See her, that little girl in the photo?
The one with the twinkling eyes and the sweet smile of anticipation and wonder? About 30 years ago, that was me. Judging on the carpet and the fact that I have a pacifier, I’d say I was about 2 years old and while I don’t remember anything about this picture now, it was probably the first Christmas where I really understood some of what was going on.
I love this picture. I love what I’m wearing and the look on my face. I love that somewhere in my parents’ basement, that doll baby bed still holds a doll. I love that I can still see bits and pieces of myself in that little girl. And if I had a few words to say to her, here’s what they would be:
1. Don’t let the wonder of Christmas pass you by.
Back then, Christmas was about twinkling lights and candlelight, hymns and Christmas carols. It was about seeing family, good food, gifts, and fun. It was about a Baby in a manger and peace on earth. As a kid, I remember sitting in the darkened living room lit only by the twinkling lights of the tree and marveling at the beauty of it all, loving the perfect stillness of those moments. So often now, I’m bustling around from one place to the next trying to get everything done by Christmas, trying to make everyone happy. If I could give that little girl advice now, I’d tell her to make time to sit in the dark by the Christmas tree and remember. I’d tell her to sing Christmas carols while she cooked supper. I’d tell her to gaze up at the stars on clear cold nights and think about the star that led Wise Men to the Christ Child, to revel in the quiet peacefulness of a snow-covered world. I’d tell her to get lost in the Story and remember. I’d tell her to hold on to that wonder with all she’s got—to not forget that God does the impossible—no matter how hard the world tries to rip it away.
2. Cherish every moment.
That little girl just knew that Christmas was fun and that her family loved her. She didn’t realize that there would be a day when she had no grandparents left. When she sometimes felt alone in the crowd because she was the only one who wasn’t married. When the traditions and the way her family had always done Christmas would be shifting and changing and it would feel different and weird and she would long for the old even as she enjoyed the new. That little girl didn’t know the reality of grief, the devastation of heartbreak and disappointment, or that it’s possible to feel joy in the middle of a rough time. If I could, I’d tell her to cherish those moments and ponder them in her heart. I’d tell her to sit with her Grandma Polly on the piano bench at her aunt and uncle’s and help her open her gifts. I’d tell her to hug her Grandma Ruby and tell her she loved her every chance she got, because at some point, those chances run out. I’d tell her to not spend her time feeling sorry for herself and instead to focus on all the blessing she has and to bless others through joy and service. Cherish every moment; cherish EVERY moment.
3. Don’t lose focus.
For that little girl, Christmas was a whole lot of glitz, glam, and gifts and very little Jesus. If I could give her any advice about that, I’d tell her not to lose focus in the bustle of the season. Amid the glitter and busyness and commercialism, I’d tell her to focus on Jesus. To read the story once again with wonder. To remember. To trust. To believe. That God does the impossible. That God loves her—and that that love is so amazing she couldn’t stop the overwhelming wave of it if she tried. And no matter how many times she tells God she’s not worth it, He won’t ever stop loving her. I’d tell that little girl to look at the tiny plastic nativity set given to her long ago and remember the lengths God has taken to show His love and to write His story of redemption. A child in a manger. A Man dying on a cross. An empty tomb. A Risen Savior. Don’t lose focus.