I have always been a task-oriented person, living with lists in my head, living for the addictive high of triumphant crossing off of items on list after list after list. When little or nothing got ticked off, the days were empty and dry and that colored my hours with the ochre of frustration. The Advent list is a formidable one. Every Advent, I’d stand, eyeing the horizon of weeks before me, with a grim determination to find my Christmas joy through the accomplishments of baking, cooking, cleaning, teaching, card-making, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
I could only enjoy my husband and children if the home was in order, and if I had crossed enough off my list for the day.
To slow down, to rest my spirit in the Advent hollows away from worldly winds, has never been easy. I have never really known Advent silence, never fully savoured its sacred fragrance. There was always something or someone from the world to draw me away from the pulse of true Christmas.
And because I’ve never fully stilled my spirit in the deeps of Gloria angel~calls, I never saw that the hearts of my children and husband needed a special infilling of my presence. They yearned a different part of my love, one unsullied by rush, hurry and a crowding of days. More than the number of things I could cook them or do for them, my beautiful loves needed me to rest my heart in them, and not rush off before they had had their fill of me.
But it was a bidding I could never completely fulfil, so deeply enmeshed was I in the web of busyness, woven from the strands of a hundred lists.
Till this year.
The months of seeking inner solitude lit a fresh pink dawn of difference. Ever since this Advent bloomed in the russet beauty of a year slowly edging to its yearned end, I sensed the closing of many doors. So many holiday-things – the books I had hoped to read, the cards I had hoped to make, the writing for my work that always got done in the winding down months of November and December – never materialized or were delayed.
The past few years, I’ve always been brought a book that would take me on an inner retreat, right from the start of Advent. This had been my Lord’s way to prepare my heart and soul for Christmas.
And, this year, like always, I waited for my book.
What came was unexpected. The angels brought me the book of my very own Family.
This Advent, I felt the firm tread of angels into my home, on a mission to take my heart and press it into the folds of my family. Never before have I been ‘buffeted’ from every angle, with family, as I have experienced this year. From the very first Advent morning, my husband and children have been before my eyes like never before. I am loving them and enjoying them and savouring their beauty as something I have always known, yet find new and fresh. I am doing all I have done before – all the cooking, the cleaning and the nurturing, and yet, there is a new lingering in embraces, a calm and happy savouring of little moments, delighting in shy buds of the precious that peek out through the day like tiny tea~roses amongst thorns and leaves alike.
This Advent I learned the languidness that disdains the hurry to rush to the next call of worldly need.
And suddenly, this unhurried loving has opened my eyes to the loving of other families around me. For the first time, I am not only seeing, but also finding life in witnessing the love that binds other parents and grandparents to their children and grandchildren. Where once, seeing this love would have tree-d a wistful ache within me for the same, now my spirit dances joy~swirls as I feast my eyes upon this faithful love of old blooming in other lives.
The love within a family for one another, surpassed only by God’s love for us, dances before my new eyes, in a myriad of moves. The mother-in-law gently caring for her pregnant daughter-in-law. The trusting embrace of children secure in their father’s devotion. Old and worn grandparents giving to the last drop their love and caring for young grandchildren. The firm assurance of love of children leading their aged beloved down the steps, through the sunset of life.
True family love finds its soul through the treasuring of one another. True family love passes through tunnels of sacrifice, to arrive at wide pastures of love, blessed and nourished by the Lord of Love Eternal. Love for one another can never be forged through the absence of sacrifice and savouring. We can never love merely from the pulpit of advices and admonitions, distancing from the rigors of needed sacrifice. We cannot say we love if we are unable to press our own hearts against the little pulses of each family member’s daily journeys.
There is no real love without sacrifice. And when savouring and treasuring is diminished, love is blighted.
We have lost much, my family and I. Many years spent in sorrowful servitude to parents who never knew what love meant. Nothing we did was ever enough for them. Grandparents who never trilled to little stories and small paws seeking old hands. The Baptisms and birthdays they missed and dismissed. Impatience at lives lived in quiet, away from worldly dictates. Mocking of the Holy Family values and simple joys we strived to live by, however imperfectly. We were the country bumpkins they were ashamed of because we eschewed city life and values. Our simplicity embarrassed them. They tried to polish us to fit into their wealthy and sophisticated social circles, but failed.
And with that failure, their contempt knew no bounds.
Yes, our loss has indeed be great, harder, because while they never loved us, we loved them with all our heart.
Adult survivors of Narcissistic personality abuse live with the sneering and twisting voices of our jailers through too much of our lives. To escape, many of us keep busy.
We live for lists. And we live for goals and achievements, because accomplishments hush the contempt of our narcissistic jailers who raised us to believe we were useless and incapable. For many of us, this busyness we escape to, blinds and deafens us to much of the healing beauty and truth in the world.
But this Advent, the bitter potency of what my children and I have endured and lost through narcissistic parents, has slowly begun to mist into oblivion. The sorrowing wounds left behind by countless hackings, washed and bound by lives lived right, by the many people who simply choose to love their children and grandchildren.
It is a choice based on the pure love of God. These good people may not be conscious of it, but it is a fact that when we love with a purity not shadowed by narcissism, we love with the Love of God.
As I watch this love, I realize I have to make a conscious choice to move away from busyness and instead savour and enjoy my family. And when I begin, a miracle pearls in my own life – the miracle of Healing. As I heal, so too my family, through the witness of faithful love of other, true parents and grandparents. All loving their families as it was meant to be. Strangely, although we are not the immediate recipients of this love in other families, just seeing the way they have chosen to love, is streaming life and healing into our own wounds.
I number among those struck blind and deaf from the hurt of abuse by those God chose to be my parents. But I believe in Jesus and Jesus promised that the blind will see and the deaf will hear.
That tender promise is blooming true in me now. Rather than seeking self-worth through accomplishments and meaningless servitude, I am willfully choosing to love and savour my family by lingering in family moments.
And I am healing through each rose~blushed page turned, as I take the time to read my own book of family.