The aroma of coffee filled the corners of the small cafe and the sound of Christmas music played throughout. I was busy typing away on my laptop when I heard a muffled voice, “better than 22?” Puzzled I paused the music playing on my phone, removed my headphones and glanced up. There was an elderly couple sitting at the table across from me. The darling older women had on a classic red Christmas sweater while the gentleman rocked a camouflage t-shirt. “Any of those places prettier than 22?” she asked again. I realized the woman was talking to me. It took me a minute to figure out what she meant by “22.”
Then it hit me. I had stickers on the back of my laptop representing the places I had traveled too. The Grand Canyon, Time Square, Zion National Park, Hawaii, Colorado, Route 66 and so many more. The stickers covered every square inch of my laptop. In the top right corner I have a “M22” sticker. M22 is a highway in Michigan that runs along the top of the Lower Peninsula showcasing the vast beauty of Northern Michigan.
As a proud Michigan girl I said “Isn’t M22 absolutely beautiful?” “Breathtaking isn't it?” she replied. “Oh yes, I love Northern Michigan. I have family in Traverse City” “Really? We lived there for thirty years!” Our small talk continued until the couple received their lunch. I put my headphones back in and pressed play. A few moments went by and I heard her sweet voice again. “Are you in the Marines?” her eyes locked onto my United States Marine Corp sticker.
“I am not but my brother is” “Tough field to be in, thank him for his service please.”"I will thank you." She took a bite of her sandwich and pointed to her husband sitting across from her. He sat there quietly eating his soup while his wife proudly announced that he served in the US Air Force during the Korean War. She shared a couple stories with me and I could just see the love she had for this man, it oozed out of every part of her. The way her eyes danced when she looked at him. The smile on her face when she talked about him. It was the cutest.
“How many years have you been together?” I asked. “Going on 63 years.” Her eyes sparkled as she reached across the table and grabbed a hold of her husband’s hand. “Wow 63 years. That is amazing. Congratulations!” I said holding back tears. How refreshing to see a couple together for that long. “What is the secret to making it 63 years?” I asked.
Her answer was so simple but oh so powerful,
“love them even when they are not lovable.”
Easier said than done right!? I never did catch the name of the elderly couple but I did receive some words of wisdom that I will forever keep tucked into the back pocket of my heart. It is so easy, especially during this time of year, to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas. We begin to stress over buying gifts, work deadlines, wrapping presents, and hosting parties. We complain, yell and get frustrated. We gripe, bicker and take our anger out on those closest to us. We become not very lovable.
As you finish your last minute shopping and wrap the last of your gifts I hope you do not lose sight of what this season is truly about. It is not about the work parties, gingerbread houses, Santa Clause or Christmas lights. It is about a tiny present that was not wrapped in ribbons and bows but wrapped in cloth lying in a smelly stable. Thirty three years later that precious baby was was beaten, bruised, mocked and nailed to a cross because He LOVES YOU and wants to spend eternity with you.
Jesus knew that there would be days you were not going to be very lovable. He knew that you would make those mistakes, gossip to your friends and at times treat your family poorly. But great news, He loves you anyways and He still decided to die on that cross. There is nothing you could ever do to make the Savior of the world not love you.
During this Christmas season do not let the stress of the holidays get in your way. Try not to let the pressure cause you to crumble. If your loved one turns into the Grinch, offer them a little grace and love them anyways.
Forgive them when they cut you so deep the wound still feels fresh.
Hug them even when you do not want to be in the same room as them.
Love them even when they are not very lovable.
"We love because He first loved us"
1 John 4:19