My mama, she labors off and on for three years to make something beautiful for me, her one daughter. She chooses colors no one would expect but she picks them out because it's me she's choosing to celebrate.
And maybe these colors don't whisper Christmas to anyone but me, but Christmas, it's always meant Joy to me--and who can resist celebrating the birth of Grace Himself with colors that seem to shout, "Rejoice!"?
For long months my mama works, cutting strips and sewing seams, then ripping them all out again. She wants everything to be perfect and she's determined to do it as many times as it takes--but all of us, we start to wonder if there'll ever be an end.
She covers the back in the deepest shade of purple because it's the color I've loved the longest, and she spends months figuring out how to surround the edges in snowy white because it's what I've dreamed of and she's not giving up until she's found a way.
And the very last part? All these tiny stitches quilting everything together? She finds the idea in the middle of the night and it means ripping out more stitches than ever before but she presses on and believes that somehow it will all be worth it.
She finishes five weeks before the third Christmas since she began, and when I lay it out on the floor, I see her love there in every little detail.
And maybe she didn't choose the daughter who'd be born to her but I know it now that she chose to love the daughter I am from the moment I was given--and is there really any way to say thanks for that kind of gift?
She asks if I'd let her use this piece of beauty around her tree this year because she knows I haven't got a tree or even a home now. And who wants to pack up the long labor in a box where no one will see?
But my heart, it aches a little thinking about the home I've lost and the future I'm unsure of, and I think it might just be easier to slip this gift in with the rest of the things I've stored and hope that next year I might have a place to call home, a place to let the joy colors come out of hiding.
I see it in her face, though--the disappointment after all the months of work. And I feel the weight of that, too, right along with my own grieving and I have to breathe through a few more days before I know what's right.
Because the sadness of loss, it creeps up sometimes and whispers that it might be better to slip Joy into a back corner. But it's not just these colors shouting "Rejoice!" It's Him, too, isn't it?
This life lived in between what's been torn down and what's yet to be built, sometimes it feels all wrong. But God, He's not just here in the beginning and the ending. He's right in the middle of all the in-betweens, too. And aren't we celebrating the One Who was born oh so far from Home anyway?
So I put on silly slippers beneath serious pants...
...and we hang a garland of color along the fireplace bricks...
...and slip grandmother-sewn stockings onto hooks across the mantle.
But then we start to adorn the tree that isn't mine, in the house that isn't mine either, and it's only a few minutes before one shiny green ball slips straight from my hands and shatters all to pieces on the floor. And the ache roars strong and I shut my eyes tight, because all I want to do is gather up everything beautiful and pack it safely away in boxes again, hide it in a place where life can't break it anymore.
Still, I know this more than I know most things--the way all the Beauty and Glory and God can't be tucked out of sight, the way Joy breaks into pieces sometimes, leaving us wishing for a safety and certainty we can't seem to find.
But God, He's Joy and He's been the One broken to pieces for us and He's calling us to live with the hands stretched open, all His Grace filling us up and overflowing straight into the world.
So I breathe through the aching and swallow down the tears and choose to fill empty spaces with shiny orbs of joy, all the colors reflecting this one word: Rejoice!
And that circle of love surrounds the base of the tree and ties everything together--because God, He's Love and He's the anchor that holds us down when we're afraid we might be torn right from the ground.
I don't know how He'll rebuild a life but I'm certain He'll do it and I've only this one thing to do in the waiting: Rejoice!
Because God, He left everything to find me and He offered Himself up for the worst kind of breaking because of the joy He knew would come on the other side. And didn't He die so that I'd know that Joy? The Joy of redemption, of reconciliation, of life as it was intended to be all along?
So I'll choose Joy here. I'll choose Him in the waiting and the wondering and it won't just be all these colors shouting, "Rejoice!"
Because I'll be saying it, too.