The Christmas Alarm


A new frame holds an old picture on my chest of drawers. Smiles beam on their young faces. Oldest has his arms wrapped around mother and father. Youngest holds on tight to mother. Mother and daughter’s hands intertwined. The photo speaks of promise and hope. Dreams and the unknown.

TIME rushes like a racing train through a tunnel as the voice of my youngest pierces the silence. I am no longer the young daughter clinging tightly to my mother. I am now the mother.

How is it that TIME can suddenly go off like an alarm – causing me to sit up and in the haze of sleepiness, wonder where I am and how I got here?

Later, I sink into the old worn pews with my oldest. Leaning against me, he stands as he cranes to see the sights and sounds. Curiosity fills his eyes as he watches the children sing. Nervous enthusiasm bubbles over from the children. They sing and dance and read. My mind races back to the many years ago when I stood in the exact same spot. I can close my eyes and feel the bow in my hair. I can turn and catch glimpses of my peers. I see our parents in the pews. I remember the glee and innocence of it all.

When my oldest starts speaking too loudly, I jolt back to reality. The memory escapes and TIME’s presence catches up with me. I am no longer that little girl. My community of peers is scattered… Portland, New York City, Durham, Washington, D.C., and across Texas in ashes.

Like an alarm set on an annual repeat, the Christmas Alarm seems to go off every year.

TIME turns on the lights and wakes me up. I rise to realize that life is passing.  Life has past.  Years have moved forward. I see all that TIME has given in the faces of my young boys.  I see all that TIME has taken away as I look at the pew next to me.

I remember Christmas’ past.

…sitting atop the steps waiting to come down on Christmas morning
…squeezed into the crook of my dad’s arm with my brother on the other side as my dad reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
…passing the light from candle to candle on Christmas Eve as Silent Night echoes against the stone walls of the sanctuary
…crowded rooms at the home of family friends when friendship feels magical and sacred

TIME breaks my heart.
TIME breaks my heart open.

In the open spaces, TIME gives birth to a new heart.
…a new heart that treasures the old for its joy, grieves its passing, AND YET steps into the promise of a new day and looks ahead to the MORE of tomorrow.

I pause.and.give.thanks for TIME and all its gifts. I give thanks for the Christmas Alarm that calls me to attention.  And the children beckon me back to the present with requests for fruit snacks and cries to be picked up. And I hum James Taylor to remind myself…“the secret of life is enjoying the passage of TIME.”

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