Christmas Comfort Zone


Every year Christmas seems to be changing for me.   It has been taking on a different feel – but not  in a bad way.  I use to stick to traditions and routine, even down to decorating the tree the same way each year.  The traditional way.  Our Christmas tree was always in the living room window (so passerby’s could gaze upon it’s beauty) and my mom put three balls and a bow together as her ornaments on her Christmas tree so that’s how I did it too.  Sort of like the birch tree scam that says three birch trees must to be bunched together for them to be beautiful.  Why, when I wanted to buck my parents authority in so many ways as a young woman did I find it so important to hold onto this piece of them?  Do you suppose my fear of getting out of that Christmas comfort zone came from a subconscious feeling that if  things were changed then that meant the old was lost forever?

When I dug a little deeper and peeled the cellophane off the cheese ball, I  think that train of thought reflects the loss I feel now that I no longer have a parent that walks this earth with me at Christmastime.  As if changing how I hang my Christmas balls has anything to do with the way I maneuver through family relationships and memories.  Ohhh… now we’re getting into some deep psychotherapy.  Can the old and the new co-habituate the same celebration without loss? Does the color of my Christmas wrapping paper truly mean a final goodbye to Ruth and Vic?

Well, whatever the case, in the last year or so I’m learning to lean into change.  Bend a bit with the new and the possibly more fun.  For pity sake – it took me 4 years to be OK with the new lime green and red Christmas colors they use for the latest wrapping papers and decorations.   Ask my friend Robyn…she embraced the new look with gusto, but as we stood in front of her tree a few years back I told her I was very uncomfortable with the new unconventional colors.  It seemed so un-Christmassy. So non-traditional. However, we’ve had a break though and I am proud to tell you that just today I bought new lime green and red Christmas wrapping paper and bows.

My mom, Ruth, was a Christmas bow Nazi.  They had to be hand tied and “just so” (“Tina…you can’t just tie a bow and slap it on a gift!  You have to fluff the bow and work with it”!).  I’ve given myself some bow grace in the recent past and much to her chagrin Ruth would be disappointed to know that I now do just that – I buy the store bought bows and I DO simply slap them on each gift.  I’m a big fan of bow grace!

This year I’ve bucked the system entirely and decided to move our tree to a different room completely (what a rebel I am!) and I made all new Christmas ornaments of burlap and wood.  Not a Christmas ball to be found on the Glass tree this year.  Give me time and I can change the world!!!

Last year was the first real stretching and pushing back of my holiday comfort zone when our Christmas morning together started later mid-day.  Usually our tradition was to gather together around the tree in the morning with some of my husband’s scrumptious coffee cake, sparkling cider, with eggs and bacon.  Never let it be said that we don’t eat well at the Glass house at Christmas!  We would take our time and open our gifts together and it would be about a three hour extravaganza.  However, newly married B&S were going to have their own Christmas morning together, stop by at her sweet grandparents for a quick appearance, and then head over to our house around noon. I was able to give everyone the impression that I was completely gracious and OK with the change, but the reality was that I found the change  to be to my own benefit because I got to sleep in on Christmas morning.  It’s all about me, don’t cha know.

The latest in this brutal crash course on stretching me out of my Christmas comfort zone is that I learned just the other day that Christmas day at the Glass house is going to take on an even more different look so kids and spouses could share more in festivities on both sides.  That means I won’t see my kids until much later on Christmas Day. Ugh!  The Department of All That’s Fair is screaming “What is this nonsense? I HATE LEARNING TO SHARE!!!  It’s so…(what’s the word?)….stretching!  I HATE STRETCHING!”   Can you just picture me sitting in the sandbox with my poochy lip protruding?

On the UP side…as I think about it – not only do I get to sleep in on Christmas morning – I also now have time to wash my hair and do my makeup so I can look like I have it all together for the annual Glass Christmas photo.  Not a trace of the early morning bags under the eyes and you’ll actually be able to see my blond eyelashes and eyebrows!  Sigh…this selfish vs. grace thing can get ugly sometimes.

Are you stuck in the Christmas comfort zone of bucking any change or new direction your holiday seems to take?  Are you afraid the old will be lost in the new traditions and styles of the holidays?  Don’t you worry – if it’s anything like bell bottoms or tie-dye – just give those old traditions and colors a little rest and you wait and see…they’ll come back around again in your lifetime.  Or are you like me – focusing your eyes on yourself so that when writing a blog about grace you run head-on into the reality that grace doesn’t come naturally to you….hmmmm….then you might have some hard work still to do.  Oh wait!… Christ did that work on the cross 2015 years ago!

Yep….the good news is that although grace doesn’t come naturally to me, I still am changed…and I am already a new creation.  That happened when I was 14 years old – now I just have to patiently trust Him to work that out within me.  It starts with knowing that I am complete in Christ.  That I am righteous right now because of who He is in me.  This allows me to extend love to the wounded and the angry and unlovely (except maybe when I’m tired).  Ugh.  It allows me to live out WHO He made me to be.  I already know He is pleased with me – no matter how I perform.  It’s a messy process and my sweet family gets the privilege (NOT!) of seeing the real me as I bumble through this adventure of learning how to emulate grace more often.  But I am safe here…in the Glass family…warts and all. And I’m not in a hurry to be perfect!  That’s the theology of grace for me this Christmas.

I hope you find it too.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Gathering Grace


Where did you and your family gather this Thanksgiving?  Was it around the table with a house full of family?  Maybe just the two of you gathered in the den with TV trays and watched football over a turkey sandwich?  If you’re like us, we have no family in the area other than our kids, so we make an effort to invite folks who cross our path who also don’t have a place to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  This year we had the five of us, plus three friends we know from church, but we grew from there the last few days before Thanksgiving.

I have the distinct privilege of acting as host at our church now and then to a lovely group of folks who are down on their luck and find themselves homeless.  They come to us through a non-profit organization called The Gathering Inn that is based out of Roseville, Ca. which my pastor, David George helped get off and running many years ago.

What I love about TGI is that they offer a warm meal and a place to sleep for the night during the cold winter months with the help of over 60 local churches.  These churches are part of a rotating schedule that offer the homeless a safe place to sleep each night of the week, and the host church cooks for them.  Our guests sleep on mats and a lot of thought goes into providing for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.

Some of our guests are alcoholics, some have other addictions, but some simply, as I said, are down on their luck.  I once met a young man there who just a year prior had a successful construction business, a local home, one in Hawaii, two cars, a boat, and a motorhome.  Then when the recession hit and people stopped building, he lost everything.  It’s eye opening when you realize some of us are just one paycheck away from the possibility of being in his shoes.

This past Monday was my night to host, and I was asked to also share a message with our 70 guests.  I am known as The Sports Lady at TGI, because I usually do a little shtick of updating the guests with the latest standings in the NFL, NBA, or MLB with a hint of humor and sarcasm and “smack talk”.  Once I was asked why I didn’t update them on the Iditarod….and my response was “because no one gives a rip about the Iditarod“!!!  Last week, since the 49ers  STINK this season, I chose to just touch briefly on sports, but then to share some thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Talking to the homeless about reasons to be thankful can be challenging.  It was a gamble, but I chose to be honest and real…with just a touch of humor…and I spoke about how we often want to blame God for our hardships.  How God’s purpose  never was to be a “fix it” man here to make our problems go away.  That the promise never was that life wouldn’t be without suffering, but rather the promise was that God would walk beside us, show up in the midst of the suffering, and offer us amazing comfort – should we choose to accept it – for the hard times.

Their overall response to the message was one of thankfulness – for the reminder of all they did have, and gratefulness for God’s love.  As I spoke, my eyes glanced about the room (because every good speaker knows they need to speak to all areas of the room) and they landed on what I thought was a familiar face.  Was this woman I thought I recognized someone I knew?  Hmmm…I just couldn’t put my finger on how I could have possibly known her, because surely I wouldn’t know someone who was homeless!

Being middle-aged and having no memory cells left in my brain, I did the cowardly thing and asked a friend to go over and start a conversation with her and find out the woman’s name.  Somehow the letter “P” stood out in my cell-less mind….Pricilla?  Penelope?  Paula?   Hmmmm….no, that couldn’t be….I must be mistaking her for someone else.

My friend came back and like a sleuth she had a lovely conversation with this gal, and found out her name was Phyllis.  YES!!!   That’s it!  PHYLISS!!!   I know her!!  As it turns out, Phyllis had gone to our church 15 years ago, and she and I had been casual friends.  Her husband died of cancer at the age of 36, and left her and her 10 year old triplets to fend for themselves in this life.   Phyllis was a survivor, and 15 years ago she was doing well – had a good job, and a place to live, was paying the bills and life was good.

I went over and re-introduced myself and she remembered me.  As it turns out, life in the last few years had taken a different turn.  She is now on disability because of mercury poisoning from fillings in her teeth, and 4 months ago they had been evicted from their rental home over a miscommunication between the new place she and her kids were planning on moving into, and the notice she had to give to her old place.  Unexpectedly, they found themselves homeless.

I immediately invited Phyliss and her kids to come share our Thanksgiving meal with us, and what a joyous time we had.  From the cranberry salsa, to the playing with the Yorkies, to the delicious food and wine, to football, to my chair breaking at the head of the table in the middle of our meal and me landing on my patootie, and to the yummy desserts that followed – a grand time was had by all.  There was wonderful grace found in this Thanksgiving gathering.  Grace for Phyliss and her kids…and grace for our family.

So now Phyllis and her family need a roof to gather under.  She has an income, and her kids all have jobs.  One is out on her own.  They just don’t have a roof over their head.  She has money in the bank to put down as first and last month’s security on a place, but finding a place that will rent to her with an eviction on her record is nearly impossible.  I’m praying for a gracious landlord that will rent to her regardless of what it says on paper.

Grace can be found in the hard.  And grace was truly found in this gathering at the Glass house this Thanksgiving.