I am not a Christmas person. I have not been for a very long time. I LOVE what Christmas stands for but can not get into any of the typical Christmas activities. My ever present nemesis (depression) is often triggered as soon as the Christmas decorations go up and the Christmas music begins playing. I know this goes back to my childhood when holidays meant more fighting, more drinking, more violence, more abuse and more pretending. I am so sorry this is also true for too many others. And as if that were not enough my dad died on Christmas day when I was in my teens. I know now I stuffed those hard feelings back then because expressing it would of put me in more danger so now it comes out as depression at the sound of Christmas music. Every year I fight it and every year it is back.
I know thru counseling that I suffered from delayed and complicated grief. I also know the effects of trauma are hard to overcome but it is possible to find joy where there once was none. I can vaguely remember one Christmas morning when I was maybe 4 or 5, clutching my new gift, a soft, brown stuffed dog I named Merry as we headed to church and I felt happy. Oh, to be able to rewind and undo everything else that holds me back and steals my joy!
I am taking back what was stolen from me years ago. I am going to fight it tooth and nail! I also know that I can recreate my own traditions and memories. I have much to be thankful for in my life. I have amazing kids and a loving husband. I will never be a Christmas decorations fanatic ( my kids usually put up the tree a couple days before Christmas) but I can love what Christmas stands for. I can love God, who is a God of new beginnings, a God who is in the business of creating beauty out of pain and brokenness. I can make my Christmas look like whatever I want. I can enjoy the blessing of a new day.
Last night at our church's Wed. evening meal I had a woman come up to me and ask if she could give me a hug! She told me I had been an encouragement to her and I was on her mind. She just wanted to thank me for encouraging her. She has been recently widowed and with tears in her eyes she said we need to support each other as a family in Christ. I sat there for a few minutes and then it sunk in that she was the most recent of a long line of people who I believe God has put in my path who have helped encourage and hold me up this past , difficult year. I suddenly had a long line of similar encounters flash thru my mind of people popping up, seemingly out of the blue, to hug, pray and hold me up or to say something I really needed to hear. I had to go back and tell her this because I had let it slipped my mind recently- thinking I can get by on my own strength. Silly, silly me. I wanted her to know she had blessed me immensely and it was as if God reached down and gave me a gentle reminder that even though I had let Him slip from my mind He had not let go of me.
I know this holiday season will be hard for many. many people and I want to say to those who may struggle it is okay to let go of the typical holiday riff raff and NOT feel guilty. That may just open the door to let the real meaning come in. Take time to do what you need to heal and find some peace and joy in the little things- good friends, a beautiful sunrise, a soft, warm puppy, a good book, a cozy blanket. Cry if you need to cry. Find ways to nurture yourself and ask God to reveal Himself to you. I love when God comes to me in some very personal way that lets me know that I can 'be still and know He is God'. I don't have to carry these burdens of guilt, pain, sorrow any longer. I also don't have to try to make sense out of everything in my life. I can work on me, do my best and I can trust God to deal with this crazy world.
This blog post was spurred on by another I read at: http://www.survivingourblessings.com/2012/11/why-i-need-advent.html
The author wrote as she wrote about the busyness of preparing for Christmas: I'm reminding myself that I have time...that time is what Advent is about. It's about waiting. It's about not throwing ourselves into the nativity scene while there is still leftover turkey and dressing in the fridge. It's about giving ourselves permission to start at a place that's less than ready. It's about taking a deep breath and realizing that our unpreparedness, our brokenness, our cobwebby corners and dirty floors are exactly where Christ is going to make his entrance...and that when Christ meets us in the middle of our mess, He makes it holy.
I have let go of the drive to 'prepare' for Christmas for the most part because I don't do much of it but I realize I still need to prepare my heart. By avoiding the stores, the music, the preparation of Christmas I am also avoiding preparing my heart for what is most dear to me and that is the birth of my Savior. I write this today as a declaration to you, to God and to myself that I will prepare my heart to celebrate Christmas even if the tree never gets up!
If you also struggle with the feelings of loss, depression or grief this time of the year how have you made your Christmas celebration your own? How have you honored lost loved ones? How do you deal with holiday depression?
Thanks for stopping by,