The approaching holidays are a mixed bag of emotions. They are an intersection of excitement (time with my kids! and extended family!) and sorrow ( I have to do the holidays without John again?). It is simply bittersweet.
Some of you know exactly what I mean.
Because time may heal, but it doesn’t forget. I know how wonderful it was to experience the holidays with John- with our family intact. I want him to be here to hug our college daughters when they walk in the front door and to welcome our faraway newlywed couple when they come home for the holidays.
I can’t help but truly, deeply miss him.
This will be our fifth holiday season without John, and over the years I have learned to expect a tidal rise of emotions somewhere in late November. Pre-holiday sorrow is real.
I am never sure what will trigger it, but I can sense it building. My edges feel frayed. Tears are dangerously close to spilling over. It is tempting to ignore it. Stuff it. Get busier.
Yet, I have learned to listen because my soul is telling me I need a time out.
Ignoring it doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it worse. My soul can be like a crying toddler. Quiet at first, but increasingly louder, more demanding, and strident when ignored.
However, if I make time to be real with myself about my tender emotions and I give myself some time and space to acknowledge it, God allows something amazing to happen. I can honestly embrace the sense of loss this season brings and then move forward into the holidays with the settled peace only He can give me.
Time for simple acknowledgement is what I need.
Like that crying toddler who just needed a big hug and a kiss on the forehead to be steadied again. Who needed to be told, “I bet that does hurt. Let’s look at it. Wow! Let me give you a hug.”
Courage comes because He reassures me once again that He is with me. He is walking every part of this unexpected journey with me. Leading the way.
And, it is okay if I sometimes need to just stop in my tracks, sit on the ground and say, “By the way, I really don’t like this.”
He isn’t surprised. He listens. He reminds me what is true as I pour through His word looking for the places that speak to my heart.
And, then I begin to feel better. Steadier. The heaviness begins to fade.
Strengthened, I know I can carry my part of it- the part I have to carry for now (but not for always. not forever)- because He is the best company for wherever love takes me.
And, then, we begin walking forward again into these holiday times and my heart is lighter. And my smile is real. And before I know it we are doing it! We are walking on the holiday’s troubled waters, and I feel joyful and peaceful because He is with me and I know it.
Together we can do another set of holidays.
So, to all of you who are looking at the next six weeks and feeling pressure build because of the people you are missing or the situations that just won’t get better. I would tenderly say: don’t ignore it.
Talk to God about your heavy heart and mind and soul. He has truly offered to bear your burdens, any and all. Stop on your life’s path (find silence-go for a walk, sit quietly in your car, lock yourself in your bathroom with a Bible) and let Him speak to you where you are: True words. Burden easing words. Love speaking over you words.
Open your Bible- Psalms is right in the middle. Right where we need it. Easy to find and full of real, raw emotion and comfort and hope-growing truth. (see my PS)
Then, your heart will be strengthened and steadied for these holidays because the truth of His love and the truth of His presence will have settled in your hearts. New streams of thanksgiving and joy will flow, even when it seemed impossible.
Because He steadies my heart,
PS Here is where my journey through Psalms took me yesterday…
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me,
Therefore, I will remember you.” -Psalm 42:5
I hit pause with this passage for a long, quiet while…giving my heart time to read (not just my eyes and mind) until I was getting real with the passage and it could resonate.
It gives two direct pieces of advice for these times when my soul is downcast and disturbed: put your hope in God (not in anything or anyone else) and remember God (who He is and how I have seen His presence in my life).
As I spent time taking these two pieces of advice to heart, praise came. Praise that He had refreshed my heart and given me true perspective. Praise that He can redeem my broken heart and life. Praise that He loves me here and now and forever.
May His word and Spirit meet you too.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13