It was a sing-a-long.
I was nearly the first person in line as I headed to the stage in acceptance of the Band Director’s invitation to join him and the students for a Christmas sing-a-long. I wanted my place behind our daughter’s chair so much so that I hurried, lyrics in hand, to secure a spot for me and my husband who was somewhere in the crowd behind me.
As I stepped behind our daughter’s chair, I leaned down to kiss the top of her head and murmured “I love you”. The black podium positioned in front of her held a sheet of musical notes that looked complex and indiscernible to me and yet to her, was a sweet and fluid language which allowed her to give from a bounty of love and beauty within her.
The Director took his place on his wooden block in front of the band, his arms raised to beckon the student’s attention. With a wave of his hands they lifted their instruments and waited patiently. A second wave of his hands and the music began.
The harmony was beautiful. I surveyed the crowd in front of me as everyone began to sing. Seated with her were her friends, some of which she has known since her elementary years. Behind them stood some of their parents, my friends, whom have shared their children’s lives with me and I with them.
Our daughter played her clarinet, her fingers finding the notes effortlessly (or so it seemed). I joined a multitude to sing, my voice loud with praise, unashamed and undaunted, a vocal celebration of my redeeming heart full of gratitude and praise…
“Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love”
The song, the music, the friends and people from different cultures stood on the stage of a public school as generations came together in song. For a few minutes, we detached from whatever circumstances our individual lives held and we sang with one voice in celebration of the season.
The music ended and I returned to my chair enjoying the remnant of the unexpected gift of praise inserted into my evening.
Later that evening, concert over and pajamas on, my daughter and I sat in the warmth of our living room illumined by the light of the fire. Gratitude journal in hand, I began to list the things I was grateful for in my day. Our daughter and my husband joined me and each of us shared one thing we were grateful for, a precious moment of being present together in gratitude.
This Christmas, I am choosing to insert sacred rest stops throughout my day to survey life through the filter of gratitude. I am choosing to slow the hurried pace and push the pause button to capture what I have when I have it. I am experiencing God’s presence and love in the most unexpected ways:
The joy of a daughter’s music.
The excitement of preparing a celebration for our son’s graduation from college.
The opportunity to join the fight against human trafficking as a Red Tent Living Team member for Dressember.
A gift of medicine to fight an infection.
Sharing tears with sisters and moving boxes in painful acceptance of the changing health of a loved one.
A janitor sweeping the hospital elevator – comfort in the midst of visiting an ailing friend.
The warmth of a friend’s presence in prayer.
My list is exhaustive. Even on hard days, when the suffering and struggles of this world are more evident through events that look complex and indiscernible to me, I am most grateful that I do not have to understand God’s ways or take responsibility to figure things out. I can rest in faith that God has everything under control.
“Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right.”
Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins
This is the gift of truth and grace: I do not have to hurry through life working to secure happiness or safety for myself or others.
I can rest in the promises of God because in Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” (2 Cor. 1:20). In him, our spots are secure in our eternal Kingdom. Joy to the World.
This is the stuff that propels a woman to hurry to a stage to join a sing-a-long in praise and celebration of our faithful God who has given us the most incredible wonder of His love in the birth of Jesus.
Contagious hope is rising on the winds of gratitude this Christmas.
May God bless you with desire to enjoy sacred rest stops of your own this season and may you too experience Hope rising on the winds of gratitude for the wonders of His love.
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.