The Ghost of Christmas present
I count myself a pretty good "planner."
I'm the friend who secures the hotel, finds things to do and the best restaurants when in a group. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT ask me to drive the group, but when we get there, I'm your gal.
Happy Saturday friends.
This season is alllll about the planning.
Planning meals, planning activities and for suresies planning the gifts.
This activity needs appetizers, prompting you to search your "saved" items on instagram where you keep earth shattering ideas you will most likely will never in your life even buy the ingredients to make.
Then there's the gift exchanges where you half want to bring something funny, but don't want to be that "guy" who goes home with a bunch of wood because someone thought they were being smart in donating a "gift" with no boll weevils so that it's "safe" to transfer and burn in the peacefulness of your own home.
Yes, I have been that person going home with a lovely bag of wood.
Is it terrible to say that I may have actually wanted to have the boll weevils instead?
Oddly enough that's not exactly the worst gift I have ever received at Christmas time....
There was one date in college that still leaves me speechless.
But that's for another ghost of Christmas "past' post.
No bones about it, Christmas time is planning time.
And if you aren't planning you will notice it most in your bank account.
"Fa la la la la, financial ruin."
I did a little planning of my own weeks ago and secured my Sweetheart and I an official date night out.
I was like a little Christmas sprite preparing a secret time away, swiping my debit card for a night at the Cleveland Orchestra and I'm pretty sure an angelic chorus sang as I picked the seat seven rows back.
I mean, SEVEN ROWS?
The number of completion.
It was going to be a complete masterpiece of romance and song, the entrance of this season with a magical "bow."
No frantic hustle and bustle for this couple.
We would dress to the "nines," eat amazing food and wonder how anyone on earth could become a "Scrooge," or "Grinch" this time of year.
The tickets came in a specially marked envelope that had ANOTHER envelope inside with our seating information.
Oooooo, how fancy! An envelope INSIDE an envelope.
I ordered a Christmas dress, oh yes did.
No last year's clothing for THIS night.
The children were leaving to go carol- spreading cheer- and I in my new dress and Pa in his red sweater were just about to leave for the night of the year.
And then we realized we needed to pick up my inhaler before the pharmacy closed.
Not a bother!
Except that we both forgot to bring our wallets.
A simple oversight!
Back to the house we went.
Off we were in a flash, until what to our wondering eyes did appear but a miniature sign showing we didn't have gas.
Sure the gas station had only a few working pumps and sure it was ten cents cheaper across the street, but this.is.not.a.problem!
It wasn't even a problem that now that we've made two stops we needed to order our food ahead because on a Friday evening they would of course be packed in the restaurant we love.
Nor was it uncomfortable when picking up said food to eat it a block away at our other favorite coffee joint while splitting a cappuccino to make sure we had time to get to the concert.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
We took the obligatory picture in front of the beautiful Christmas tree and headed to find our seats.
There was a large group scanning their tickets ahead of us and when it was our turn the hostess just waved us on telling us that we were good to go.
We took a moment to inform her that we were not with the large group, but she assured us that our tickets were scanned and we could enter the auditorium.
Happily we obliged and found row H and seats 311 and 12.
The lights are dimming and folks are still meandering in when we stand to allow an adorable young couple to find their seats. They pass us casually to the left and sit.
I notice that my husband and the man begin casual conversation. This is my husband. He's a casual conversation kinda guy.
He's actually a casual conversation to deep soul searching conversation and then to problem points conversation kinda guy but that's a whole other post.
Both of them grab their tickets.
I smirk. "There's are printed off of their home computer. How cute. Our had two envelopes.."
They begin exchanging numbers.
Hold on, I mean we just met these people. Let's not be too chummy.
Oh, SEAT numbers.
Well they must be mistaken. I mean things are getting ready to start.
We've passed the scanner lady and everything.
And there it was.
We both had the very same exact seats.
For the very same Christmas concert.
ONE WEEK APART.
It was like very bad deja vu.
I'm gonna let YOU guess who was a whole week EARLY.
Go ahead. I'll sip some tea while you think a bit.
When our fine neighbor puts his finger on the date portion of our magic-filled tickets I kid you not the conductor comes out and we all just begin clapping because clapping will solve everything that is wrong with this moment.
What began as a free-spirited time now has me all kinds of anxious in the wrong seat at the wrong concert on the WRONG DAY FOR PETE'S SAKE.
All of a sudden every noise has me jumping out of my seat to relinquish what moments earlier was for sure mine and only mine.
Now I'm a nicely dressed fraud waiting for the police to come and cart me out with handcuffs.
And here's what was actually awe inspiring,
My husband, God bless him, just began getting into the concert and I know for a fact that his blood pressure didn't even "bounce" out of normal range. Not for a minute even!
My pupils are dilated, my hands and just about everything that can be sweaty IS sweaty and I cannot keep from sporadically looking to the right with a death stare waiting for a billy club.
No joke, the orchestra played the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," and I was ready to dance myself right on outta there.
The gas stop, the inhaler stop, the wallet stop, the flurry of fast eating and no room at the restaurant all slipped into my emotional tank at one moment and let's just say things were already squished in there.
The "hopes and fears of all the years" just sat on me that night.
It's so funny because it's so true.
In that moment I was still guilty from the pack of gum I stole from the "Uncle Bill's" store when I was seven.
Here's the absolute crazy thing.
NO ONE ever came for those seats that our now BFF's were sitting in.
Not even after Santa himself came and paid the audience a visit.
And I twitched a bit when he mentioned the naughty list and looked our direction.
People came for the seats behind us, in front of us, and as providence would have it more people moved around our section than in the last ten years.
I'm thoroughly convinced of that fact.
But NOT A ONE came for those seats.
I had practiced my, "I am SO SORRY I even have bifocals and looked at this ticket three times before coming," speech several times and never even needed it.
It wasn't until the beginning solo of the most endearing rendition I have ever laid my ears on of, "In the Bleak Midwinter" that my heart finally got a hold of my hay-wired brain and steered it back to the present.
"What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart."
And it washed over me as it has so many times over these many years as such an emotional creature,
God just wants to settle our hearts in every single solitary earthly situation.
He wants to rule and reign in the space he most desires.
And even though my whole spirit was feeling akin to "The Bleak Bahamas," I just sat and sighed and let my husband's cool hand in mine remind me that all really is well.
What years previous would have caused me to bite my entire bottom lip off, a few nails and for sure hide somewhere in a bathroom, was stilled in the middle of a song about giving every single thing you posses to the Lord who owns it all anyway.
He doesn't come and ask us for fancy, for new dresses, for perfect dinners and Instagram moments.
He just wants us to hand him our ordinary and enjoy to the fullest the gift of being present with him in every good and hard and silly and in between.
The concert was beautiful.
It really was a capstone for this time when we desire to slow and just sink into what a gift Christ's coming really is to us.
I for one needed a heavy reminder to just sit.
Drink in the present joys that only come from a deep knowing that Christ is in us and for us and has come to give us life more abundantly.
There are ghosts that say that we are too busy to stop and reign in our worries, cares and feelings. We cannot possibly find peace in the present.
In the presence of the Lord.
But we know that to be just a shadow of doubts.
We also know that we really should've apologized to the dear woman sitting to my right who caught my crazy-eyed stares every time footsteps came our direction.
Yeah, sorry about that. You really looked great.