Some years Christmas doesn’t come quite like you expect. Some years you rewrite the rules, upset traditions, and find yourself in new territory. That was certainly true for me this year.

I had the hardest time making a Christmas list because there wasn’t much I wanted that could be purchased. I needed new work shoes since my current ones had holes from scurrying in and out of patient rooms. I added some things for my apartment, a phone case, and some well-loved movies to fill out the list. But what I wanted most for Christmas this year looked far more like a prayer list than a Christmas one. I was wishing for safe deliveries, healthy babies, negative test results, jobs for friends, and second chances.

Instead of having presents well in advance, I was that girl in Target and Walmart in the early hours of Christmas Eve purchasing the last items on my list. I managed to see Elf and White Christmas but missed It’s a Wonderful Life– a favorite. I baked Christmas cookies while listening to Serial instead of carols- a move I don’t regret in the slightest.

Traditionally, I spend Christmas Eve with my family. We eat something delicious for dinner, go to a Christmas Eve service, come home, open family gifts, slip into our new pajamas, eat sweets, and stay up late talking, while my parents try to get us to go to sleep so Santa can come. This year I was scheduled to work, which threw a wrench in our traditions. Naturally I was bummed to have to work. I went in trying to have a good attitude and quickly realized not for the first time how selfish I can be. No one wants to be in the hospital at Christmas. At least I was there because I have a good job and not because I was really sick. Changing my plans to help others heal really isn’t asking too much. My parents and brothers showed up with treats for my team. It was the kindest gesture. The night went by fairly quickly and I did have festive fun and great food with my coworkers. See, not too much to ask.

I drove to my parents and was immediately urged into my Christmas pajamas by my brother to get the morning started. We ate breakfast and opened presents. I was more than a little sleep deprived by the time we opened the last gifts but I think that was amusing for my family. After my nap, the day proceeded with in a more traditional manner. Dinner at Grandmas with my dad’s sister and her family. We had a lot of fun and laughter. One of our better Christmases I think. Although, I still miss sitting with my grandpa cracking nuts and jokes. That probably won’t ever change.

I haven’t made it to see the lights at Opryland Hotel this year. That’s one of my very favorite things to do this time of year. I didn’t go driving to look at lights. But I did put up a new tree in my apartment. I decorated it with my childhood ornaments, red beads, and white lights. And while many things have changed this year, the lights on the tree still draw me in like they always do. I’ve sat by the tree in the early morning hours praying and the late hours dreaming. I’ve found myself looking at the tree with childlike joy and watching the lights blur through tears. No matter how bleak the news or how dark the night grows, there’s a lot of comfort and joy to be found. There’s still light. There’s still hope. If there is one thing I pray to never lose, it’s the hope I feel sitting under these lights.

Christmas is over. The New Year is coming. I know it’s almost time to take down the tree and wrap up the lights, to put away the sparkling bulbs. But not just yet. Because this is the week of the in-between. A week when there’s time to rest and catch up with family and friends. A moment to think about how far we’ve come this year and dream about where we will go. There’s still time to make this year count. To start the new one off right. Christmas may be over but the joy and hope it brings doesn’t leave. And that is good news whether you are a shepherd thousands of years ago or a twenty-eight-year-old in the Twenty-First Century.

So, I wait in the in-between. I write words by the light of my tree. I sip coffee and live the words of Sleeping At Last’s song “Snow”.

I play with the necklace I wear, a present from my sister and hold tight to its word believe. Not just the simple meaning but what she told me “the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul,”* and being “full of joyful trust.” That is, after all how to thrive in the in-between.