Do you know what I discovered today? I’m baaaaack, and I’m feelin’ good. My Christmas break was awesome! It was full of joy, lots of love, and tons of laughter marred by only one event: the theft of Black Baby Jesus from the crèche on the day before Christmas Eve. Since the six-inch-high crèche resides on one of the end tables, I was able to narrow the theft down to three possible culprits. CULPRIT #1: a six-year-old boy (my grandson) who has been trying to abscond with Black Baby Jesus ever since he was three-years-old (the one-inch baby fits so very nicely in a little boy’s pockets or his diapers at an earlier stage). CULPRIT #2: a three-month-old Maltese named Chuck (grandson’s new pup), who chews on any and everything he can get into his mouth, and doesn’t know the first thing about Xmas protocol (we caught him playing box-the-ornaments-on-the-tree with his front two paws while standing up on his hind legs as if he were training to be the next Muhammad Ali. CULPRIT #3: A wizened older Shorky dog named Wednesday Addams (Chuck’s cousin), who is too cool for school and has no tolerance for pups who don’t know the Christmas rules. (Although I didn’t think Wednesday was guilty of the theft, I wouldn’t put it past her to have set Chuck up for the kidnapping of Black Baby Jesus just to get him punished with a timeout in his crate, thus giving Wednesday some peace and quiet.) But nobody was talking, or barking, as the case may be. (I looked to the heavens and prayed: Lord Jesus, give me grace and help me find Black Baby Jesus because I really liked that crèche!) So I accused all three of these little hooligans of the dastardly deed, and I threatened to withhold all doggie treats and presents until the baby was returned. I put all the adults in my house on high alert as well:
“I’m not superstitious or anything, but it can’t possibly be a good thing that Black Baby Jesus has been kidnapped before his birthday. You are all on poop patrol and are responsible to check out any suspicious ‘meadow muffins’ coming out of these three that might be in the shape of a one-inch Savior of the world.”
Cartoon used by permission: RJ Matson
Black Baby Jesus was not found until the day after Christmas (underneath the couch) when we were disposing of enough Christmas wrapping to stuff a giant landfill. That morning before the revelation of said whereabouts of you-know-Who, we sang “Happy Birthday, Jesus” to an empty crèche, and Little Dude blew out the candles to the Jesus cake on Christmas morning to an absent Baby King—assuming he was making his way through somebody’s intestines. None of the culprits confessed (personally, I think they were all in on it), but it did get me thinking about 2014 and the visibility—or lack of visibility—of God in the everyday scary-ass mayhem of our lives.
2014 had been a good year for the Tomczyk family and we felt the grace of God all throughout the year (meaning, basically we got the things we hoped and wished for, or better), and for that I am extremely grateful because some years we have not been so fortunate. Like every other family in the world, we have seen our ups and downs and experienced our fair share of pain which I wrote about in my first book, Monsters’ Throwdown, and will continue the story in my second book that will hopefully be released this year.
We took all day to leisurely open presents (interrupted by meals and eggnog, the reading of the Christmas story from Grandpa to Little Dude while the rest of the clan solemnly participated in the tender moment, and cried as we shared what made us most grateful about 2014—mostly each other).
But we also acknowledged that on a domestic and global scale 2014 had been a bitch!
Cartoon used by permission: Cam Cardow, Cagle Cartoons
We had friends whose marriages had crumbled, friends whose funerals we had attended, friends whose children we had helped bury, and friends who were no longer friends because they had broken our hearts. On a national and international level, we were all horrified about the murder of Dr. Huxtable by Bill Cosby, heartsick over the kidnapping of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram and our impotence to do anything about it, devastated at the beheadings by ISIS, worried for the millions of refugees roaming the Earth due to war, heartbroken over the slaughter of Syrians by their own government, sickened by the racism that seems to be rearing its ugly head in America again, angry over the treatment of our Vets, demoralized by the killing of young black men by law enforcement, disheartened by the murders of innocent policemen, disquieted by the emergence of Ebola, but furious that a certain ersatz news agency had whipped up so much hysteria around Ebola that people practically lost their minds in the United States where only one person had died of the disease (less than 10,000 have died from Ebola worldwide while an estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS and an estimated 35 million are living with HIV worldwide). We (who am I kidding, “I”) resolved to be a more disciplined consumer of the news so as not to end up being manipulated by them (left, right, and independent) and causing me more fear than necessary, and thus, destroying my mental health.
Cartoon used by permission: Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons
As we talked about looking forward to what we hoped 2015 would bring to the individual members of our family and the resolutions we would make (knowing that some of them would be kept but most of them would be broken), it occurred to us all that in our personal goals, family quests, national and international dreams, a great deal of grace—amazing grace—would be needed for the new year and beyond. On the global scale, anything could happen (or continue to happen) as 2015 unfolded, and we would never know when vestiges of our global problems might roll up on the shores of our lives. But as long as we stuck together and bolstered our friendships and family with love while we maintained our utilization of God’s grace during the hard times, we’d triumphantly make it through 2015.
Cartoon used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star
I am discovering that life has always been volatile for humankind. And even though the 21st Century can sometimes seem to be the worst of times, it really isn’t. I wouldn’t want to be a black woman in any other time, but this one. I can’t imagine not having control of my own destiny, and yet in America just a couple hundred years ago that would have been the case for me. Even though it seems that the wheels are coming off the racial harmony bus, we have come a long way, baby, we just have to keep on keepin’ on until that old generation of racists has gone on to their “great reward” (currently occupying the Tea Party). And the thing about living is that no one ever knows when a good year will turn into a bad year or vice versa stripping a person bare of everything except the grace that infuses and covers us making us overcomers and survivors. *Check out the murderous mayhem that happened in the 20th Century, which looked like God had gone on vacation to another universe and left the devil in charge of ours, and our current time period will reveal itself as the longest period of peace and prosperity known to man—which is really saying something. It’s just that our 24/7 news cycles, Twitter, Facebook, cell phones with cameras, and Blogs make the world seem more accessible and thus more threatening than it really is. (Suggested 20th Century reading for perspective: Books on influenza and polio deaths in 1912, WWI, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, WWII, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the Atomic Bomb, WWII refugees and displaced persons, Apartheid in South Africa, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Jim Crow Era with its random beatings, rapes, lynching, and systematic racism, the Cold War, Rwanda—just to name a few terrors from 1900-1999!)
In 2015, I’ll keep searching for hope that started in the crèche in Bethlehem and culminated on the cross at Calvary and take delight in the little things on Earth that bring me joy as I journey in God’s amazing grace. Like the Ohio State Buckeyes kicking Alabama Crimson Tide’s ass (42-35) in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 2015. I’m told by people in the know (I don’t know a thing about football), that Ohio State came into the game with a 9-point underdog label against the Alabama machine (again words of my friends–I know nothing!). Even when it looked like Ohio State was getting its ass kicked, they kept fighting as if it was not an option to do otherwise. Oh yeah! Being an Ohio girl, this brings me great joy and inspiration, and I’ll take joy and inspiration for 2015 wherever I can get it!
Used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch
“Who in their right mind . . . could possibly deny the 20th Century was entirely mine. All of it . . .”—The Devil from the Devil’s Advocate by Andrew Neiderman
“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ― Ellen Goodman
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.”—Benjamin Franklin
“Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”—Goran Persson
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DON’T LET ANOTHER YEAR GO BY WITHOUT READING THIS AUTHOR’S MEMOIR—MONSTERS’ THROWDOWN
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