I was reading recently about WWI and about the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was a little over 4 months into the war when on December 7th, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war in order to celebrate Christmas. Although the warring countries refused any official cease-fire, on Christmas Day the soldiers in the trenches decided to declare their own unofficial truce.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, the sound of German and British troops singing Christmas carols to each other could be heard from across enemy lines. On Christmas Day, German soldiers emerged from the trenches, crossed through no-man’s-land, (a desolate area comprised mostly of decay and rotting corpses) and approached the Allied lines while calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
The news sears its images into my head and slices my heart into tiny little pieces. Twenty six of them to be exact. The concrete steps that led them towards Light are now darkened by the shadow of death. As a hallelujah chorus began to ring out, the sound of gunfire drowned it out, bullets spraying over a congregation that would exchange their celebration song for cries of mercy.
Lying mangled on the floor are lives and hope extinguished.
And we rush to make sense of it all. To tidy it up and put a label on it so that we can process it and move on. We’re always so ready to move on.
Our giant oak tree came down today.
The city sent out a crew, on our request, to take out the gigantic tree that sits near the road and is eating into our driveway. Standing on our sidewalk, all you can see for blocks is an army of trees lining the boulevard, standing tall and proud, keeping guard like a watchman.
It’s a beautiful stretch of foliage that in the summer gives way to a canopy of lush green leaves and in the fall, with the late afternoon sun gently resting on them, takes your breath away with the dazzling hues of crimson red, golden yellow and burnt orange. Honestly, I will miss the grand old oak. But we have had too many close calls and several accidents involving people trying to back out of our driveway. It was starting to impede with everyday life.
Good-bye sweet girl.
These are the words that were silently spoken by my heart this morning as I watched my daughter leave for school.
I stood there, from our front door, watching her walk away. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The chilly air kissed my face and my bare feet were planted on the cold, wet concrete steps. My heart felt like it was stuck in my throat and tears, like prisoners, tried escaping down my cheek. All at once it felt like a decade had passed me by in the blink of an eye.
Today my baby is 10.
I remember the days, they don’t seem all that long ago now, when I would find myself dreaming of a time when my kids would be more independent. I remember anticipating the days where all three of my children would be able to feed themselves, get dressed on their own, and do basic hygiene without any help from their mama. And I realize, a little despairingly now, that my dreams have come true.
So, I’m turning the big “40” here in a few days and while this milestone birthday can be a bit depressing for many, I find myself excited for this next decade and all that it will hold. Honestly, turning 30 was kind of hard for me. And yet, as leery as I was heading into those years, some of my greatest personal growth occurred during that time. Here are a few things I have worked hard at in the last decade that have also enriched my life immensely.
1.) Girlfriends that love fiercely.
One of the best things about being this age is that I’ve learned how to choose well when it comes to my friendships. I’ve discovered that great friendships don’t just materialize, they are made. It takes time and energy to form a deep and lasting friendship. A friendship that’s worth anything to you has undoubtedly endured misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a few bumps and bruises along the way. But that’s what makes them so valuable. You’ve invested your time and a decent amount of work into the relationship. You’ve taken risks and have shared vulnerable moments together. If it’s a truly deep friendship you have probably had to lovingly correct, ask for forgiveness and possibly even work through moments of jealousy. But strong, healthy friendships go there. They do the hard, deep work because they know the reward is worth it. These friendships, the ones that love fiercely, that go the extra mile and are committed to digging in and doing the hard work when life calls for it, these are amongst the sweetest gifts God gives.