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?
5 THOUGHTS ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
* A Repeat Performance of a December 2012 post
* Musing at Laura's