When Holidays hurt.

when holidays hurt

Holidays don’t summon happy memories for some people.

No matter how many happy moments have tried to crowd the painful ones, the painful ones still remain. Sometimes these memories are hidden in the dark corners of our hearts where only a few have been allowed in.

As much as we don’t want our past to effect our present, we struggle to forget. Believe me, we wish we could. We long to forget. Instead, we do our very best to celebrate with those who are celebrating.

But what about grieving with those who grieve?

It’s a toss up, I’ll be honest. It’s not that I want people to be miserable. Hell, I don’t want to be miserable. I want to be celebrating with everyone else– wearing red and green flare, singing Christmas carols and giving off that Holly Jolly vibe. Ok, maybe not that much Christmas spirit.

Instead, I feel like I’m in a hole. I can see the colored lights, hear the singing and smell the homemade cookies, but all around me is dark and lonely.

Lonely.

I’m not lonely because I am alone. In fact, I am not alone at all. I have some of the most amazing family and friends around me. You can’t fix an internal problem externally, though. As much as those closest to me shower me with love, my heart still hurts.

On December 4th, I had given up. I texted my best friend and told her how badly I wished for this dumb holiday to be over already. All I wanted was to get through it in one piece. I was a broken, weepy mess.

As she tends to do (thankfully) my bestie brought it back to Jesus.

“I just want to enjoy Him,” she confessed.

::sigh:: Me too.

It would mean I’d have to turn my eyes from my grief to someone else. Someone much more beautiful than all the pain and hurt.

So, I decided to do something I had never done before. I decided to celebrate Advent.

christmas

Since then, I’ve been reading portions of Scripture that talk about the birth of Christ. The reading isn’t super in-depth, a verse or two in length making it easy to follow through on daily. I made a similar calendar for my best friend, too, so we could share the experience. Just the thought that at any minute she could ask me if I’ve done my reading is enough motivation (…guilt…) to keep me on task.

Confession time….I’m still sad. I’m still hurting. I still feel like I’m in a hole. Some days, it feels unbearable.

What gives, Jesus?! I thought if I did the Christian thing that I’d get my happy shot and be good to go until Christmas. That all of a sudden my frown would be turned upside down and I’d be walking around with a smile plastered across my face. Instead of choking back tears anytime someone asks me “How are you doing?”

Maybe you’re like me and you’re hurting, too. I don’t know your story or the reasons why you’re hurting. I won’t pretend to have any answers. All I can do is tell you what I’ve decided to focus on despite the pain.

His name is Immanuel, which means God WITH us. That simple, but profound truth is the hallmark of my days. The powerful reminder that He is:

With us in the pain.

With us in the tears.

With us in the brokenness. The anger. The grief.

The nights I have fallen asleep with tear stained cheeks, He’s been there.

The days where I can barely respond to a text message asking how I am, He’s been there.

The days when my little girl heart was crushed, He was there.

And He’s there with you too. In all of your loneliness, in all of your unpleasant memories, in all of the questioning He’s there. I know you may not feel Him. I know you may not hear Him. But I pray that you would. That in this holiday season, you would experience Jesus…IMMANUEL…in a deeper, more real way than you ever have before.

Taking the higher road.

road2

Sometimes you have a choice to take the high road.

In my birthday post last week, I mentioned if I knew then what I know now that I’d “Forgive faster. Forgive even if you think the other person is wrong. Forgive even if the other person IS wrong. Trust me. Swallow your pride on this one.” Less than 24-hours later, I received a phone call that would make me prove it.

Seven years ago this week, my biological mother hung up on me. At that point, I hadn’t lived with her for 10 years and I had been trying my best to be a decent daughter and protect (my heart, my emotions) myself at the same time. Unfortunately, healthy boundaries are not my specialty.

After her usual verbal face slap, she hung up and I moved on.

Happily, I might add. I had been praying for years that I’d get some freedom from the guilt, shame and expectations that she continued to pile on my shoulders and I finally got it. I knew the silence would end at some point. I figured it would take some kind of crisis to have her call me, which is exactly what happened.

On my 30th birthday, I received the long dreaded phone call. Luckily for me, at the time, I had been out of the room so the call went to voicemail. An emotional landmine waiting for me on returning. The content of the message was brief and straight forward. After some birthday greetings, I was told I should call my grandmother who I had not talked to in that time, either.

I wish I could tell you my immediate reaction was full of forgiveness, love and grace.

It wasn’t.

Not even a little bit.

Spent some time talking to my parents about the phone call. Actually, they did most of the talking, since I didn’t have much more to say than “That pissed me off.” I was encouraged to pray about my response and consider taking the higher road in the matter. I didn’t like most of what they said, but because I know they love Jesus and they love me I figured I should at least consider their wisdom in the matter.

So, I prayed. Although, that sounds much more formal that anything I tend to do. My prayers very often start off like this, “Are you kidding me, Jesus?!?!” After that, it’s followed by something awesome that happened. “Are you kidding me, Jesus?!?! A parking spot in the very FRONT!! Awesome! Thanks!” Mostly, though, its followed with my displeasure of a recent event, like “Are you kidding me, Jesus?!?! Only 3 lines open at Walmart the week before Christmas” or in this case “Are you kidding me, Jesus?!?! I need to forgive these people? These same people who hurt me time and time again?”

I’ve learned I don’t need to be long winded in my complaints. He gets the gist–I don’t like this.

But, He also knows my heart.

God knows that in the midst of this unexpected opening of old scars, that I’d want to be faithful to whatever it was He was asking of me. Somehow I feel compelled to at least TRY and give Him Lordship of my life. To at least TRY and obey His voice when I hear it. To at least attempt to forgive my enemies and not only forgive them but treat them better than they treated me.

So, I called my grandma.

I chose the higher road. Save the parade and hand clapping though. I’m not looking for that and don’t deserve it. All I did was make a step in the right direction. A very SMALL step. A step that tells Jesus, “I’m willing to do what you ask, even if it gets me hurt.” That’s a whole other blog post there, but its the place I had to get to in order to take the first step in this situation.

I know my life is an extreme example, but we are all faced with decisions everyday to take the higher road. Maybe its not giving the guy who cut you off the middle finger. Or not screaming at your kids when they do something you’ve told them NOT to for the millionth time today. It could be giving a smile to a frazzled looking woman in the toy section at Target.

You don’t need me to give you scenarios though. I think most of us recognize the moments day-to-day that could be opportunities to shine a little brighter. To give a little love, even when it hurts.