they used to call me "the christmas nazi" in my family. just as they were getting in tune with wanting to live pared down, simpler for the holidays, i was returning from my first year away at college and wanted it to all feel magical.

i needed family to feel safe and christmas to feel like magic. but it didn't. it never did.

i was the one leading the charge through the cut-your-own-tree lot the day after thanksgiving (like we ALWAYS did... duh). i was the one turning on "decorate your tree with love", the same kids' musical song we had sung every time we put up our tree for a decade. they threatened no tree or a fake one that would last year after year, and i would have none of it. i absolutely had to have white lights and allthetraditions. my mom used to wrap up the baby jesus from the nativity scene, and we always had to open that one gift on the hearth before any others, even before our stockings. we had to have apple coffeecake and christmas egg casserole.

if we ignored any one piece of this, i was afraid... afraid the magic wouldn't come, wouldn't sparkle in my soul. that the shimmer life had seemed to lose in the ordinary moments over the past couple of years would never return.

and it's true. it wouldn't.

all the holidays lost their *magic* for me somewhere along the way. chalk it up to growing up. cold shoulders instead of kisses under fourth of july fireworks. family family family, complete with all their expectations on our time and giving it. driving 6 hours in the darkness that separates christmas from its eve.

and now with kids, the internal pressure to make this christmas, this birthday, this whatever-holiday JUST PERFECT. i told him today "i just don't want him to be disappointed." it is my basest and most widespread motivation for everything in life: not disappointing. not being a disappointment.

not letting holidays be a disappointment.

as life went on, there were all these years where it literally felt like a conjuring, trying to make those magic moments happen, trying to find that perfect gift, and always sing O Holy Night on the eve of the day.

and in those times, there was the added hope that maybe God would show up this time.

i had found myself lost, in a daze, and couldn't make my way out of a fog that just kept enveloping, snuffing out one more and one more candle that had lit the path of my foundation. maybe THIS year, i thought each year as christmas approached, he will come. jesus will come in the mangers, and he will take this opportunity to really COME for me.

i waited(ish)... and filled my days with christmas radio from black friday to december 25th (and not after).

[i also had the same thought at easter time: maybe THIS year, he will resurrect within my own heart, i will know his New Life for reals.]

there was something that seemed special about this time, something that carried its own magic that had nothing to do with the person it celebrated. it was fun and exciting... until it always ended... disappointing.

last year, i took a different journey, one that moved deep into my heart-spaces, abiding with prompts and my art journal, and holding that space sacred for his presence, without demanding sparkle and tinsel and lights. it was beautiful, and began a journey into his heart i'd have never taken if i'd let christmas be what it always was.

if i am really honest, there is a part of me that would rather just "fall into" the holiday season, be wrapped up in strands of christmas lights and comfort food and peppy-nostalgic music, and introduce my boys to everything i have ever loved about this time.

and yet, it just never hits my core. and i need core. i need the deep places opened in the darkness. i need flickering light and ancient paths. i need him.

this year, from advent through epiphany, i am taking a journey with a brave and beautiful woman leading a group of brave and beautiful people who are thirsty for something more than sparkle. (and i couldn't be more excited)

AuthorJamie Bonilla