GEAR UP: SEASONAL JOY

It’s Sunday night! Time to gear up for a new week. As always, the best way to do that is to PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD (Ephesians 6:10-18) but we also will focus on ONE area to strengthen our walk with the Lord. Just one focus to help us grow a faith that cannot fade with the demands of life and the pressures of this world. This week we will focus on SEASONAL JOY!

Let’s say it together: JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!

It’s easy to forget that; I’m guilty of it myself. Commercials and billboards and radio ads aren’t proclaiming THE KING IS COMING! They’re shouting 75% off and filling our heads with images that convey gifts equal love.

If you have a decent Christmas budget, you can easily get bogged down by time constraints, finding the perfect gift, shipping delays, and knotted ribbon.

If you don’t have a Christmas budget, you are more apt to fall into a depression or jealousy over not being able to produce the Christmas you see those around you having.

Perhaps your holidays are so filled with children’s performances, work parties, and social obligations that you barely have time to relax much less reflect on the season.

Look at your schedule for this week. Is it filled to the brim? Practically non-existent?

If there’s TOO MUCH, then look at what you can skip this year. Or leave early. Enlist help- a neighbor teen can help wrap or even babysit for a few hours. Make sure everything on your list this week is something that brings you JOY. And make sure to carve out some quiet time at least twice this week to sit back and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

If there’s NOT ENOUGH, find some free holiday joy in your area. Most cities have free programs like Tree Lightings or Christmas Concerts. Make yourself get in the spirit of the season even if you can’t afford the bells and whistles of Christmas. Christmas gifts come and go in our lives but Christmas MEMORIES stay with us forever.

 

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.)