I’ll Be Home for Christmas…Only in My Dreams

I’m not sure if I have ever missed a Christmas home.

Even in my post-high school year living abroad year, I went home for Christmas. Okay, so maybe I didn’t live abroad but I did move to Baton Rouge for a little less than 12 months, fulfilling my promise to leave my “one-horse town” upon graduation. (FYI, Alexandria looks like NYC compared to where I live now proving once again that the Lord has quite a sense of humor!)

But I’m getting off-track.

No matter what state (literally or figuratively) I was in, coming home for Christmas always had a grounding effect on me. It brought me back to the very core of who I was, before life and love began molding me like Play-Doh. This concept should surprise no-one as it is the basis for 99% of Hallmark Christmas movies. 

The last few years, however,  have been less searching and more embracing as I’m acutely aware of the value of time and how quickly it passes by. I don’t get to see family as often as I’d like and Christmas is the one time I could always count on everyone (or most everyone) gathering together.

It is truly a wonderful time of year.

This year, however, has been plagued with difficulty. Not only am I unable to go home for Christmas, I wasn’t able to decorate my new home for Christmas either.

That’s another tradition I love. Breaking out the ornaments my kids made in grade school, putting up a cookie jar from the year we married…every decoration has sentimental value and I cherish each one.

I also have several Christmas recipes on my island. I love baking old traditional faves along with trying new ones. All of the ingredients are bought and waiting. I might not be able to eat the sweets but I can share with those I love. At the least, the men of the Pasco Home have volunteered to be my guinea pig/taste-testers for life. I just can’t do it right now.

I kept telling myself next year will be different. We’ll start in early November if we have to but we will decorate. I’ll drive all night if I have to but I will make it home for Christmas. I will be able to bake all my favorite recipes, old and new.

Such proclamations bring fear: What if I’m not here next Christmas? What if this gets worse?

I know these are irrational fears; I’m not dying. Besides, if GOD has not given us a spirit of fear then it can only come from one other place.

Satan.

He’s also behind the utter despair I’ve started feeling every time I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio.

They play that song approximately 62.8 times a day.  “Please Come Home for Christmas” comes in a close second at 56.9.

I’ve switched to the Mannheim Steamroller channel on XM. It’s harder to guilt someone with acoustics only. We should all have a little more Christmas without guilt in our lives. 

I’ve told my family for three weeks I would be unable to come home. I think they think they’re being Punk’d because they still call every day asking what day/time we will arrive.

My son called last night.

“Are you REALLY not coming for Christmas?”

“Cody, I told you I couldn’t.”

“Yeah, but we thought you’d change your mind.”

“It isn’t that I don’t WANT to come.”

“Well, we all are thinking you’re going to still show up.”

Here’s the point where I confess that they don’t actually know EVERYTHING going on health-wise so they are expecting me to power through. After all, I went home for Christmas two years ago the day after painful dental surgery and laid on Mom’s couch with ice pack through the festivities. Not going home for Christmas just wasn’t an option.

But I can’t. And the closer it gets, the harder it is.

The group texts started last night about who was bringing what. I wanted to leave the conversation. Then my dad named the conversation THE FAMILY. Well, I didn’t want to leave the family; I just wanted out of that convo. I stayed.

I even wrote a polite text about how I’d miss them and I hoped they’d have a wonderful time. 

It’s true; I do. Just not quite as much fun as they’d have with me there.

I was a little more honest with my husband.

“Honey, I’m not going to be one of those wives who says I want you to remarry and you have my blessing and all that garbage. I want you to miss me so much you never look at another woman again.” He laughed and assured me that there could never be another.

Yeah, right. At 16 years my senior, he is not expecting that scenario to ever play out and if it did, he would have to remarry. He is almost as helpless as my dad, who has to buy new underwear when my mom goes out-of-town as he has never learned how to use his washing machine.

Let me reiterate, however, that I am not dying. Not any more than the rest of us anyway. It just feels like it sometimes and last night was one of those nights.

During those times, I really fight to keep a sense of humor. I pray through panic attacks that feel like a heart attack. And the one thing that has been giving me strength lately is Paul.

Specifically, the four books that he wrote while in jail.

If Paul, wrongly jailed in horrible conditions, can serve the Lord and minister to others while locked up, I can persevere through what is so trivial in comparison.

I don’t need to crawl in a hole and feel sorry for myself. I don’t need to focus on what I’m missing. I need to do what I can, never giving in to fear or worry, and keep sharing the gospel. 

Paul pressed on toward that higher calling that I so desire and he did so from prison. I will press on as well.

(And I will be there with you this Christmas in love and in spirit, dear family.)

It’s a Battleship, Not a Cruise Ship

I’ve heard my husband preach this a million times: The Christian journey is a battleship, not a cruise ship.

Too often, we expect things to be smooth sailing after salvation. And there’s some truth to that, as you know the Captain and you know the outcome. (Spoiler alert: God wins.)

But there are also going to be battles. ESPECIALLY if you are leading others to the Lord. Satan might have lost you but he doesn’t want to lose others BECAUSE of you.

He hates you, but he isn’t necessarily going to show that. You know how it goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer? 

It’s like that.

He’s going to keep you nearby, without you realizing what he’s doing at all. Remember Mean Girls? Pure sabotage, with you not realizing a thing.

And the absolute worst part?

We fall for the same things over and over.

Have you played a game like Connect Four or Chinese Checkers? You develop strategic patterns. Even Ms. Pac-Man players usually have a set pattern if you play frequently enough.

Satan does that. He may switch it up a little, but once he’s beaten you once, he tends to stick to the same pattern.

For me, it’s my health.

It’s ALWAYS my health.

I’ll be doing great and he’ll throw something on me and it knocks me down. For years, I would think “this time” I can handle pain medicine when something would happen that would require medication. (I couldn’t and it was often like an alcoholic with his first drink after being sober for awhile. ALL OVER and not serving the Lord at all.) But I’ve managed to sidestep that trap for a little while, most recently after a fall that was incredibly brutal.

So Satan tried harder.

And this time he used an area where I’d allowed him to gain ground.

My diet.

It’s not like I sit around and binge on cakes and potato chips all night long. But I am from the South where our tea is made with a little water and a lot of sugar. I’m a frequent hostess which means desserts are readily available in my kitchen and I’m a huge Coca-Cola fan and that doesn’t include their diet line.

So my sugar level was dangerously high and I refused to change my habits. I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself, I justified. 

But then it started affecting my ministry. How? Simple, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t counsel. I could barely stay awake through services. I was tired all the time. I was irritable and snarky. And not in my usual facetious way but a definite mean girl snark. I began bonding with Dasani water bottles multiple times throughout the night and napping throughout the day. I might not have gotten on pain medicine but wasn’t the result was the same? I wasn’t good for anything anymore.

I realized that Satan had just changed the pattern a little but still played the same old game and backed me into a corner.

The question was, what now?

I hadn’t been to a doctor in years; the Lord had healed my body and going to a doctor felt like pure defeat. It was as if I was rejecting my healing.

But didn’t I start rejecting my healing when I refused to give up the things my body was rebelling against? 

It was a need for control. It was a lack of discipline.

And the Lord was calling me out.

I was Ms. Pac-Man with the goblin closing in on me. I was halfway between my utter demise and the Power Dot that comes from Above. I had a choice. Stay there and die or move.

  I moved.

I am not crazy about the outcome but fortunately, the doctor I found is fine with looking at this as a temporary solution until I restore my health. 

Three days into a treatment that consists of jabbing myself multiple times a day (yay), I woke up this morning finally feeling like myself again. Realizing what a haze I’ve been under and admitting that I’ve allowed the devil a stronghold in my life.

Giving Satan a stronghold doesn’t always mean you’ve done “bad” things. 

In fact, I think that’s how he gets us sometimes.

If you know Christ, and you are in the midst of a battle that you feel like you’re losing, look for your Power Dot. It’s there, just waiting for you to make a move.