I haven’t experienced the dread of Christmas ornaments in quite awhile.
It caught me off guard.
Like many people this year, we were ready to bring out our holiday decorations early. We needed a ray of hope after months of Michigan shut down & worldly tension.
All the decorations went up easily & our house started to look a little brighter. Then, it was time for the tree. My daughter helped me carry it upstairs & put it together. Seeing the lights come on made all the hard work worth it.
That’s when the feeling from years past swept over me, and grief threatened to swallow me. I just never know when triggers will come. I looked at those ornament boxes & knew.
I couldn’t do it this year.
I stacked the boxes by the tree and there they stayed. Every time I thought about decorating the tree all the waves of emotion would crash in.
I went through this the first few years after losing Jake. Then, again, four years ago when a family member walked out of our lives.
You see…inside those boxes are symbols of loss. Once, they were memories & some years they are still tender memories…but this year…this whole 2020 thing. This year is a different kind of raw.
Do you feel it too?
2020 has been very revealing. Values have been exposed. Some families have gotten closer and others have watched as their cracks of brokenness grew wider. There’s something about hard times that pull people together or tear people apart.
Sadly, we aren’t one of the families that grew closer, and I’m guessing that’s the root of the struggle for me with this years tree.
The enemy tries to use our reality to get us to believe his lies. Just because I hurt doesn’t mean the Lord has abandoned me.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
Every night as I turned on the tree, I appreciated the beauty of it’s bareness. The glistening & shining lights reminded me of how we’re called to be lamps on a lampstand.
“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16 (CSB)
One thing that has happened for me in 2020 is a strengthening…a deeper reliance on Christ and continued spiritual growth. He always brings good out of bad…I just have to have eyes to see it.
The day finally came… I told Jaelynn it was time to decorate the tree. I opened the first box & crumbled. Through my tears I chocked out that I just couldn’t do it.
Do you know what happened? That precious girl sorted all those ornaments. She laid out all the “safe” ornaments & tucked away the ones from Christmas past.
In that moment I felt weak. The truth is I am. My strength ended long ago. I only make it through each day because of His strength. It’s OK that she sees when I can’t…it’s then that she sees Who can.
After we finished decorating we both agreed we liked it more bare…and next year we just might stick with some berry sprigs & plain wooden ornaments.
For now, it’s one day at a time. His plans are not my plans. His ways are not my ways. I’m seeking to live a surrendered, anchored-in life. Like a bare tree…exposed, but shining brightly.
I’m fresh into a new book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, by Lysa Terkeurst. I’d like to share two paragraphs from the companion journal that stuck out to me last night…
“The painful event in your life has the potential to darken all of your memories related to it. But it doesn’t have to. In reality, your memories are a mix of delightful and awful, and you get to choose what you do with them. Beautiful or painful, they are all your own authentic experience.”
“If we want something different, we can try to do something different. The very idea of that shines a bit of light and hope into our souls. For now, we will hold onto two truths: all is not lost, and while the pain can certainly refine us, it does not have to define us.”
Maybe you’re in a place of pain right now. Can I offer you some hope? No matter what is going on around us, God is very much in control. Our lives might not look anything like what we planned, but there is purpose in it all….even when it doesn’t make sense.
Will you join me in laying down all the unknowns, and lift your hands high to the One who does know?
Jesus loves us so much that He willingly died in our place. He was persecuted, mocked & beaten. He suffered so we could be free. I don’t know about you, but that drops me to my knees. What I deserve, He took instead.
Even in this ever changing world, there is an unchanging Savior. That is where true hope lies, my friend. Right there. His mercies are new every single morning.
Come…let us adore Him!
Wrapped in His grace,