Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grace in Bethlehem

December brings my birthday and the holidays. As a child, it was my favorite time of year, but these last ten years, being estranged from my family, I tend to get the blues. My sweet husband hangs Christmas lights and wears a Santa hat to cheer me up, and I do my best…focusing on the kids, playing Christmas music, making ornaments, baking cookies, watching my favorite holiday movies.

This year on my birthday, I would receive the greatest and most unexpected of gifts. I had just gotten back from a day of volunteer work, wrapping gifts for needy families. (I’ve found that the best cure for the blues is to get out of my own head and help someone else, so you see, I did this for completely selfish reasons.) I was unwinding after a long day when my brother Ted, who had flown in from Seattle, came walking up my stairs with a big red bow wrapped around him. My best friends Erin and Beth had picked him up from the airport and smuggled him in. Ted and I only found each other six years ago. We had lived a whole lifetime apart, and this was the first time I’d ever spent my birthday with him. We had dinner with my children that night, all of us together, laughing, celebrating. Six years ago, this was a scene I never could have imagined.

Several days later I was fortunate to tag along with Troy for a leg of the Wilson Phillips tour that took us to Pennsylvania, where my angel-friend and writing partner Amy Ferris lives. With our deadline looming, it was a perfect opportunity for Amy and I to buckle down and get some work done on our book “Dancing At The Shame Prom”.

I had my sleeves rolled up, ready to work. But what I didn’t expect was for those five days to be so inspired and spirit-filled. Walking in the brisk cold through Bethlehem at Christmas time was magical. Each street was lined with historic brick buildings, cobblestone churches, and graveyards dating back to the 1700s. Vendors sold handmade wares in their tiny Christmas Village. At night, candles glowed in every window of every house. And Bethlehem is where Amy and I sat together in an ancient haunted hotel, by a roaring fire and a glittering fifteen-foot Christmas tree, reading these heart-stopping, beautiful, honest, raw essays sent by our brave writers.

When someone chooses to open their heart and let you in, it is nothing short of a miracle. That’s what each writer has done for this book, and soon we will be able to share them with you. I felt so blessed to be midwifing this project, to be trusted with these intimate, courageous, hope-filled stories. How perfect that this book should be birthed in Bethlehem, during a time of hope and lovingkindness, by the sparkle of holiday lights.

I know it wasn’t the actual Bethlehem - just an old abandoned steel town in Pennsylvania - but I felt something magic there. Maybe I’m making too much of the connection – but I don’t think so. A blessing is a blessing, no matter where you find it. I found mine in the arms of my brother, and my friends, dancing and laughing with Troy, holding hands with Amy. And I experienced my true Christmas miracle through a bevy of beautiful writers, in the heart of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

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