Saturday, December 19, 2009
When the holidays hurt...
There's something so delightful and magical about the Christmas season- with the twinkling lights, jingle bells ringing, music playing and people greeting each other with smiles and rosy cheeks. But I can recall all too clearly how suddenly something so magical like the Christmas season made my head and heart pound with ache and pain and nothing seemed merry at all.
Christmas Eve 2000 was a special one for me. I remember clearly how my heart felt so full of blessing and joy especially as I sat with Chip and Teagan and Brock in a dark, candle-lit sanctuary listening to carols sung and Scripture read and feeling the kicks and movements of another baby inside of me. I felt overwhelmed with the goodness that God had given to our family at that special moment in time. We were celebrating a cozy Christmas in the first home we had purchased just a few weeks earlier. My kids were content and everything just seemed so simple and "perfect" that Christmas. Little did I know that the following Christmas Eve I would not have Teagan with me, Brock would be so emotionally distressed that he couldn't even sit at a table for a family meal and tiny infant Wyndham would be taking heafty doses of medication and struggling to re-learn things like how to suck and sit up on her own. Christmas didn't feel anything like I had remembered it, and to recall the former memories I had only brought me to my knees in tears. Grief was my new reality and I remember even seeing twinkling lights on homes as we drove down neighborhood streets made my chest ache and I could hardly breathe. Christmas and all it's magic felt like a cruel joke to me. I wondered if I would ever feel the Joy of this season again.
That Christmas, 2001 things were very different. And yet they were strikingly the same. I had two little ones and Chip at my side, and even a tiny baby growing inside of me- just as I had a year earlier. Yet nothing was the same. I felt like God had gone and messed everything good that we had going for us in our lives. It seemed as though His plan for our happy, simple lives had been replaced with something so tragic and unfamiliar. I had never known such grief and yet it was a part of every waking moment of our lives.
Christmas hurt. However, there was a peace I felt and a calm inside me which seemed to say, "This might not seem like Christmas as you know it, but the story is still the same". God hadn't changed in that year; our circumstances had. Our hopes and dreams had been altered, but I couldn't shake the fact that the Joy of Christmas was still the same. It wasn't about how I felt or the warmth of our fireplace and scent of cookies baking and music playing. The Peace that I was longing for and the Joy I felt had gone from our lives was still very much a part of the season. God's blessing and gifts to us were many that year and the greatest gift He had given us was the same one He had sent to earth 2000 years earlier. Jesus was our Hope and our Joy. I remember crying out to Him in the quiet of my living room as I sat next to Teagan's tree asking Him to fill my heart- not with the things that I wanted in life, but with the things HE wanted me to have in my life.
I can tell you today that God has been faithful and true to give us everything we have needed to walk the long, dark journey of grief and we have been blessed to find life and love and hope and many blessings as we emerged from that path. One of the things I hope others can see as you read here at my blog or witness our lives in person is that God is God and His blessings are available to anyone and everyone who turns to Him. By simply saying, "God, I want you to be real in my heart and life... I trust you fully" therein lies the Hope. Not just of Christmas. But of every trial and struggle we endure and even our future is secure in Him. No matter what may come our way- good or bad, God is with us. That's what the heart of Christmas is all about.
I recall taking great comfort in the fact that God's Son had come to earth to be Love and Hope for us, and also knew that He felt all we feel. He was no stranger to what it feels like to hurt. Even at Christmas. The holidays are strange and difficult for many people that I know and who read what I have to say here- but I pray that the gift of Hope will be yours this season and every step of the painful journey you find yourself on right now.
I share a few pictures here of Ava and Wyndham and me at their Christmas program the other night and a few more cards. There was a time when I didn't know if I could smile at this season or care to send a word of cheer to friends far away. The truth is, this season means so much to me and is a wonderful reminder that God IS near. When my heart and eyes begin to blur with tears and the ache of what I once held dear threatens to steal my Joy, I remind myself to see Christmas as God intended it to be. His gift of Love and message of Hope that He is King and Heaven is real and one day we will sing with all the angels on high. God's plan is perfect. And what a better reminder than to recall Christmas- when Jesus came to earth so many years ago. It may have been cold and dark and the stable was no place for a newborn babe; but God was there. It made all the difference that Christmas and every one since. When the holidays hurt, there is always One who is ready to fill us with something greater. I thank Him everyday for who He is in my life. It is a gift and it has changed my life. Forever.