I am filled with gratitude! Two days before Thanksgiving our baby granddaughter was able to come home after spending 48 days in the NICU. How fortunate we are to have been able to celebrate her homecoming with our daughter and son-in-love and family. We rented a house near their home in Seattle for the holiday weekend and spent time eating good food, playing games, going on outside adventures, and taking turns holding our sweet new baby granddaughter. One of my favorite memories was staying up with our older daughter playing games and our younger daughter joining us when it was time to feed her baby. We were silly and laughed into the wee hours of the morning. It had been years since we’ve done something like that. Sometimes it’s the silly little things that end up meaning the most.
After Keith and I got back home, we took out the Christmas decorations from the attic. I opened the wooden nativity scene made in 1989, inspired by a silhouette card, and cut from wood, when I was pregnant with our youngest daughter who was now holding her daughter. I took out the pieces, noticing the unfinished background and, one again, wishing I painted it years ago. I meant to paint the manger with windows and the Christmas star, but never got around to it.
Each year this nativity set reminds me of what I didn’t finish and I wonder why I set it out every Christmas. This time I also notice how timidly I painted it (shown directly below). I asked myself, “What if I just do it: paint a coat of clear gesso on the wood and repaint them with higher contrast, pattern, and finally finish the manger background?” So after 27 years, I did. I actually took the time to do the project that seemed “too far down the list” for all those years. It was an insightful inner journey…
Repainting the figures and manger backdrop caused me to revisit my hopes and disappointments of Christmases in the past as well as my insecurities and confidence as an artist and a person. Painting, I felt my expectations of the project and Christmas fall to the ground. Peace was rising. Then came deep gratitude, and an enjoyment of living in the present, considering the first Christmas and the Love born to us that day. I can’t quite explain the healing and joy I found in prayer as I painted, redeeming the past, making the most of the present, giving hope for the future. It reminded me that God doesn’t waste anything, but is instead, incredibly patient, working with me right where I’m at. This old wooden nativity scene gives me tangible evidence that I have grown as a person and an artist. I can let go of perfectionism and create freely. Most of all this process is a reminder that God loves me and is always with me.
While painting, my thoughts go to Mary and Joseph, of giving birth to God made flesh, of the provision for baby Jesus, of how God values life, even the smallest of babies. I think of Jesus, and His invitation. I welcome Him anew saying, “Yes Jesus. I welcome you into my heart and my whole life.”
The Spirit of Christmas is being renewed in my heart, and for this season is re-presented on our mantle.