A Not So Merry Christmas


I’ve always loved Christmas.  It’s my favorite time of year.  I love decorating my house, making Christmas gifts and goodies, listening to Christmas music starting at Thanksgiving, spending time with family and Christmas traditions.  I love the lights and the beauty of the season.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year…at least it used to be.  Things have changed in my little world, and I know there are others just like me.  This year Christmas has been hard…really hard.  As a person who has struggled with severe depression in the past, it has really taken me by surprise this holiday season that it has reared its ugly head again.  If you have depression, you know it’s not something that ever goes away.  It may subside for a while, but it can show up at the most unexpected times.

 

For me, it shows up when I’m very busy, stressed, unable to fix something, or when I’m feeling unloved or unappreciated.  This Christmas was the perfect storm of all of these.  Some of it was self-inflicted, but a good majority was brought on by other people and situations.  It’s been a hard season, to say the least.  I know I’m not alone.  I’ve talked to so many who feel the same way or I’ve seen their posts on Facebook that allude to the same feelings.

 

Christmas comes with certain feelings, expectations, and traditions.  When those get messed with, it’s not easy to deal with.  For some it’s the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a diagnosis, a rift in the family, or a myriad of other possible scenarios.  There is a certain peace and comfort that comes in the way things have always been.  There’s a certain expectation that it’s the way things will always be.  Change is hard, especially when it is forced upon you with little regard to your feelings.  It comes through the natural progression of life, but it also comes through the selfish actions of others.  No matter how it is brought about, it is painful.

 

I don’t really have any answers for you.  I just wanted you to know that if you are feeling that loss this year, if the tears have been flowing a little more freely than usual, or if you have that heavy feeling in your chest…me too.  As, I sit here now typing this message to you, my heart hurts, my chest is heavy, and the tears are brimming in my eyes.  The feelings are real and raw.  Life can be a cruel beast!  The circumstances may vary, but the feelings can be the same.  Unfortunately, this time of year seems to exacerbate them.  I can swing from pure joy to extreme sadness.  One small thing can flip the switch.  You’re not alone.  I feel your pain.

 

This I do know…this is a season.  This too shall pass.  I will learn some valuable lessons during this tough time and will hopefully set different expectations for next year.  God is still good and I can still find comfort in knowing that this season is about His birth.  No matter what expectations have not been met this Christmas, it does not change the fact that I am truly and fully loved by Him. If I had been the only one on earth, He still would have come for me, and He loves you just the same.  The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, creator of the world and all of the universe, loves us!  He gave up all of His majesty to become one of the least of us.  God came down here for us.  People will always fail us or leave us, but He never will.

 

I have felt unloved, but He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  I’ve felt unappreciated, but He says “I have seen the time, effort and love you’ve put forth to others. Well done, you’ve loved well.”  I’ve felt stressed, busy, and out of control, but He says, “I’ve got this.”  He has seen my tears and says, “One day, I will wipe away all of your tears.”

 

His message is the same to you.  “I see you.  I feel your pain.  I save your tears and I hear your prayers.”

 

So…Merry Christmas, dear friends.  When joy seems to be just out of reach this season, no matter how hard you try…me too!  Know you are loved!  Prayers for you, that joy will show up in some amazingly unexpected ways!

I Choose Hope!

 

Hope

When you look around today, as a Christian, it’s difficult to not lose hope.  It’s easy to get discouraged.  The states of our world, nation, state, and even our families are dismal at best.  We are living in a time when things seem totally out of control.  Hate, intolerance, and offense are words heard daily and usually aimed at us.  People have different ways of dealing with all that is going on.  Some people rant and rave, but put no action to their words.  Other people placate and try to be the devil’s advocate.  Yet, still others bury their heads in the sand and hope that when they come up for air it will all be better.  To tell you the truth, I’ve spent time in all of these camps at one time or another.  If we don’t directly feel the effects of those things around us, it’s easy to let someone else fight the battle or deny the battle even needs fought.

At the beginning of every year, for several years now, I’ve taken the month of January to do some soul searching.  This year is no different.  I like to look at the upcoming year, set some goals and get back in physical and spiritual shape after the chaos of the holidays.  People may attack the New Year in different ways, but for me fasting and prayer seems a good way to start.  So as I was lying in bed praying and thinking on all the negative things swirling around me, the Lord was gracious.  He put some new thoughts in my head about the situations we seem to be facing.

So this year, I choose hope.

Let me explain.  It is really easy to get wrapped up in all that is wrong in our world; both locally and globally.  It’s human nature to gravitate to the negative.  Any news outlets or social media sites are filled with all that is wrong.  What we as Christians often fail to remember, and what the Lord so graciously reminded me of, is in Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  It may look as if we are losing the battle, and honestly, I think we are, but there is hope.  Our God is still on the throne.  Jesus is still sitting at His right hand.  Nothing that is happening here on earth surprises them.  Oh, I do think it saddens them, but They know all things.  There is nothing new under the sun.  They are sovereign and They know the entire plan.  So, I find peace and rest in that.

I also draw hope from those Christians around me that I see doing great things.  I draw hope from the mother of four, who for the last 13 years has selflessly fought on the front lines for religious freedom.  Even in the midst of constant criticism and attacks, she presses on.  I draw hope from a loyal friend who is fighting tirelessly for the unborn, even in the midst of naysayers who tell her it can’t be done.  I draw hope from a small country church whose numbers are dwindling, yet when given the opportunity to sign a petition for religious freedom, nearly every person signed.  I find hope in a county councilman who believes in our county and that we can make America great again by building from the ground up, starting at the county level, building on Biblical principles.  I find hope in that I still live in a school district that is not ashamed to speak the Word of God or sing songs about Jesus in their Christmas program.  I find hope in my children, who see what is going on in the world and can look at things through untainted eyes and clearly know right from wrong.  I draw hope from those who are in seemingly impossible circumstances, yet by the grace of God press on.  God chooses the most unlikely and seemingly under qualified to do great things for Him.  So, I have Hope!

I don’t know what this year will bring to our world, our nation, our state or in my family.  In my plan, the way I would like to see things go; there would be lots of changes for the good.  Luckily for all of us, I’m not in charge, because I would mess it up!  But I know Who is in control and He’s got this!  He’s got all of it, down to the smallest detail.  I plan to do my part.  He does not call us to be spectators.  Actually, the part He has called me to do scares me to death, but I am resting in the fact that in my obedience, He is in control and He will get the glory. I found this verse today and it seemed so fitting.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”  Hebrews 6:10-12

We do not labor in vain.  God sees our efforts.  Our rewards here on earth may be few, as a matter of fact, they may seem like a curse at the time, but I look forward to our eternal rewards which can never be taken.

I have a feeling that this year will be nothing like I expect or want, but I’m going to try to be ok with that.  I know who holds the future and He holds me in the palm of His hand.  We may not win the battles here on earth, but I know Who wins the war!  He is coming soon to take us home, where we will stand in victory.  So, no matter what this year brings, I choose HOPE.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”  1 Peter 3:15-16

By living in the strength of the joy of the Lord, I hope that I can share that HOPE with others.  What about you, friend?  Joy and Hope aren’t just for Christmas.  I think it’s time we show the world where our Joy and our Hope come from-JESUS!  Will you choose HOPE, too?

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Choosing Hope!