If you have been hovering nervously over your “refresh” button since last Saturday, wondering if UnPublish(Able) has gone the way of so many good and noble ventures (which is to say — kerplunk and dead), then take heart. Consider the hiatus a retreat for the purpose of Incarnational festivity and a bit (by which I mean, a heap stinking lot of ton) of research and development, lest I ever run out of something to talk about here on this blog.
After the last four days, that strikes me as highly unlikely. You might say God topped off my “topics” tank by Christmas night… and then squeezed the handle a few more times for good measure.
Truly though, I have not cracked open my electronic box because it has been a fantastic Christmas. 5 AM Sunday morning, we woke up the Quail by pounding out Hark the Herald Angels Sing on the piano in a house lit only by Christmas lights and candles and every year, it thrills my soul to hear the singing behind me get louder as they stumble, bleary and happy, out to join the Beloved in song, all the verses. This year was no exception. It is a tricky thing, enjoying the white and gold breakfast on the Haviland china, opening a few presents, and getting us entirely packed up and out the door in time to be early to church and ready to drive across the state directly after and, since I am never anything but honest with y’all, you may as well step into my shame while I admit that I perhaps did not do it terribly well. No, there were no snippy words or anything like that. It’s just… well…
I failed to pack any pants.
I feel that you will perhaps not appreciate the horror of this realization if you are not picturing what I wore to church on Christmas morning (if you are a man reading this, or just a much more sensible woman than I am about to be shown to be, I apologize and we will move through this quickly); it was an outfit that earned several raised eyebrows, but felt brilliant… in my head. The place where ill-advised outfits often seem brilliant. I wore gold satin wide-leg trousers, a cream, gold and black flannel shirt with a belt over the top and calf hair, platform tan and white cow print clogs. In normal posts, I would never dream of asking you to keep my outfits in mind (you see, your mental health is actually quite important to me), but I’m afraid you need to in order to really step into my clogs, as it were, for the rest of the day, and week.
One of the deep-in-my-bones joys of this Christmas was being allowed/invited to play the entire morning service at church. Here, we must pause. I used to be a jazz pianist for a living. I am not fussed about playing in front of a lot of people, but that actually has nothing to do with why I love accompanying a worship service, especially on holy days like Christmas. My personal conviction is that the musicians have always been and continue to be today the ones who lead the congregation further in, further up. Everyone shows up excited on Christmas morning, and perhaps this will come across as egocentric, but I truly believe that from the moment they are in the seats, it is given to my hands, my heart, to invite that excitement to build, for the music to resonate in their hearts and draw their voices out louder and their eyes up higher. That means, conversely, that poorly done church music has the opposite effect and can draw attention down to the fumbling musician who is causing an entire congregation to feel sleepy and dull.
This is only my opinion. Take it or leave it.
But I felt I had something to offer this church we so dearly love on Christmas morning and it brought me joy inexpressible to be at the helm and pour at everything I had in service of the Newborn King. My hands were swollen and my wrist tendons sore for days. I’ll have no use for these hands when I am dead — God will give me better ones, that never hurt, so I don’t need to spare them pain in this life. Sola Deo Gloria.
We drove across the state after church, singing, munching good snacks, listening to Christmas Adventures in Odyssey, growing ever more delighted as the snow increased (we are people who check pass reports, but I refuse to worry about things like weather and I cannot bring myself to not think snow is beautiful, even compacted on the ground. Stay tuned for the rest of this week and I think I can prove this). Somewhere beyond Snoqualmie Pass, which (if you are not from around Washington State) is generally Bugaboo Numero Uno when it comes to winter travel, our mature van, the Earl of Towcester (“Earls are hot stuff. When you have an earl, you have something.” — P.G. Wodehouse) began to do the most fascinating impression of a helicopter, so like the real thing that 4 Quail momentarily pressed their faces up against the glass to scan the skies. The Beloved pulled over and discovered that a lug nut on the front left wheel had broken off somewhere, leaving things less secure than we would have preferred, but still driveable.
Famous last words and all that.
” ‘I can’t really think of an easy way to say this. Um, in your opinion, what would be the ideal number of wheels for Carla to currently possess?’
I closed my eyes and let my head swivel up, the streetlight bright through my eyelids, the snow on my lips.
JP continued, ‘Because to be totally honest, I think the best possible number of wheels for Carla would be four. And right now there are three wheels connected to Carla herself, a nonideal number. Fortunately, the fourth is just a very slight distance away, but unfortunately, I am not an expert in wheel reattachment.’ ” — A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green
This excerpt began to run on repeat through my head another 30 minutes down the road when there was an odd clunk and the Beloved immediately pulled the Earl off the highway next to a frozen field and discovered that now 3 of the 5 studs had gone on walkabout, a nonideal ratio to be sure. We did what I have been doing my entire life in crises: we called my dad.
Now behold the goodness of God. While our wheel was certainly making an emphatic effort at resigning from its service to our vehicle (no doubt under the influence of an unscrupulous union rep), it had the decency to wait until we were not atop a mountain, and when we were within driving distance of my parents, and my dad’s brother, Uncle Dan, who thanks to God’s kindness in sending a morning ice storm, was home and able to come look at the car and lead us to his shop, where he fabricates automotive-type things for a living and does all sorts of magic that would make my brain explode.
So we sat pulled off the freeway for almost an hour, admiring the lights that were turning on across the fields as the sky grew darker, laughing about the memories God was giving us to build, nibbling Christmas candy, and mentioning nonchalantly how good it was going to be when we got to a restroom!! My Quail were champs. They did not complain, though they had already been in the car for four hours, and it would be a long, slow drive to my uncle’s and then another hour squished into the 2 vehicles my parents had to bring to fit us in. They laughed with glee over the thick layer of ice that threatened to knock us on our Christmas backsides when we stepped out of the van, because when God sends an ice storm, the correct response is to receive it as the gift that it is.
When we finally made it to my parents’ cozy Christmas house, we were all exhausted and hungry. The Quail ate popcorn and microwaved corn dogs (which are practically a roast goose with chestnut stuffing if you are weary enough), opened their last gift, and collapsed happy into beds and sleeping bags. We inflated an air mattress in the living room, because there is, I suppose, something wrong with me and I turned down a free hotel room in favor of spending every possible minute with my people. Because I miss them. Because the years I will be able to sleep on an air mattress and still move at all in the morning are numbered. Because I have the rest of the year to sleep well, to be smart. It is Christmas. I would rather be happy.
Tomorrow (Lord willing, because you better believe that after this week, I am done making predictions about how I think things will go), I will tell you about Cousinpalooza 2022 and explain why in my mind, this year, Christmas was a kaleidoscope, but for now — Merry Christmas. He is born!