Monday, March 30, 2020
"Surviving Christmas: Advent Devotions for the Hard & Holy Holidays" - Anne Marie Miller
Have you ever read a book from a new author, or at least "new to you," and found yourself finishing the experience by instantly looking them up on Amazon to see what else they've written?
I picked up Anne Marie Miller's "Lean on Me," a book that delves into the building of intentional, vulnerable, and consistent community and I instantly felt as if I'd found a literary kindred spirit.
Then, as I began to read more about her background I began to feel like even though I'm older that she would have even more to teach me along my journey.
"Surviving Christmas: Advent Devotions for the Hard & Holy Holidays" may seem like an odd book to read at the end of June, but the truth is that by the time I typically get to December I'm even more of a loner than my introverted self is on a daily basis. By the time I hit the "funk," it's basically too late to use common sense.
So, packing the toolbox early is a good choice for me.
"Surviving Christmas" has become part of my toolbox, a gently written series of devotions for the person who resonates more with the concept of "blue Christmas" than traditional Christmas. It's a short, right about 32 pages, e-book offering gentle, nurturing devotions for the person who struggles through the holiday season for any number of reasons.
I was raised a Jehovah's Witness. Thus, I never grew any sort of attachment, healthy or otherwise, to the holiday season. By the time I'd been booted from the JW's, one of two churches to kick me out, I was just starting to experience the holiday season when tragedy struck in the form of the suicide of my wife and death of my newborn daughter. Since then, I spend 11 months of the year as this incredibly inspired, socially aware activist and wildly insane paraplegic/double amputee who far exceeds what most consider my limits.
December hits? I basically go into a fetal position and wait for it to be over. In the old days, having a therapist who would call me on Christmas Eve helped. As my social circle developed, that certainly also helped. Over the past few years, while I unquestionably slow down over the holidays it's become more of a muted experience than an actual bad one. Until this past Christmas, when I inexplicably bottomed out in a pretty severe way and found myself the recipient of some unexpected compassion from a minister at a church I'd merely visited.
I was floored by her kindness. Truly. I still am.
While our reasons for struggle are different, Miller writes "Surviving Christmas" in such a way that it can apply to a variety of circumstances and situations. I appreciated that it's non-shaming - seriously. It's also not complex, because when you're in the muck the mind just can't do complex. I need simple. Heck, she even uses one devotion to serve up a healthy recipe. I'll never make it, of course, but I love that it's there.
The book, I believe, is self-published, which adds in the glory of a couple typos. I say this for no reason other than to bless it - it adds a layer of humanity to a warm, naturally written book. We all make mistakes and that just made me love the book more.
"Surviving Christmas" is one more tool in the toolbox. It's not a cure-all. It's not the remedy. If anything, it's a reminder that you need God and people and community and whatever you find to be your healthy coping skill. I have a feeling that for Miller, writing is one amazing coping skill. I'm the same way, so I get that.
As I was wrapping up reading "Surviving Christmas," I looked up to realize that she had actually responded to my review of "Lean on Me." Timing is everything and that finally let the tears fall a bit as I finished up this book and contemplated the steps to be taking in my life to avoid a repeat of last year's holiday season.
If you're like me and struggle through the holidays, "Surviving Christmas" is a simple, warm, and understanding devotional that will certainly help.
Richard Propes is an award-winning writer/activist/minister who has traveled over 6,000 miles by wheelchair over the past 30 years raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for children's organizations on his acclaimed Tenderness Tour events. Author of "The Hallelujah Life," Richard is the founder/publisher of TheIndependentCritic.com and has been the recipient of numerous awards for his activism including Indiana's Sagamore of the Wabash, Kentucky's Order of Kentucky Colonels, and Prevent Child Abuse America's highest honor, the Donna J. Stone Award. Richard is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association.