Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Christmas Competition

     When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about a mission trip I went on the summer I graduated from high school. Eventually, I started to feel like I was writing about it too much and not really getting my point across, and probably being just a little bit annoying. I started to write about it less, but I still think about the friends I met there every day. I'm hoping that I've waited long enough, and acquired enough new readers that I can talk about it again without driving everybody crazy.
     There is something about the Christmas season that makes me miss Honduras more intensely than I usually do. I can't help but think of all of the children there and so many other places around the world who "Santa" will not visit. For these children, there will be no wishlist written, no Christmas party planned by a caring teacher, no presents to open. December 25th will not bring an end to poverty, suffering, or injustice. For so many people, it will be just another day, and that is really making me sad this year. I feel like I did in Honduras, like I want to fix it but don't know how.
     Here in the U.S., Christmas has become so festive that it's almost overwhelming. We are so blessed that  many of us are able to celebrate so extravagantly, but I can't help but wonder if maybe, in some ways, we are the ones at a disadvantage. We are bombarded from every direction with information about all of the things we supposedly need to have the perfect Christmas, and even the most grounded people must feel inferior at some point. I remember being so excited one Christmas morning when I was a child to receive my second American Girl Doll, the pinnacle of girlhood toys in those days, only to have the wind knocked out of my sails by a friend who had received her second and third doll that same day. Those dolls are not cheap, and I was more than lucky to get even one, but part of me still felt a little jealous.
     Here's where I think the disadvantage comes in. The children at the orphanage we went to in Honduras were poor, but they didn't have much access to things that told them so. They couldn't watch T.V. and see commercials for toys they weren't getting, they couldn't text friends to hear about the latest trend they were missing out on. I am in no way trying to say that they are lucky for the circumstances they live in, I am only suggesting that perhaps they were spared the unnecessary stress that we can't help but put ourselves through when we are able to see what everyone else has.
     I'm still sad that so many children around the world will never get to experience the kind of Christmas that I did as a child, and I wish there was something I could do about it. But for now, it is what it is, and although that makes me sad, at least I can take comfort in the fact that it has made me stop and realize how lucky I am to have experienced so many December 25th's that were so much more than just an ordinary day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An Open Letter to the Stranger Who Saved Christmas

   I saw your friend tap you on the shoulder, and I saw you turn around with a surprised look on your face and hug her. At first I thought I was just seeing two old friends having a surprise reunion, and that made me smile. But then I heard you tell your friend that you just got news that you are cancer free, for the sixth year in a row. You and your friend hugged again, and I heard you say how thankful you are to God for this news. You created a Hallmark movie moment right there in that crowded store, except it was even better because it was real life. You taught me a lesson today, and I wanted to thank you. 
Thank you for reminding me that the things making me unhappy are temporary. Thank you for taking my focus away from the shoppers near me who were blocking the aisle to have a lively political debate, and the other shoppers I had already lost patience with, who were holding up the line buying $300 worth of towels and attempting to use multiple coupons, creating the slowest checkout process possible.

    Most of all, thank you for reminding me that being a friend isn't the complicated task I make it in my mind. Thank you for showing me that even when I can't fix a problem that a friend has, when I can't even think of the right thing to say, I can still be there, and let God do the rest. That's the piece I've been missing, and you helped me find it. You showed me that it's not my job to always be the problem solver, because that's what God does. I can help by being the prayer partner, the listening ear, the giver of hugs. And, when a friend has a reason to celebrate, I can celebrate with them, as you did today.
In the midst of this season that seems to demand that we be be jolly and merry on the outside no matter what, thank you for acknowledging, even in the midst of your celebration, that your Christmas six years ago wasn't a happy one. I saw only the triumphant conclusion to your struggle, but it was obvious that this friend was someone who had been with you in your storm, which is why she understood the deep significance of your moment in the sun.
In a short interaction that I saw probably thirty seconds of, you showed me that I need to stop searching for the perfect thing to say, and the perfect Christmas gift, and let God to use the imperfections that are already present in my life. You reminded me that, like friendship, Christmas is not about perfection at all. After all, there seems to nothing perfect about a baby born in a barn, to an unwed teenage mother, but those are exactly the circumstances God used to introduce the One that saved the world, and the whole reason we get to celebrate Christmas in the first place. You taught me to not overlook crying babies in barns in my search for regal kings on thrones, so Thank You for that.

Monday, December 7, 2015

You Walk Funny

     I have started this post so many times, edited and deleted so many paragraphs. I've thought about just saving it, never showing it to anyone and writing about something else. But I know that, somehow, I'll probably feel better after I address the elephant in the room, so here we go.
     I was in 11th grade the first time I talked about having a disability in writing. It was an essay for English, and I think I got an A. I don't like to write about it much, or even talk about it, because I don't want it to be the first thing people think of when I come to mind. I've worked very hard to be known as something other than "the girl who walks funny", and I'll keep doing that forever. But, even after twenty years of being me, I still go through phases where I just get tired of it and don't want to deal with it. There are so many bigger problems in the world that are much more important, but even so,it is hard to have a disability, because it's not something you get to choose.It's just always there, and no amount of hard work will make it go away.
     I was thinking today, if I could have somehow chosen to not have Spina Bifida (that's the name of my disability if you want to Google it, but I promise it's very boring), would I have chosen that route? In many ways, my life might be easier. I could wear cute shoes and dresses without having to consider what they look like with braces and long socks, which are never cute no matter how hard I try. Maybe if I didn't walk funny, a few boys might take some interest in me. I know that's trivial, but when you're a young woman who's almost twenty one, it feels like a legitimate concern. I would get to know what it's like to go to shopping without getting stared out or invited to some well meaning person's church to be "healed". I wouldn't have to wonder if it was a factor every time I get hired or fired.
     There would be many advantages to getting rid of this trial, but without it in my life, I would have missed out on some really great things. For example, If I had not been emotionally worn out one fateful Thursday by peers at school who excluded me and "accidentally" bumped into me multiple times in the hallway, I might not have come to youth group looking for guidance the night of the fateful suggestion "You should come to Honduras with us!", which turned into me seriously considering going, then actually going, and having my perspective on my faith completely turned around.
     If I didn't have a physical problem that makes it impossible to hide that I'm different, I'm not sure I would have the compassion I do for children that feel different or left out, and I wouldn't be able to connect with them as well because I wouldn't be able to say "I know how you feel."
I haven't quite gotten to the point where I can consider my trails pure joy, but I can see that they have been the source of some amazing things, and maybe that's a step in the right direction. Now, that's enough of that subject, we can now return to your regularly scheduled program.