You know how some moments in life stay imbedded in your memory without the benefit of a camera? Or a written account? Or anything else that might freeze them into your story forever?
Well, the Wednesday before Christmas was one of those moments for me.
For several days prior, we had been in the throes of taking Snowy to and from the vet and trying to figure out what was going on with him. I had gotten a preliminary phone report on him earlier that day but (as I wrote earlier), I received a second call during our family dinner on Wednesday night saying that he was “beyond treatment and we should just enjoy the time we had left with him.”
It was a call that reduced me to tears—many, many tears. It was a call that produced this pile of Kleenex on my dinner plate.
But tears are okay. Tears are good. As Sarah said when she was a little girl, “Tears let the hurt leak out.”
However, those particular tears tended to not be quite as good because they decided to gush from my eyes just forty-five minutes before I was due to play the piano for our annual candlelight communion service.
Also, in the case of those particular tears, I had just done my makeup twenty minutes before they arrived on the scene. And tears and makeup don’t usually co-exist very peaceably.
After the phone call, and the crying, and the building of the Kleenex pile, I left the kids to clear the table and ran upstairs to completely re-do my makeup and change clothes. Halfway through the process of talking Cover Girl into covering my teary, weary face, Steve walked into the bathroom and said something compassionate to me--as he is wont to do. Well, that did me in entirely and the next thing I knew, he was hugging me and I was sobbing yet again.
And the makeup I had just that moment applied? It was gone, gone, gone. Again.
By this point, I had just a very few minutes to try and regain my composure, apply some makeup that would actually stay put, and get myself over to the church.
(Just as a side note: I know that Steve and the congregation would have completely understood if I had just said, “Sorry, I can’t be there. I’m just too emotional.” I know that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if everyone had to sing the Christmas carols acappella instead of being accompanied by my piano playing, However, this particular candlelight service is so meaningful to our family, and to the congregation as a whole. I didn’t want to miss out on the evening, especially since Nathan was in town and could attend it with us.)
So I took the deepest of deep breaths and called on ye olde Cover Girl one more time. My face looked like a wreck: nose red, eyes even redder, cheeks puffy, mascara smeared--not the most inspiring sight. But then it occurred to me that I would mainly be viewed by candlelight so I thought maybe I could get by without causing too much alarm among our dear congregants.
Steve had gone to the church a few minutes earlier, so I gathered up Sarah and Nathan, took one last deep breath, tried to locate my emotional equilibrium and drove to church. My immediate temptation was to run into the building and hide in a corner until it was time to go to the piano, but instead I walked around, shook hands, gave (and received) hugs and chatted with all the people who were gathering. And though I still felt a little tremulous, it really lifted my spirits to spend just a few moments with those sweet folks.
Thankfully, I made it through the three opening Christmas carols with only a few precarious moments when the tears once more threatened to burst forth. After the singing was done, I went out and sat with the congregation as Steve prepared to read a story about Christmas. Easing into my place on the second row between Nathan and Sarah and sinking back into the pew, I was grateful I had made it that far without a public meltdown.
As Steve began to read, I relaxed a little and allowed the serenity of the lovely surroundings to creep into the corners of my heart. The lights were dimmed and most of the illumination came from a large single candle and the white lights that ran through the exquisite Christmas decor that covered the stage.
Suddenly, without even knowing I was doing it, I let out a huge, shaky sigh of sadness.
And of peace.
The sigh must have been a little louder than I realized because Nathan immediately glanced over and cast a concerned, sonly look at my face. And then without the slightest hesitation, he reached over and put his arm around my shoulder and held on tight. At the same moment, Sarah (sitting on my other side), grabbed my hand, and laid her head on my shoulder.
And there I sat.
Surrounded by the lights and loveliness of Christmas. Warmed by the voice of my wonderful husband as he read. Cocooned in the love and comfort of my sweet children. Thankful for the Prince of Peace who had come to earth and was even then drawing near to a pastor’s wife with a weeping heart.
It was a memorable Christmas season in so many ways and I got several special gifts. However, nothing I received could ever measure up to the gift of peace that was presented to me in that quiet candlelit moment when my heart was so tenderly cared for . . . between the hurt and the healing.