This week I placed a photo of my paternal gramma in my kitchen to use as my inspiration while heading into the Christmas season. She was simple and uneducated by today’s standards, but also strong and wise beyond measure. It is for these reasons she’s become a part of my sanctuary, better known as the Klope family kitchen. If I want to relax and think things through, I cook something and allow my memories of her to inspire me.
This weekend I will make homemade turkey soup in the large electric roasting pan I frequently use this time of year. I’ll carefully place the carcass on center stage in the pan, surround it with fresh water, roughly chopped parsley, chunks of onion and celery and carrots, and whole black pepper. I’ll cover the brew, turn up the heat, and leave it alone until the aromas tell me I can lift the cover and experience some bliss.
It is there, as I stir the pot — leaning over to eye and taste test the heavenly broth — that I will stir the thing I have complete control of and hand over to God those things about the holiday season that cause me occasional stress, regret, worry and sadness when I let them.
The wonder of Christmas. The magic of Christmas. The sounds of Christmas. I do my darndest to dive right in and allow the traditions to draw me in and touch those childlike aspects of my personality. Like millions of Christian mothers I will turn out the manger scenes. I’ll open to the accounts of Christ’s birth in the Bible and reread them. I’ll listen to Christmas music and sing out loud in my car. I’ll hang stockings. Put out the advent wreath. Bake cookies. Mull cider. Read Christmas cards.
I’ll also contemplate the tough stuff, which hurts more this time of year if I let it. I’ll think about the members of my childhood family who are scattered across several states. I’ll face the reality that divorce and death will forever prevent some of us from happily uniting.
I will buy new pajamas for my kids and present them on Christmas Eve. I’ll also miss the grandmother who always bought new pajamas for me when I was growing up. It is that convergence of utter happiness and sadness — that she is no longer here to watch the happy scene — that I can rarely overcome without God’s comforting love.
There are also expectations that must be carefully measured this time of year. I want our growing family — the ones born a Klope as well as those invited to join us — to connect meaningfully with each other. I want family traditions to be deeply enjoyed and our hearts bonded.
So it is in my sanctuary that I will stir and chop, sniff the aromas, gaze up at my precious gram and do what she said I should always do, no matter what I am feeling at the moment: Accept the gift of Jesus Christ. Take Jesus at His word that what I’m feeling and experiencing He is taking on as well. And humble myself enough that I become childlike, allowing His love to soothe and heal those parts of me that fester, even while I’m truly enjoying all that is a part of our Christmas celebration.
It’s about taking sanctuary in the love God offers each one of us.