(Disclaimer: This story talks about a Dutch feast, so for a better understanding please read about Saint Nicholas – not to be confused with Santa Claus).

When earlier this monthy I received a text message from my little sister, asking to celebrate Sinterklaas, my yes mode immediately flickered ‘ON’. Despite the sad fact that our relationship is far from optimal, she and I seem to be two pees in a pot on Sinterklaas. That same week however I also heard that my dad, my brother and my sister-in-law would not be there and with the attendance increasingly fading, my enthusiasm did too. I had to admit that I just don’t feel as complete without them, but in pondering that admission I also found myself put in a strange kind of early childhood loyalty conflict, whereby I seemed to be forced to choose between (divorced) parents: show who you love most.

Do I do attend Sinterklaas because my mom is there,
Or do I not attend because my father is not.

The group composition was different in also another way: not only was it thinned out with regards to the old clan, it was also supplemented by two new humans; the two little children from my sister (who last year were asleep at that time of night). I just didn’t see this happen any more for me, I don’t want this, I thought. Those boys have such high energy levels that after five minutes I feel a wreck, let alone that I spend the whole evening with them. My heart ached for real because I had really looked forward to spending time together with the family again, as if Covid was on holiday for just one day. I too had to decide to say no. No Sinterklaas for me this year. I felt horrible.

In stepping aside from the whole thing, I saw that a new feast was born; it wasn’t Sinterklaas with my family any more, but a feast initiated by my sister and her family, in her house, where my mom was invited as a grandmom. The role change that was wrapped in the passing of time made me dizzy. I am not fond of change.

A couple of days later I felt God tugging at my heart. On more than one occasion I thought the thought (mind you: you are not obliged to think every thought that enters your head) to make a present after all. For my sister. And I immediately knew what I was to make: a house.

For years my sister was jealous of the present that my mom made me nine years ago – a tiny house. But the voice of jealousy was actually a tightly and silently tucked away desire to receive a present from my mom as well. I felt a shadowed sadness about her early childhood conflict, that has dug its poisonous roots deep in the lie that mama loves me more than her. When mama made me that house for Sinterklaas, my sister saw that as a declaration of first loves that doesn’t accept seconds, and flames of jealousy shot through the roof (how symbolic that the house was made of matches). Only the jealousy of a second daughter can make a mother feel uneasy, as if she has to apologize ad nauseam: I am sorry that I didn’t give birth to you first.

So. That would be it then. I would make a therapeutical journey, treading a path that my sister should have walked, but didn’t. I would walk her miles, in my shoes, because sometimes people need to carry other people. Not every grownup has grown up. Being so close to my heavenly Father I felt safe enough to admit that I too can still feel left out when I see love being given to others. What about me? Is there anything left over when you’re done loving someone else? How can love not run out? It’s as if love can bring about this weird idea of division and I saw this suffocating theme raising his voice at an seemingly innocent feast called Sinterklaas.

So, I made a house. Not of matches, but of wood. What first caused my sister to incinerate in jealousy would now be her own source of light and warmth. I locked myself up in my study room for two days to work on it, smiling from ear to ear (more like grinning), because I saw how God has lavishly gifted me with an seemingly endless stream of creativity, patience and eye for detail. God directed my attention to the wooden box that I still had laying around and He said He would not only give it a new purpose, but also a new destination. It would move and find its place in the heart of the house and of my sister. God had used the wooden box earlier to celebrate my sister-in-law’s pregnancy, but also to heal a layer of my babypain, and then He used it to endure a miscarriage and also deal with the loss of my own baby and perhaps a grief of motherhood lost. And as is the case with important changes in the Bible, where people get a new name, also this box got a make-over: I spray-painted it golden.

And so it seems as if with Sinterklaas I am laying some of my pain in His hands yet again. If the house could talk, it would lift ifs four walls up to the sky and say ‘Seen.’ I serve a God who sees, a God who looks after me. He was present when I got separated from my mom as a baby, leaving scars that I am still healing from. He was present when my mom got separated from me. But He was also present when a new baby was born into this world, my little sister, a baby who feels wronged because she thinks someone else receives more love. My heavenly Father has an andless and eternal amount of attention, spanned over the width of heaven, for those who feel unloved and He is gifted beyond only human belief to listen to those who ducked away in silence or tried overshouting their babysadness by making a lot of black noise.

On December 5th I am not celebrating Sinterklaas.
On December 5th I am celebrating God.