Sharon McKeeman Blog » Blog

Masthead header

How to have a Merry Christmas when the world is on fire?

We were standing in the middle of a clothing store, our first time alone together after a four month deployment when we got the call…

We needed to pick up our kids from school because a wildfire had broken out and was blowing fast towards them. While our friends across the country were catching snowflakes on their tongues, ash was falling on our children’s faces.

It’s been seven years living in this supposed paradise called California, but I don’t know how to do this… How to have fire days in December instead of snow days – where we huddle inside with the windows closed, but still the smoke seeps in. I don’t know how to keep my heart merry and bright when a cloud of grey looms over my roof, and friends are scrambling to pack their trunks, abandoning Christmas presents under the tree, deciding on just a few square feet of what is really important. There is no cheery and cozy when instead of chilled fingers and toes a step outside leaves you gagging and choking, and all you can do is offer your extra bed to a friend and watch videos of horses running for their lives. All you can do is watch it all burn.

I can’t complain because my house hasn’t been reduced to a pile of charcoal, and everyone I love is safe and sound. But I grew up twenty some years amidst seasons and the nagging need for home has come to a boil just now. I bought the mythology when we moved here. Me torn apart from losing a child during birth, I blamed that small Southern town and laid golden expectations for the West Coast of constant sunshine. But year after year the sun kept shining – as I lost babies, fought for my marriage, birthed babies and cradled sacred traditions. The sun shone on Christmas day and the Fourth of July just the same, and now this sun soaked land is going up in flames. I was naive and we humans forget. This is nothing new, “Disaster amnesia” they call it. I have seen the ugly scars where hurricanes lifted houses and bridges in Florida, the angry swaths cut by tornadoes in Kansas and Indiana, and this is not the first time smoke has billowed around our home here in sunny California. It is the first Christmas though.

All I can think is, “I don’t know how to do this.”

“No place on earth offers greater security to life and greater freedom from natural disasters than Southern California,” The Times wrote in 1934.

Clearly that reporter was mistaken.

I don’t know how to celebrate a Merry Christmas when the sky is raining ash, because I am a Midwestern girl watching the rest of the country making snow angels.

Maybe we are meant to remember that first Christmas was far from merry.

I don’t know how to keep a cheerful heart and raise my children well when there is nowhere to find security in life.

Maybe we are meant to run to the only One who is secure.

I don’t know how to make sense of this senseless devastation.

Maybe we are meant to look at what really matters, reducing what our heart clings to as if we could only walk away from a fire with what we held in our arms.

I don’t know how to relinquish my affinity for place. I don’t know how to quench my homesick spirit.

Maybe we are meant to know that amidst all this whirlwind of disaster our Creator cares about place too, He is the one who made it.

Maybe we are meant to remember that there is a greater home that we are longing for.

I don’t know how to help when there is little I can do, and my heart is feeling weak and cheerless.

Maybe we are meant to simply text friends that we are praying, and open our doors so that we can keep each other company on this windswept planet.

I don’t know how to not feel overwhelmed and shaken by the darkness.

Maybe we are meant to just look for the light piercing, shining through.

. . .

*photos below are from decorating our tree last Christmas