beach

A Hallmark Christmas in the Making

Our early December in Avon, North Carolina has had the charm of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

There are a few exceptions, of course.

…We didn’t end up here accidentally.

….We’re not snowed in or trapped here by inclement weather. 

…We didn’t start out hating Christmas or each other.

…We aren’t estranged from anyone.

But it has had all the smiles, warmth, and spirit of a good Christmas movie.

Imagine the scene — a remote fishing/ surfing village on a sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean — almost as far out as you can go on a little strip of sand.

All the tourists have gone home.

Many of the small shops and local restaurants have closed for the season.

Most of the beach houses around us are vacant.

We are usually the only two people on the beach.

There are no malls, no Santas, no professionally decorated trees, houses or excessive light shows in sight.

No snow, no crowds, no hustle or bustle.

Just the ocean, a few select cafes and speciality shops, Doug and me.

When we go to dinner, we are usually the only two people in a modest, dimly lit, locally owned restaurant.

We linger over dinner and watch the sunset while listening to the quiet hum of Christmas music.

And we talk about Christmas — not about what gifts to buy or how to keep everyone entertained but about the Christ child.

Last night, Doug said, “Sometimes when I think about the story of Christ’s birth, I get emotional wondering what it was like in heaven when God sent that little baby to earth. Were they joyful? What was happening there when the Christmas story unfolded here?”

We wonder about that for a minute and realize that we are feeling the Christmas spirit envelop us in this cozy little spot by the sea.

We think the warmth of the environment and the laid back vibe allow for it and even seem to invite it.

We start imagining coming back another year with our family for a simple, scaled-back Avon Christmas.

We imagine all of us leaving the hubbub of our normal Christmas celebrations — the parties, the shopping, the rushing from here to there, the decorating — all of it.

We dream of Christmas here in this quaint, quiet little village where conversations about Christ and the real meaning of Christmas come easier because there is time for conversation and contemplation.

We are not in a hurry to go anywhere, do anything. It’s a luxury we don’t always enjoy in December.

We imagine our family exploring the beach with us — finding shells for ornaments, and decorating a live Christmas tree from the tree lot down the street while listening to Annie and Josh sing Christmas carols while playing their ukuleles.

We imagine them coming with us to walk the streets in the little seaside town of Manteo, NC where Christmas lights are strewn randomly across city streets and where Christmas decorations consist of street lamp lights in the shapes of anchors, fish, and stars.

We imagine a day trip on the ferry to Ocracoke where we just enjoy the sights of the sea and then browse through the surf shop as the only customers of the day.

We imagine taking the ferry back and savoring the sunset, the water splashing up onto the ferry, and the cold wind on our faces. 

We imagine it because it’s been our experience for the last few weeks and we want to share it.

We feel like we have been living in a Hallmark movie where everyone feels restored, happy, spiritually fed and content just sipping on a hot cup of cocoa and appreciating the peace and beauty of the holiday season.

We imagine all of this being enough for Christmas — maybe more than enough.

We’ll be leaving this piece of paradise in a few days and returning to the excitement of a traditional Christmas with all the fun of shopping, presents, lights and baking, but for now, we are soaking up a different kind of kickoff to the holidays and dreaming of doing it all again next year.

Change, Family, Religion

Rising After a Fall

 

Today as I left my house to go for a walk in the woods, I noticed the tiny buds on our magnolia tree and a few blossoms.

 

Spring is trying to happen, I thought, as I walked down the driveway, bundled in my fleece jacket and gloves.

 

As I walked along the trail, I saw a robin perched on a limb, its bright color a beautiful contrast to the brown, leafless trees.

Sure sign of Spring - Robin - Bird
Sure sign of Spring – Robin – Bird (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Spring will come, I thought. After every long, cold winter, spring always comes.

 

It just always seems to take a little longer than we think it should.

 

Like life, so like life.

 

Change, improvement, second chances, sun on our path, light emerging out of darkness — it all comes.

 

It just takes more time than we want.

 

Like my unemployed friend whose full-time job is finding a job.

 

The wait is killing him.

 

“I keep being told to be patient. But, patience doesn’t pay the bills,” he says.

 

True. Waiting can be the hardest part.

Easter Eggs
Easter Eggs (Photo credit: .imelda)

On the eve of Easter, I think of those who watched the Savior die on a cross.

 

I can’t fathom the grief, sorrow, and pain they felt watching Him be crucified.

 

That unbearable Friday when He died; that Saturday in the tomb.

 

Those days had to be excruciating for those who loved and worshipped Him.

 

But, then, miraculously, on Sunday, he rose.

 

Like the long-awaited spring, He appeared, giving the world the priceless gift of hope.

Garden with some tulips and narcissus
Garden with some tulips and narcissus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I walked along the trail, I thought of all the people I know who have made miraculous comebacks.

 

My brother, so addicted to drugs, we lost hope in him. Drugs enslaved him, and stole the man we knew and loved.

 

We couldn’t see a road back.

 

But, day by difficult and long day, he overcame addictions.

 

He rose after a long, steady fall. And continues to rise every day to fight his battle and reclaim his life.

 

My other brother, diagnosed with vascular disease, and then bitten by a brown recluse spider, lost his leg.

 

An avid boater, fisherman, hunter, brick mason, and handyman, he was suddenly housebound in a wheelchair, unable to walk.

 

He lost his way; thinking his so-called life as an amputee  was no life at all.

 

He felt aimless and without purpose.

 

Until he discovered he was still a dad, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend, and that even without a leg, he could love them all fiercely and deeply.

 

He could help the sister through cancer, the brother through addictions, the daughters trying to create their own independent lives, the nephew trying to raise four small children.

 

While his life is not the one he planned or ever envisioned — and neither is his amazing wife’s — they too rise every morning, greet the day with gratitude, and fully live the lives they’ve been given.

 

I nearly cried as I walked this morning, thinking of one beautiful example after another of the people I love who rise after a fall.

 

That is the real meaning of Easter, isn’t it?

 

Just when you think spring will never come, you see a Robin on the grass to remind you that winter is on its way out.

 

Just when you think the phone will never ring with a job offer, it does.

 

Just when you think you or someone else can never recover, you do.

 

Change happens, people make comebacks, life gets better.

Easter is a good reminder of that truth.