Christmas Hides In Unexpected Places
Have you ever ended up somewhere in life and wondered how you got there?
Five years ago, at the age of 52, I found myself homeless, by the definition of homeless. My youngest son had planned on moving in with some friends and I was preparing to house sit for a number of months. Boxes were packed, storage secured, we were prepared to move out of our big family home and enter into a new season. However, man makes his plans, but God ordains his steps. My son had a motorcycle accident and all of our plans were thwarted. In our last-minute effort to find a place to live, someone offered a place to sleep, shower, cook, and live…but it was very temporary and there was no heat.
The holidays were upon us and I attempted to make our temporary place merry and bright. Unfortunately, with everything in storage, there were no stockings, no tree, no gifts. I was supposed to have life together. I had successfully raised 4 children, had founded a successful non-profit, but once again, found myself in a situation that I had never imagined.
On Christmas Eve, I found myself sitting in the Laundromat, wondering how I got here. Life was supposed to be at its best and here I sat in the Laundromat; alone with all the other people who had no place better to be on Christmas Eve. I had avoided the Laundromat all of my adult life. For me, it represented being stuck in the cycle of poverty. As a child, we went to the Laundromat until that wonderful Christmas Eve when we came home after the church service and walked into our little apartment staring at a brand-new washer and dryer. What a blissful holiday that was for my mom. We had finally arrived; no more Laundromat trips! We were rich.
Yet, here I sat, feeling sadness and sorrow knock on the door of my heart, hoping to swallow me up in darkness. Over the seasons of challenging life-happenstances, I have a wonderful place of escape. When I find myself in difficult or obscure situations, I use my imagination to find Jesus; I began to wonder, “Where would Jesus be in this? What would He be doing? How would He feel?” Through these imaginings of my heart, I discover HIM; His thoughts, His feelings and I learn more about Him.
As my imagination started to go on this familiar journey, I had no idea that Christmas would find me, there in the midst of such discouragement.
The place is a hub of activity where the nations are gathered. Suddenly I realize, THIS is the kind of place Jesus would visit. He would come and engage these people and he would fascinate them. He came to bring light and this is JUST the kind of place he would wander into with His 12 friends; in fact, He may come to the Laundromat to gather some of those intimate friends. Maybe some of these Hispanic men who are here today would be called to walk by His side. To me, they seem a little rough and intimidating. But as I imagine, I see Immanuel draw close to a few of them, and whisper in their ear, “come follow me”. Who knows what adventure He is inviting them into! And I pray; “Lord, let them hear your voice and like the ones you called 2000 years ago, let them follow you.”
There are single women, like myself, and I wonder at their holiday plans. Some are young, possibly estranged from family; others older, perhaps this is the first year they are alone, or one of many. I watch the Comforter step in close to these daughters and surround them in love-light and I pray: “Jesus, let them feel the warmth of your great love this season. Let them see the light of your beauty and KNOW they are not alone.”
There are single men as well. They get in and out quickly; not seeming to have too many things to tend to, eyes downcast. I catch the attention of a few and smile a genuine smile. Who knows what they return home to. Jesus does and I pray, “Jesus, as they return home, meet them there and bring joy to their day.”
Ah, the young couple with a sleeping baby. I wonder what challenges their relationship has suffered. I imagine the outstretched arms of a loving Savior holding them together as one. He fights for marriages even when we don’t see it. “Jesus, thank you that nothing is too difficult for you; bind them together and draw them to you…that they may be One even as You and the Father are one.”
Then young Indian men come in, laughing and wondering what to do. Fortunately, the attendant sees their dilemma and steps in to show them how to operate the machines. I imagine the God who sees them, far away from family this holiday yet finding family in one another. Although I have no clue what they are saying, He is laughing with them, engaged in their banter. “Jesus, you are the God who rejoices over us. Let these men feel your delight in them and let them enjoy fellowship with you.”
After all of these years have I missed something?
Maybe the Laundromat is a sign of freedom. I don’t have to think about laundry for another few weeks. Maybe the Laundromat is a sign of freedom from the things that so easily entangle us (like laundry).
Maybe the Laundromat is an invitation to enter into rest. At home, I throw a load in and run off to the next thing, diligent not to waste any time. Yet here, there is nothing but time; time to wait, reflect, and pause on all the ‘to dos’ of life.
Maybe the Laundromat is a place to meet with Jesus.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a Savior is given…
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
As I leave, I thank Him for showing up in the midst of my sorrow and self-pity. I thank Him for bringing freedom and hope when I could have slipped into despair. And I thank Him for coming into the world, my world, the Laundromat, walking amongst the people, and allowing me the joy of encountering HIM today.
Where will Christmas meet you this season?