Friday, December 14, 2012

Drastically Altered Holidays

Ah ... she so wanted it to be a Norman Rockwell holiday.  Soft music playing in the background as the loving family gathered around the well-appointed table, lavishly laden with all manner of delectables.  The china and silver and crystal sparkling in the candlelight, the well-used name tags fashioned out of index cards by little fingers so many years ago reminding them of every holiday that they'd spent together.

Mama's piping hot broccoli cheese casserole ... Aunt Tillie's delicious sausage stuffing ... tart yet sweet cranberry-orange relish made with Papa ... Sister's fragrant yeast rolls. 

And then Grandpa would bring out the huge browned bird, carving it like a pro with everyone oohing and ahhing.  Each hand would reach for the next in a chain of grace as the patriarch led in prayer for the food.  They would eat, drink, and be merry.  Stuff themselves senseless.  And bask in the glow of it all.

Fast forward a season ... or a few. 

There is no well-appointed table and the delectables are few and far between.  The family is sparse and lucky if there's a pot of soup in sight.  The fine accoutrements that once decorated the feasting place are gathering dust in some closet somewhere.

Grandpa's no longer with us and Aunt Tillie's not manning the kitchen.  The kids are grown and gone, in more ways than one.  No carols play in the background.  And if there's one other hand to hold, it would be a big surprise.

The holidays hurt.  For many.  This scenario is more common than you think, as we find ourselves in situations that we never expected to encounter.  Alone, depressed, scared, discouraged.  Is there any possible way to celebrate when things have so drastically changed?

Life happens.
And nowhere else is this stark truth more evident than at the holidays, when the cacophony of life-altering deaths, separations, estrangements, financial worries, and health challenges so easily seem to drown everything else out.

Emotions matter.
Your feelings are real, they're valid, and they make sense.  They are yours and yours alone, and no one can tell you different.  But you have the choice with what to do with those feelings.  You can act out on them in ways that are inappropriate or insensitive to others.  Or you can acknowledge them to yourself, steadfastly work on releasing them to God, and use all the energy lavished on them in them in the past to do something productive, thoughtful, or kind.

Grieve well.
Substantial losses require and deserve full acknowledgement.  We must walk through whatever we have lost to come out the other end healthy and whole.  Here's how.

Reach out.
Sitting there immobilized in the memories of the good ol' days doesn't do much to move you forward.  Yes, by all means pursue pockets of solitude.  But then shift gears a bit.  Invite a friend or two for a simple meal.  Volunteer at a dinner for those who are homeless.  Ring a bell for the Salvation Army.  Hike on over to the nursing home and pay a call.  Bake some cookies and do a little open house for your neighbors.  Open your heart to someone who's in the same boat as you.  You won't have to look far.

Express gratitude.
This doesn't come easy to us, especially when everything seems to be going south.  But right and left, everywhere you look, every hour of every day, there is something to be thankful for.  Be like a detective and search for it.  Write it down.  Savor it.  Actively look for opportunities to speak of the good things God is doing, instead of solely focusing on what/who is no longer with you.  Counting blessings helps us shift gears into being aware of all that is ours, despite our losses.  Here's why.

In the midst of all that life has brought this past year,
may your holiday season be blessed with that 'peace that passes understanding' ~
Please Note
This was written and posted before we received the news of the horrific Newtown, Connecticut school tragedyWe at Creekside will be praying for this community and their families.


  1. You made five such excellent points. I particularly liked Reach Out and Expressing Gratitude. We can choose to sit and soak in our sadness and misfortunes or we can seek to bless others and choose to look for what is good in our lives.
    I've been thinking of starting a gratitude journal in 2013, writing one thing I'm grateful for every day (no repeats allowed). So on the days I'm feeling glum and unloved I can pick up my journal to read the truth.

  2. The gratitude journal is such a super idea ... I list 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each journal entry I write. Your 'no repeats' idea is intriguing, Elizabeth!

    Always good to hear from you ...

  3. I'm slowly learning this fine art of grateful living, Linda. Right now I'm more in the "finger painting phase" of the "art!" Lol! But I'm certain this has moved me up to the "paint by numbers phase!" Thanks for pointing out the way to find joy in a season that is often harder than we bargained for. Hugs to you, sweetie!

  4. Such a moving post, Linda. I'm grateful for today's comment (thanks, Beth!), which led me here.

    Much food for thought... I'm especially drawn to this beautiful image of God's Grace:

    "Each hand would reach for the next in a chain of grace..."

    Wow. God the Patriarch first leads us into His loving mercy, and then He teaches us how to reach out to others with open hands of love and forgiveness. All out of deep gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Truly, this is the Chain of Grace, unendingly linked and unbreakable.

    God bless you,


Welcome to the table, friend!

This is where we gather and hang out. I'd love for you to pull up a chair and jump right into the conversation. Or simply say 'hello.'

l'll be dropping in to visit you sometime soon ...


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