27 November 2013

when the holidays are hard

Sometimes, seeing holiday decorations in the store in September gives you a pit in your stomach. You knew in your heart the holidays would be hard this year, but you had no idea you'd physically feel it.

I know because I have had that experience.  And every year I remember.  I remember for me, because God was near in a way I hadn't experienced before and I don't ever want to forget it.   I also remember for you.

Maybe this year you had expected a big, round, growing belly-full-of-baby, but instead you carry the heartache of a loss. It's ok to still be sad months later. It's ok to remember what you had hoped for.

Maybe you made space in your home and your heart for a child to join you through foster care or adoption, and you are still waiting.  Your arms are empty and the longing for someone you've not yet met overwhelms.  Its ok to lean in to that longing, God put it there.

Maybe this year you aren't unpacking decorations where you thought you would. You aren't where you expected for reasons you don't yet understand. It's ok to feel disappointment; even if you are certain God's plans for you are good.

Maybe you won't be celebrating with the one(s) you want to - maybe you'll celebrate together via Skype or FaceTime miles apart. And you'll be so grateful to see one another but all the more desperate to hold close and hug tight. It's ok to let the joy mingle with sorrow. You don't have to choose just one.

Maybe this holiday season is one more in the string of "after" holidays. Your loved one is gone and every holiday since is a different kind of hard. Grief joins you unexpectedly and unpredictably. Maybe deep down you are hoping for just one holiday season like "before" because it's beginning to seem so far away. It's ok if you can't make sense of it. It's ok if one moment you are jolly in a way you thought you wouldn't experience again; only to feel guilty the next moment for letting yourself feel that joy. 

Sometimes, the holidays are just hard. Please know I'm praying for you through the hard.

When Brad was deployed, there was this one mental image that carried me through the longest nights. It seems a little silly when I explain it. It was based loosely on that children's song, "He's got the whole world in His hands." I imagined God's Hand was big enough to hold our family together. Though miles apart, I imagined the Creator could hold both Brad & I tightly together in the palm of His hand. I begged Him to do that for us. I believe He did.

My prayer for you through this holiday season is that Hope creeps in. I pray that as you let hot tears of hurt roll down your cheeks that you won't try to stop them or hide them - but that you'll offer them to Him. I pray you'll sense His presence in an unmistakable way, maybe like never before. I pray you'll be certain that He is with you even if you are in a mess. Because He is.

I pray your heart lets Hope in. I pray it settles into nooks & crannies you hadn't thought about in years. I pray it crowds around your hurt like so much Kudzu on a Georgia pine.

You are not forgotten, and you are not alone.  God welcomes every part of you to Himself.  May your Hope grow in this fertile soil of ashes and pain. May the hope of future glory carry you, as you wait for the Beauty to come.

May these words fall over you like the first time.  Might we all cling to them with bravery.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."  
 Romans 5:1-5

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