Monday, December 16, 2013

For When It's Christmas . . . and You Want To Cry

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 ...

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' ~

 
 
* A Repeat Performance of a December 2012 post
 
*  Musing at Laura's

30 comments:

  1. I'm glad you shared this post again, I've thought often about those of whom Christmas isn't so cheerful, but full of sadness and grief. Thanks for the reminder to pray this morning for those who are suffering. Nice visiting through Laura's link up.

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    1. Yes, Shelly, sadness and grief flow all around us like rivers, if we have eyes to see. Even, and especially, during this time of year when 'jolly' seems to be the buzzword.

      If ever we are called to minister grace and comfort, it is now ...

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  2. Wonderful advice in this post. Growing up as a military "brat," we never had extended family for the holidays. My parents never complained about it, but instead invited others who were far from home to share the holidays with us. In blessing others, we were blessed. Thanks for blessing your readers with this post.

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    1. Don't you love that your parents made that choice over and over again, Nancy? And that there were plenty of blessings to go around, like the loaves and the fishes, meal after meal.

      And along the way that little girl who watched it all unfold was impacted. And she now touches others through her grace-filled writing ...

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  3. Dear Linda
    Yes, we need to grieve for the things that are no more, my friend. For only then do we come to a place of sweet acceptance. I am not able physically to cook my delicious Christmas roast with all the side dishes any more, but I have made peace with that and I have learned to enjoy and to be thankful for the things that I can still do! Merry Xmas, my sweet friend.
    Blessings XX
    Mia

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    1. Mia ... there's no doubt in my mind that God is using you to impact others who are disabled by pain and other physical burdens. That you have made peace with your disabilities is evident in your writing. What a strong, vibrant gift you are to so many in this online world we inhabit.

      God's deepest peace be yours, my friend. His deepest peace.

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  4. Great thoughts, Linda, for not just our busy Christmas season, but all year 'round! I need the reminder to pursue #5 as well as allow #2 and 3. I'm hoping your holiday is filled with friends, family and fun and nothing like what you've described in the intro. But even if it is, I know you'll lean into our loving Father and grow more deeply in love with Him. Hugs to you and Merry Christmas, sweet friend!!!

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    1. Oh, I'm leaning, Beth. I'm leaning, no matter what comes around the next corner - the good, the bad, or the ugly! We really have no choice, do we? Not if we want to stay emotionally and spiritually healthy and strong and sane ... and honor Christ in the process.

      And I know you join me in that pursuit, my friend. We go forward by His grace.

      Praying for you today ...

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  5. Glad you reposted this, Linda, because it's a classic! Post again in 2014 because we'll need to be reminded of these 5 thoughts again. Valuable stuff, friend. They hit home with me.

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    1. So many readers are clicking on to this link today, Lisa, and that just confirms in my heart what I already know to be true. Our brokenness, our pain, our sorrow don't take a holiday just because December 25th is approaching. We so need the comforting presence of our Savior more than ever ...

      Praying.

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    2. I wish there was a "like" button on comments. :)
      Like!

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    3. 'Like' you, too. What a sweetheart you are!

      ;-}

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  6. Thank you, Linda, for addressing the sorrow of those grieving during this time of year when we focus so much on joyous festivities.

    I posted on a similar topic a couple of weeks ago: http://josephjpote.com/2013/11/christmas-mourning-2/

    Blessings to you and your family, this holiday season!

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  7. Joe's post is so profound ... if you're grieving the loss of a family member, please join him over at his site. Just do a bit of a copy and paste of the above URL.

    Thanks for this link up, Joe. May the God of all comfort lavish His mercy on you and your family as you continue to mourn ...

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  8. I love the way you start this post...it's every family's (mother's) dream, isn't it? A frozen Norman Rockwell picture. I lost my aunt this month and there are so many grieving, trying to face the holiday without a loved one. I love your writing and this was wonderful to read today. Thank you!

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    1. I'm so grateful that these words have encouraged your soul, Amy. Truly. Thank you for returning for a 2nd look ...

      May God comfort you in ways that you can't even imagine, and give your family a deep sense of peace as you walk through this valley.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this again, Linda. It's a good word.

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    1. Yep, this was a repeat performance post for sure, Lyli ... sadly.

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  10. This took an interesting twist . . . not what I expected when I started reading, but very worthwhile reading and great words of wisdom. So glad you shared it again . . . especially for those of us who missed it the first time around.

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    1. I'd love to hear what you thought you'd be reading, Dar!

      ;-}

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  11. Hi Linda, thank you so much for sharing this over at (in)Courage today. I hopped over to read, and so glad I did. Such wisdom here. Thanks for your heart.

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    1. Hey Gang ... be sure to head over and read Dana's post, WHEN HOLIDAYS HOLD MORE SORROW THAN JOY
      http://www.incourage.me/2013/12/when-holidays-hold-more-sorrow-than-joy.html

      Her heart has been broken, too. You're not the only one, you're in good company ...

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  12. I've read this post twice!! That's how good it is!! Everyone is so on point with their comments. The picture is what every mother (and grandmother) wants, but these days, we are mourning the loss of a loved one. Also, family seems to be so spread out these days. The holidays are hard on those mourning. Thank you for writing this!

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    1. For all those who are grieving a great loss, these holiday weeks are the most difficult days. My prayers are with you all, my friends. I hope that knowing that others are going through the same painful experience will give you a sense of community. You, my friends, are not alone ...

      Kalley, thanks for coming back for another look.

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  13. I cried for days over this one..........then pulled myself up once again................

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    1. Oh Val, I hear your heart and I am lifting you up to the Comforter. Please know that you're not alone ...

      May Christmas be filled to the brim with that peace that passes all understanding, a sweet rest for your soul, and joy in the simplest of pleasures.

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  14. A friend sent me here because he knew my heart. Thank you for sharing this. I had a good cry and now it's time to keep pushing forward while be thankful for the reason we celebrate. Merry Christmas to you.

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    1. Don't you love that God sends people into our lives at just the right moment? How blessed you are to have someone who cares so deeply for you, Tracy. May Jesus' comfort and joy be bountifully yours in this season ...

      I'm honored you've dropped in this afternoon.

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    2. Thank you Linda. Yes, he's a very good friend, and though we only get in touch every so many years, it's always like old home week. He's always reaching out to everyone with a loving spirit. Thank you for your kind words as well Linda.

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    3. I love those old home week moments ... you just pick up where you left off, and once again you know how rich life truly is!

      :-}

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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 ...

Linda

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