For me, the Christmas season seems to be an equal dose of magic and mayhem. Between our family, my family and my husband’s family, we had 23 different events scheduled for the month of December. These activities and parties usually add to the joyous spirit this time of year, but there are days when I’ll admit I’m pretty cranky.
Our annual trip to Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point to see the spectacular Luminaria light display happened to be one of those days for me.
I was walking down the path taking in the stunning lights, amazing smells and beautiful music, only occasionally yelling at my boys to stop taking off their gloves and hats (they insisted they were “so hot” in the 30-degree weather), when we came upon a beautiful gazebo decorated in white twinkle lights and lavish gold ornaments that hung from the roof in a waterfall fashion.
“Let’s get a picture for our anniversary,” my husband said, as we were celebrating 13 years of marriage that day. There was a bit of a wait, and as I stood in line I noticed half of our children were gone. I quickly ran after them, trying to herd them all together as they gleefully wrestled and rolled down the hill.
“Quit running away and having fun! We're trying to take a nice family picture!” I bellowed. Finally, the young couple in front of us stopped taking their 1,000th selfie and it was our turn. I hurried up to the bench and sat, waiting for Brad.
“Carmen,” my mother-in-law called from the grass, acting as photographer, “I think this family was first.”
I looked over to where she was pointing and there was another mother who I hadn’t seen standing there, waiting with her two kids and giving me an icy stare.
“I don’t think so …” I began as I walked down the stairs, and the woman quickly interjected, “Yes we were, we’ve been standing here waiting in line this WHOLE TIME!” She brushed briskly past me and hurried up the steps to get her picture taken while I stood there frozen.
“It’s OK,” my husband whispered and began rubbing my arm, making things all the worse. The family finished their picture and headed off down the path. I marched up to the bench for the second time, fuming, and forced a smile, willing the tears not to fall from embarrassment and anger.
I am ashamed to admit that that little incident ruined the whole night for me. I could not stop thinking about how rotten I felt. I was absolutely stuck in the thick, dark, tarry feeling of resentment. What should have been a beautiful night was spoiled by two overly tired mothers trying to create wonderful memories with their children, all the while missing the whole point.
Toward the end of the mile-long walk, there were several fire pits and games set up to play. As luck would have it, despite multiple stops and detours, the lady from the gazebo and her kids happened to finish at the same time we did. She noticed me watching her and Grinch-like thoughts began to cloud my mind. This is so dumb, I thought. I don’t want to feel this way. Closing my eyes, I took a big swallow of my pride and decided to say a prayer.
“Heavenly Father, please let me feel thy love for this woman.” Because right now, I don’t feel loving toward her at all. And I knew that wasn’t fair. I didn’t even know her. But he did. Ever so softly, like warm water being poured over ice, a thought flowed into my mind.
“She’s having a hard time. Apologize. Hug her. Forgive her.”
That was not what I expected. But the thought grew and grew until it felt like my whole body was on fire with the truthfulness of it.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to my husband.
I walked up to the woman, another mother like me, another daughter of God, and rested my hand on her arm.
“Hey,” I said, and she looked up at me, surprised. “I just wanted to say, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how mean I was at the gazebo. I should have gotten up and let you take your picture right away. I was being grumpy and rude and I wanted to apologize.”
Her eyes softened. “I’m sorry, too,” she said. “I should not have responded the way I did. It’s so silly.”
“I know!” I said, smiling. Instantly, the weight of anger was thrown off my shoulders, and a peace settled into my heart. We locked eyes again, this time in forgiveness and understanding. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face for the rest of the night.
I don’t know why the thought of being mad at someone is so appealing. It isn’t as glamorous as it seems, to hold a grudge, whether we think it was deserved or not. At times, I haven’t been the happiest this Christmas season, and I intend to change that by trying to see others as Jesus Christ sees them. When I do that, it’s almost impossible to stay angry. I can turn over any judgment to him, knowing he will be fair. It’s only when I let go of the bitterness I’m holding that I can reach out and grasp his ever-outstretched arm.