Christmas Traditions

3:00 AM.  December 15, 1986.  Reality could no longer be dodged, escaped, or veiled.

My mom was dead.  Finally.  My dad shook me awake in the wee hours of the morning to tell me that my mom was gone – finally succumbing to the cancer that had raped her daily, body and soul, for the past three years.  I was truly never as alone as I was in that very moment – and I relive it every Christmas.

ImageChristmas was ours!  Steel Magnolias claimed blush and bashful – but my mom and I besieged the Christmas colors.  We themed our house every Christmas.  One year everything was red.  Everything.  Our lights, our ornaments, our tinsel…it looked like our house was ablaze.  One year it was country Christmas.  Every night for a week we strung cranberries and popcorn for the tree.  All of our ornaments were carefully crocheted…by the wonderful elves on aisle 10 at Wal-Mart  We used bubble lights to mimic candles.  And I made fun of Mom because she wouldn’t use real candles on a dried-up, dead cedar tree.  

ImageA few years ago I tried the theme thing again.  I bought a cadre of pink and purple decorations (they were on sale after Christmas!) and I decorated our sad little silver tinsel tree.  It was a valiant, albeit hollow, attempt to reclaim Christmas from the inevitable sorrow I feel every year as it approaches.  That tacky little tree provided a lot of laughter for our family….and though it was the ugliest thing ever, my mom would have loved hearing my boys laugh.

For the first time, that Christmas, I realized that our tradition wasn’t about a beautiful tree (thank goodness, because that thing looked like the 80’s threw up all over it!)  It was about a beautiful life.  It was one way my mom kept me close as I strained to grow up and get away.  It was her chance to recapture the heart of her son.  The theme was never, for her, about how we decorated our home.  The theme was sharing those moments with me.

Today I am thinking of the kids in Newtown, CT – the ones who are waking up with dads who have no clue how to help sustain them through their sorrow.  The ones who will graduate, go to college, meet their sweetheart, marry and have children, and grow up….all without their watchful, wonderful eye of their mothers.  The ones whose Christmas traditions will never be the same, no matter how deeply they long to recapture those moments.

That morning – the day that 3:00 AM bomb was dropped on my home – I got in my car and went to my youth pastor’s house.  I remember ringing his doorbell under the deep darkness that settles in just before dawn and collapsing in his arms – a puddle of pure, raw, ugly, emotional anguish – as he opened the door to his home and heart.  I don’t remember one word he said to me that night – only that he opened the door.

I am praying today for the families in Newtown – for the ones who are ringing the doorbells…and the ones who are opening the doors.


You Look Hungry

blurb-UF-issue-01-coverA few weeks ago, a new magazine hit the interwebs.  :)

I wrote one of the feature articles for the inaugural edition.  It’s probably generated the most response (to me, personally) that I have ever had on anything I’ve written — ever — even that stupid term paper in cadet teaching in high school that almost got me kicked out of the class!

We all fight our demons.  You can catch a glimpse of some of mine in this magazine…and it’s on sale today!  UNFILTERED

Here’s an excerpt from my feature – there are some other amazing authors in this first issue, as well.  Brandon Early writes about the trauma of miscarriage.  Rebecca Hug talks about being single.  And I talk about being fat.  You can read it all (and all the issues to come this year) for just 5 bucks!   Subscribe today~


hungry_artI’m fat. Not fluffy. Not big-boned. Not husky. Just plain old, unadulterated fat. I’ll be the last to starve in a famine. I’ll be the first to float in a water evacuation. And the insulation I wear should keep me warm, comfortable, and well-fed should my GPS ever direct my car into a snow bank in the mountains in the middle of December.

A few years ago I was on staff retreat with the other pastors at my church.  We stopped at a local restaurant in the town we were ‘retreating’ in and were seated.  Seated around the large, circular table, we probably looked like one of those Darwin theory photos, only instead of the progressions from Neanderthal to upright walker, this poster was about the progression of weight gain.  Our super fit pastor, our normal looking associate, a few of the guys with a little bit of ‘middle’….and me.  The waitress came by to take our order…perfectly, Southernly engaging…calling us all varying names for Sugar, Sweetie, and the like.  She took each pastor’s order and then came to me.  “And how ‘bout you, Hun – you look hungry.”  The entire table erupted in laughter – how does one ‘look’ hungry, exactly?  What she was trying to say was ‘Hey, jackwagon, you’re fat so you probably eat a lot – let me take your order.’  I teased back.  “Are you trying to say I’m fat – because usually skinny people would be the ones who actually LOOK hungry.”

Been doing that for years…laughing off my weight.  Making a joke before someone else has a chance to.  Laughing at myself to drown out the laughter of others.  But it’s really not funny anymore.

Looking back, I haven’t always had a problem with my weight…but I always THOUGHT I did.  I was a pudgy kid.  So even when I thinned out in high school, I still saw myself as a fat kid.  So I have spent years gaining and losing and gaining and losing and gaining and gaining…until I have successfully landed at well over 300 pounds.  All joking aside – that’s just not funny.  Or healthy.

In this journey, I’ve learned some things about myself that many people attribute to fatties…..


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