Christmas has come and gone and we hardly noticed it… because most of us were knocked out with the flu, just trying to survive. Our plan had been to go see Les Miserables on its opening night of Christmas. Instead, we were The Miserables ourselves. What with all the hacking of lungs, headaches, roller coaster fevers, chills, body aches, sore throats, sleepless nights…yep, I’d say we were definitely The Miserables. We had a small get together on Christmas day with some neighbor friends before our symptoms came to a head. Yet, we were unable to get together with our family. In fact, my sister spent Christmas night in the ER with my two nieces, who had dangerously high fevers. Nothing went as planned or hoped for. The most wonderful time of the year was now curdled into the most miserable time of year: flu season.
Every year, before we head off to our family Christmas destination, my husband and I make it a point to watch, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As we watched it two Fridays ago, George Bailey spoke to my soul. The man had so many amazing ambitions, like travelling the world and going to college. But, due to many circumstances he wasn’t expecting, his life turned out a little differently. God must have been preparing me for what was to come this week.
I grew retrospective of Holidays past when I watched the movie this year. While thinking of George Bailey’s failed attempt to pen his own life, I thought of Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years that did not go as planned or hoped for. Like the first Thanksgiving and Christmas we celebrated without my Dad. Those were really challenging and just didn’t feel right. Or the New Years Eve I was very ill with a respiratory infection that I had contracted on the move down to Nashville just the day before. Or even the New Year’s Eve that we spent with David in the ER for a serious lymph node infection just two days before we were to leave for Kenya. I remember being sick myself or having a sick family member on several Christmases in my childhood as well. Nope. Things did not go as planned or hoped for on those holidays. As the Narnians experienced, on those mishap holidays, it felt as if it would always be winter and never Christmas
Yet, oddly enough, with those dark, wintry memories, I have memories of things that simultaneously went right. That first Thanksgiving without my Dad, the same month that he died, family members travelled up from way down south just to sit at the table with us and bring extra chairs to the table, so as to try to alleviate the pain from the empty chair that was present just a little. That Christmas, we did something totally different and went way down to the Sunshine State to surround ourselves with extended family. My Mimi even jumped at the chance to go eat at The Hard Rock Café with all of us in celebration of my sister’s 18th birthday. That first New Year’s Eve in Nashville, we got to laugh with my in-laws and to kiss at 11PM rather than 12PM because the ball had already dropped in Eastern Time. That New Year’s Eve spent in the ER, we had the most fun we have ever had on the holiday after being released at 11:30PM with our ravenous stomachs to go dine at an Italian restaurant, the only one open, where they passed out hats and kazoos to welcome in the next 365 days. And this Christmas day, though we weren’t able to be with our blood family, we were able to be with friends who share the same Heavenly Father as us and to rest for days. Rest is something we all take for granted. But, it is a gift indeed. The Lord gives sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:2). He must have loved us a lot this week.
Most of all, this Christmas, the busyness and exhaustion from making sure it was a perfect day were stripped away and replaced with the true meaning of Christmas: God with us. Through sleepless nights into restful days, God has whispered to us with His peaceful voice that we need not be afraid, because He is with us and that He has a good plan for our lives even through all of this.
There’s a little George Bailey in all of us. Life is never how we plan it to be exactly. Along the way as some of our hopes and dreams are dashed, somehow, those things are made into something new, better, and more wonderful. I always dreamed of a tall, dark, and handsome husband. But, I only got one out of the three of those wishes: handsome. He’s not my dream come true, he’s better. Because He’s God’s dream come true for me.
God has plans for us to make a difference. Like George Bailey, if we were given the chance to watch the reels of life without the presence of ourselves, we would realize that yes, the world would still keep spinning, but it wouldn’t be the same. While we wallow in the misery of our failed plans, sometimes, we fail to realize the profound impact that is occurring through us by simply being just where God intended for us to be all along.
Are you the commander in chief of our nation? Probably not. Are you the heir or heiress to a crown in a regal land? Probably not. Are you the discoverer of the cure for diseases? Probably not. But I’ll bet you’re doing something every day like showing up to your cubicle or to mop floors or to the bedside of a sick patient or to help your child in some way or to teach a classroom full of students. And each day, if you have Immanuel with you, you’re somehow melting the ice out of someone’s heart and bringing the presence of Christ to a place where it was always winter and never Christmas. The drudgery of your mundane, monotonous life isn’t drudgery at all…instead, steadily, It’s a Wonderful Life. Make it count. Don’t overlook the wonder in the ever day tasks you face. Don’t overlook the beauty that is beaming from what you feel is your miserable lot in life.
May all the days of your 2013 and every day after be…A Wonderful Life.