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Find sanctuary in the love God offers each of us

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.

--Sophocles

“I know you’re planning to start your Christmas decorating marathon,” Matt commented to me one evening this week, “but I didn’t think it included this picture of your Gramma. What’s up?”

It is one of my favorite photos of her, taken on a spring day out in her yard — located on a tiny farm on the Oklahoma plain. She’s wearing a pink flowered house dress, bright red sweater and her usual footwear—blue Keds, accented by white ankle socks. What I love most is the way the photo caught, for the briefest of moments, the serendipity she felt that day as she emoted before the camera. That’s because the air was warm, hinting that it was about time to plant her garden, the place she considered her blessed sanctuary.

In another photo I have of her she’s donned a straw hat and is

weeding her sanctuary. It was outside in her garden—not walking a mall or playing a video game, not surfing the Internet or listening to music from an MP3 player — that she deliberately stepped away from the immediacy of her life to ponder. To pray. To plan. To pause. It was, after all, the only available place she could go as she never learned to drive and never lived in a city or suburban setting.

I deliberately placed my favorite photo of Sarah Victoria Seaba Bay atop my fridge this week because I will use her as my inspiration while heading into the Christmas season. While simple and uneducated by today’s standards, she was strong and wise beyond measure. She knew she needed a sanctuary and she headed that direction on a regular basis. For now 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 will cook something. I really love to bake. I also like to chop and mix. These days I’m into making homemade salsa. But when the days are short, the air cold and damp, and I want to bring warmth into my home and heart—I nearly always choose to make soup.

It is for this very reason that I burst out of my chair, grabbed the plastic wrap, and offered to take care of the turkey carcass when my step mom wondered out loud on Thanksgiving Day where she’d find the room to store all the leftover food. I took one look at that lovely carcass and knew just what I’d do to help take the problem off her hands: I’d make homemade turkey soup.

The next day I dug around in my closet under the stairs and found the large electric roasting pan that had sat, unused for months. I carefully placed the carcass on center stage in the pan, surrounding it with fresh water, roughly chopped parsley, chunks of onion and celery and carrots, and whole black pepper. I covered the brew, turned up the heat, and left it alone until the aromas told me I could return to my sanctuary and experience some bliss.

It was there, as I stirred the pot—leaning over to take in the aromas of that heavenly broth—that I did what I needed to do that day: to stir the thing I had complete control of and to hand over to God those things about holiday times 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 my surroundings to draw me in and touch the child-like aspects of my personality. Like millions of Christian mothers I turn out the manger scenes. I open to the accounts of Christ’s birth in the Bible and reread them. I turn to the Holly station on my XM radio and sing out loud in my car. I hang stockings. Bake cookies. Mull cider. Read Christmas cards.

I also contemplate the tough stuff, which hurts more this time of year if I let it. Take the fact that members of my childhood family are scattered across several states and divorce will forever prevent them from uniting happily. I will buy new pajamas for my kids and present them on Christmas Eve, but at the same moment miss the grandmother who always bought new pajamas for me when I was growing up. How happy she would be to watch my children open their gifts, then run into another room to try them on. It is that convergence of utter happiness and sadness--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 to connect meaningfully with stepsiblings, but can’t expect that to happen over a holiday dinner table. In my case, it’s too soon in the game. Too recent an alliance. I must give it time, but we so seldom see each other.

So it is in my sanctuary that I will stir and chop, sniff the aromas, gaze up at my precious Gramma and do what she said I should always do, no matter what I am feeling at the moment. I must accept the gift of Jesus Christ. Take Jesus at His word that what I’m feeling and experiencing He is taking on as well. Humble myself enough that I become childlike and allow 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.

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