Christmas Greetings from the Farm

On December 24, 2017, in Commentary, Life, by Chris

It’s Christmas Eve at the farm on Willow Road. Those of you who have followed these posts over the years know what a marvelous pause the farm is in the life of our family. Time seems to get so compressed in the weeks before Christmas and all of the preparations and engagements that compel us to make just one more commitment.

But now we’re at the place of my birth, with bad cell coverage, no television, no internet and no distractions. We can simply be together to prepare meals, try to make a dent in the Christmas cookie supply (still working on that), visit the neighbors and take in the luxurious quiet of the land lying fallow and still.

There was a light blanket of snow when we got in yesterday; but the sun melted most of it away in the afternoon, painting the trees across the field in rich ambers and butternut. We woke up, though, to a completely different situation. The snow started around noon as we were wrapping up one of our many visits to our neighbors and friends; and by mid-afternoon, it seemed we had a good old fashioned snow storm on our hands.

It’s still coming down as I write this. I even excused myself from dinner preparations to take a walk in the woods to experience its silence. There was little to break the hiss of the landing snowflakes, except a couple of neighborhood dogs in distant conversation and an intrepid nuthatch winging about the trees in search of her next morsel.

I wish I could share some insight or encouragement that I found in that solitude and silence – some neatly-tied-up-in-a-bow wisdom that will lift your spirits. Those of you with whom I am in more intimate contact will know that it’s not been that kind of year for me. It’s been “dig deep” time for months now, and I’m honestly wondering how I’m going to bounce back from it.

I was out in the cold until I couldn’t feel my hands, but the same frustrations were with me. So let me lay them out in all of their embarrassing glory:

Frustration at my father’s increasing frailty of mind and body.

Frustration at the growing developmental gap between Julia and her peers.

Frustration at the marriages blowing up around me and the inevitable collateral damage visited upon the youngers.

Frustration at officiating the funerals of good men struck down far too soon.

Frustration over the seemingly intractable divisiveness we find in every domain of life.

And despair over a world that seems – in my current experience, at least – to be devolving into chaos and selfishness more than growing into something life giving and beautiful.

A wise friend told me once that sometimes the spiritual walk is putting “one damn foot in front of another.” But that roiling anger that I and many others wrestle with seems to make everything in life just a little tougher.

So I’m going to let you listen in on a conversation I’ve been having with myself of late – sometimes half heartedly, sometimes with a bit more conviction. It orbits around an oracle of Old Testament prophecy that I’ve clung to for the past few months:

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

For this season, I am clinging to an idea proposed eight centuries ago:

As bad as a situation can be, I’m not alone in it. It might not be the “salvation” I would choose, but God is always working to reconcile, redeem and remake. Even in my worst and most embarrassing moments, he is audacious enough to like me anyway.

Now comes the big one (for me anyway). God’s love can calm my gnawing tendency to project a catastrophe into every situation, give me perspective and discernment to know when I can and cannot do something about whatever frustration presents. And by the way, the ones I enumerated above, I have no control over whatsoever.

This love comes out in a song of life and beauty that still confounds me – even after twenty years in pursuit of understanding it more. I still struggle with truly receiving love like that; but it’s reflected in the steadfast loyalty I have known in my relationships and the whimsy of the little exchanges with Julia. I’m borne from my despair in the intentional practice of gratitude for those small gifts of clarity.

The season we celebrate brought all of this even more into life with God actually living among us in our frustration and fear. And it is the hope that there might be a larger, more redeeming story piercing into the mess of ours that I cling to. I bid you peace in the knowledge that we don’t have to have it all figured out (I know – that kills me too), and that there might be Love living among us as we put one foot in front of another.

Or I could simply say, Merry Christmas.

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5 Responses to Christmas Greetings from the Farm

  1. Pam Marshall says:

    Chris, as always I love anything you write or photograph at the farm! It is a place to ponder things deeply, for sure!
    I do know we are all asked to chose chaos or peace everyday.
    I think you may take some working points away from the excellent sermon Dan Kopp gave on Christmas Eve. I hope it helps!

    https://www.facebook.com/tevchurch/posts/1672408079448610

    God bless! Pam

  2. Jeff Frick says:

    Chris, I don’t know all the details that encompass the fullness of your frustrations. Although you have shared a few with me, there are some in which I have no working knowledge of. What I do know is this…Everything is preparation for what is to come. In addition, everything of value will in some way be put to a test to teach us what we truly know and trust, and what areas need more attention and work. Having said that Chris, God has granted you great privilege and responsibility. Not every person is equipped to handle such things. You my friend have been trusted to help guide the hurting into Gods peace, forgiveness, healing, joy, and rest. Make sure you are “filling your cup” because you know as well as anyone that you cannot give away what you don’t have. If you are running on fumes and the frustrations start coming at you hard, you will have nothing to offer. God has placed you right where He wants you, He gifted you, He made you for such a time as this. The harvest is plenty and the workers are few. On this Christmas morning, I offer you these words:
    It’s easy to sing
    When there’s nothing to bring me down
    But what will I say
    When I’m held to the flame
    Like I am right now
    I know You’re able and I know You can
    Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
    But even if You don’t
    My hope is You alone

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  3. Bill Kiser says:

    Chris first let me wish you and your family a Merry Christmas
    You know my story, but how did I get here? As you stated by putting one foot in front of the other. One thing I have learned is how important my past is because it shows me how it has lead me to where I am today, but more importantly to where it will lead me to do the work God wants me to do tomorrow. Now of that will happen until I get through all that he gives me today. I have to take off the blinders so I can see the beauty of today.

  4. Ann Ehlert says:

    Saved this to read when I could focus. Thanks for sharing! We share similar frustrations.

  5. Marilyn Gordon and of courseKirk says:

    This is the first I saw the posting. Oh Chris written so beautiful and so is the one taking down Christmas. We love you with all our heart. 😊🇺🇸🤗❤️❄️ You will always have the beautiful memories from all your pictures

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