waiting for a wide-eyed wanderer to lay down before them and Connect the Dots. Embroider Constellations Amongst the People We Meet, the Places we Step Upon, the Emotions left Stirring Deep in our Souls.

We might not have time to Contemplate our Constellations and Keep Connecting Them all the while. Better we Keep Connecting and Contemplate some other time. Better we keep writing that chapter book instead of sitting down to read.

Lately, I like to believe that Don Miller and I were married in a past life. At one point or another, we sat and drank tea together on the wrap around porch of a house with peach-colored shutters. He reads my soul like a book. He writes my soul into books. In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he wrote about the grand possibility of sitting down with God at the end of our lives. Sitting with Him. And Sharing Our Stories. God will listen and nod his head and then, when our lips grow silent, he will tell us Why. Why we suffered. Why we loved. Why we were drawn to that man. Why we had to say goodbye to her. God will fill in the blanks of our lives, the blanks we left like puddles that ached for a good pair of rain boots to jump in them. The Why’s, What’s, and How’s, wearing Bright Yellow Rain Boots, Splashing Clarity into the Moments We Craved to  Understand at that very moment.

I grow giddy at the prospect of meeting God at the end of all of this, just like Miller writes. I’ll bring my notes and God will bring His. And we will sit in sun chairs with a fresh pot of coffee between us. Perhaps Pumpkin Spice. Maybe Hazelnut. Together we will sift through a tangle of memories and mishaps like a Good Will bin filled with all the best finds. I will have the chance to tell Him my story from start to finish. And then he will reach into his Godly Right Pocket and pull out the Pearl Bracelet that had formed in the closure of my eyelids. From his Godly Left Pocket he will pull out a pair of scissors and cut the pearls loose to begin stringing them onto a New Golden Thread. All the while, God will tell my life from His own perspective, realigning the pearls to show me the people I impacted without ever knowing it. The difference I made. The Seeds I Planted Even When My Palms Felt Desperately Empty.

Good work, Little One. You have served my purpose well,” I pray He will say to me. Without Shifting. “I brought you into this world with Full Arms and you have come back to me Empty-Handed. You delivered all that I gave you to all the right people. Her Chapter 16. His Chapter 12. My Child, I am quite proud of the cursive I was able to script through you.