Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating Christmas when you don't feel like it.

I love Christmas.
Its always my favorite time of the year. I love decorating my home, I enjoy the goodies I make and give away. I love the lights. I love the carols-and never tire of them.
I love that what we are celebrating is that God is with us. Immanuel (or Emmanuel ). God who left heaven to be born as a baby. God Incarnate. So amazing. So wondrous. In the child born in Bethleham, in the powerlessness of a baby, God entered into our world. That's so remarkable to me.
My tree is up-although this year its a bit Charlie Brown like, the ornaments are hung; the ones that evoke memories and are treasured. The house looks festive, both inside and out.

Yet, I am not excited this year about celebrating.
I am really trying to keep my focus on Jesus, because that is what Christmas is really all about.
This has happened to me twice before. Not wanting to have Christmas.
The first time was forty years ago; the Christmas that snuck up on me two months after my mother had died.
The second one was probably twenty five years ago. I was a NICU nurse and the primary caregiver of a very sweet baby boy named David, who never was expected to live and yet he did. He had osteogenesis Imperfecta-type 2. Its a brittle, in his case , very very brittle bone disease. At birth, thru the trauma that he endured, he had over 200 breaks in his little body. So this sweet little boy lived ten days, and he went home to heaven on Christmas Eve day. It truly affected me in such a deep way. But I had young kids who looked forward to Christmas, so I put on my biggest "fake" self to make the holiday enjoyable for them.

This year Christmas will come, one day short of four weeks since our Robby too, went home to be with Jesus-way too early for us.
So that thrill I get each year anticipating celebrating Christ's birth is very absent right now.
I know this Christmas will be very different, very difficult. I grieve for my dear friends who will not spend another holiday with their son until eternity. Its their new normal, one that wasn't wanted.
They aren't the only ones who will spend this Christmas without their loved one. 
Countless families across the globe will spend the holidays remembering their lost loved ones. They will be sorely missed. And most likely, they will wish they could pass on this holiday this year.
Many times, in order to deal with what we have lost, we try to keep busy, we try to make new traditions. This can help, but it doesn't take away the fact, that someone you love is just not there.

So what do we do when this happens to us? When The Christmas Season arrives and we don't feel like even acknowledging it.
Just like the life we have now been given, we keep on; we keep going. Because more than likely, that is what our loved one would want us to do. They want us to keep living when everything in us screams that we don't want to.
We need to be realistic; things are going to be different, Try and not set up expectations that won't come about. It will be hard and seem different. Of course it will be.
We can try new things to do, we can go away to a place that we haven't been before. One important thing to remember is that we still need to rest and take care of ourselves. Grief can bring on illness as our bodies have taken a hit in our immune systems as we deal with our loss.
We need to give ourselves permission to continue to grieve and not try and pretend that life is the same.  A very dear friend sent me a wonderful passage written by the gifted Anne Lamott today and it is too good not to share.

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." 

So although I may not feel like there's a reason to celebrate, there is a reason: We don't forget those we have loved and lost, we remember them, with fondness, with our sweet memories and we treasure them and begin to be grateful that our lives were blessed with someone we loved so deeply. And slowly, very slowly, we begin to move on.
But we will never forget.
One step at a time. Even if its a very small step.

A grateful heart.
One that rejoices in God, Our Savior, who came to earth to give us life and life abundantly.
One that doesn't try to pretend we aren't sad, that we don't miss those we lost, but one that begins to have a heart that longs to be thankful, longs to find joy again and one that remembers the love we had been blessed to give and receive.

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