by Jenny Hill
Jenny is an elementary school librarian, a great friend of mine, and one of my heroes. She writes poignant essays about her full life, which includes cerebral palsy. She blogs here, and you can follow her on twitter here.
We were asked at church to submit a photo and caption answering this question, “How do you want Christmas to be different this year?” This was my response:
I want to stop white-knuckling my way through December long enough to actually slow down and enjoy it.
And then, it happened.
I was forced to loosen my death grip on my precious calendar December 4th. I had been asked to speak to some students and mentors at church about disability. So I spent much of Thanksgiving weekend preparing, delighting in the anticipation of sharing on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. If any of you speak, you know what it is to carry a message; you live with it; it grows in you until it’s time to deliver.
But, it snowed that night and the event was cancelled. I spent the evening by the fire writing, pondering my disappointment.
I’m still learning from this situation, but among other things, I’ve been asking these questions:
What if I let myself be interrupted? (Yuck.)
What if I was willing to loosen the grip on my calendar creating space for God to do work in my life that I can’t plan, and maybe, at first glance, don’t even like? (Let’s be honest, this still feels uncomfortable. I’m cringing as I write it.)
What would it be like to slow down this season and actually look for God at work in my life; to experience Emmanuel?
It happened when I didn’t want to go for a walk that afternoon because it was so cold, but my body seemed to groan from all the sitting I did that day, so I relented. I pulled on extra layers, but they didn’t seem like enough as my fingers were still chilled 20 minutes in. Gradually, my body started to warm. The sun peeked through the clouds in an encore of brilliance for the day. It shown down; I felt warm and embraced. My heart poured forth a spontaneous expression, “Thank you God for this moment.”
This is Emmanuel: God with us bringing light and warmth.
It happened late Sunday afternoon while grocery shopping at Target. I was headed home to eat dinner alone as I prepared to face another week. My cell phone rang: Teresa. “Come over for dinner! I’m making your favorite, cheesy potatoes.” Suddenly my loneliness was interrupted by company: my niece’s smiles, warm dinner conversations, and a walk through the neighborhood to see the lights.
This is Emmanuel: God with us bringing comfort and joy.
It happened in church on a Friday night. I had had a disappointing week, so while everyone stood to sing, I remained sitting. I didn’t have much praise inside of me. My throat was dry from crying that afternoon, so I let myself be silent. Grief has introduced me to the Man of Sorrows, and in that moment, I turned my face towards Him. I imagined Jesus sitting in the chair next to me, holding my hand, whispering His truth. Light has come into the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
This is Emmanuel: God with us bringing us the Light of His Word.
It happens in the morning when I steal just a few more minutes wrapped in my prayer shawl while the candle is lit. It’s like an extra hug from the Almighty before heading out the door. It happens while driving to work. I turn the music up loud. My car transforms into a sanctuary. The space fills up with sound as my heart fills up with joy. As I finish up singing, We’ll praise your name forever..and put my car in park, I’m ready to face a new day.
This is Emmanuel: God with us bringing His presence into our praise.
Where have you seen Emmanuel this season?