The First Christmas

‘Christmas is not so much about opening presents as it is about opening our hearts.’  Janice Maeditere

Out of all of the firsts during a season of grief, I think Christmas is one of the most difficult times. I wanted to give homage to this truth this year because I know a lot of families experiencing a lot of Christmas firsts without their loved ones around. My footprints have been there after my divorce and the loss of my Mom so I am sensitive to this subject for others. The season really creates a dichotomy of emotions for those going through this valley as it is usually a trigger for those hurts and loss. If you are a Christian and you celebrate the real reason for Christmas, there is the joy in the truth that Jesus came to earth as a baby, to be God with us and be the Saviour for our sins. On the other side of that is deep grief and sadness in your loss and you may have trouble reconciling those emotions especially while many are expecting you to display the joy or excitement of Christmas.

Here are some of the ways that I coped during this season and others that I have read as I have studied grief and how people cope during loss.

  1. Be honest with your emotions and to those around you. Sometimes this means just being with those that will understand where you are at and accept that in you. Other times it will take a gentle reminder that you are still in the throes of grieving. Acknowledging the holidays will be difficult but it sometimes frees us to grieve easier.
  2. Start a new tradition. Doing something new with others starts a fresh memory to ease the pain of old ones.
  3. Continue with old traditions and customs. My Mom used to make and decorate sugar cookies with us every year and for me that was a comfort to carry on this tradition.
  4. Create an exit strategy. Go to someone elses home for celebrations but take a separate vehicle or set a boundary with your time so that if things get to intense for you, you can leave.
  5. Let your emotions out. Cry if you need to, tears are healing. I know I tried to prepare and be ready ahead of time by going through all kinds of scenarios and imagining what things would feel like. I really had no idea and in essence with all my preparing, I actually walked through some of the emotions before and was able to be more present during Christmas.
  6. Find a grief group, pastor or counselor. This was an imperative part of my healing process. I attended a suicide survivor group for a few months and besides helping me to process some of these raw emotions, I realized I was not alone in my grief.
  7. Volunteer your time. There is great relief in getting out of your head and emotions by helping other people. The needs are always great but Christmas also highlights opportunities for people to give back. Help out with a cause that was close to your loved ones heart.
  8. Write a letter to your loved one. This can be ongoing as things come to you but it is very healing to write your words and emotions to them, perhaps expressing things you didn’t have a chance to share with them before they died. Forgive them and ask for their forgiveness if you need to, then ask Jesus for the same thing.
  9. Practice self-care. Sleep lots, eat and drink in moderation. Share your feelings with a trusted confidante. Go for long walks. Do something you love. Light a candle for your loved one and pray.
  10. Don’t feel guilty. Everyone grieves differently even within the same family. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by seemingly ‘normal’ activities. It is ok to say no. It is ok to feel joy and be happy in the midst of grief. Feel your feelings. Grief has no time limit, listen to your heart, not everyone’s advice to move on or get over it.
  11. Do something in memory of your loved one. We planted a tree when it was warmer. Make or buy an ornament. Have a memory box that everyone can share favorite memories and pick a time to share them together. Donate to a cause your loved one believed in.

Remember especially in this Christmas season, the babe born in the manger. He came to bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, to be close to the brokenhearted, to bring healing to the wounded hearts. I don’t know how I would have survived without my faith and those standing beside me. Go to God with your grief, He knows all about it and He is waiting to comfort your heart.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Confident Humility

‘Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 1:6

How do I stay humble but yet be confident of the abilities God gave me? This question came from my son Owen during his basketball tryouts as I prayed over him one day encouraging him to be bold in his abilities. I loved his heart and to me the answer was in the question. His knowing that it is God who gave Him these abilities is humility hurdle number one. Hurdle number two was his desire to stay humble during this process.  Hurdle number three is the fact that he made the cut from 45 to 12 even if he isn’t the strongest player and it is only his second year playing and he isn’t boasting to everyone about it. Apparently I am though, perhaps I didn’t jump the hurdles without knocking one over.

I am a proud Mama, just like God our Father is proud of each of us. Joyce Meyer said, “He has never spoken anything negative about us.” My boasting also is in the Lord and the favour and opportunity that He gave Owen in this season. He did raise a good question though and I think the answer to achieve confident humility is to remember that our confidence is in God and not in ourselves. He absolutely gives us all gifts and abilities and strengths that others may not have but it does not make us better, just gives us better opportunities to give Him glory.

The other night I had the absolute privilege to speak blessings over the women in our lifegroup. I was honored that God would want to partner with me to speak of His life and love for each of these fearfully and wonderfully made women. Then I was completely humbled as they spoke blessing over me, sharing how God has allowed them to see me. Redeemed and full of Him. All of the things I desire to be, authentic, mentor, teacher, writer, pointing to Jesus. I say this not to boast but to say I would not be who I am at all if it were not for Him and His grace, mercy, healing and redemption. And this not for me but for others. We are healed in places to lead others to healing, we are comforted to comfort others, we have experiences to make us more like Him and show Him to this dark world.

I was convicted though to walk in the truth of the things I heard that night. To not downplay them with false humility but being confident that these are things He has worked out in me. Acting in true humility does not deny our own self-worth, it literally means the disposition to be humble, a lack of self-pride. It means to lower your own worth and be considerate of others, more of Jesus, less of you.

This theme ties in with my focus this season, on the incredible humility and confidence of our God to enter in to the mess of our world to bring redemption. He knew from the beginning that sending His Son as a helpless babe into a dirty stable was required to rescue us from ourselves. A free gift. All we need to do is open it. This takes confident humility, this choice of faith cannot be made from a prideful position. It is grace toward us through faith where we can be confident that He chose to come and die and be resurrected for our sin. I always marvel at Mary, the mother of Jesus in this season for the ultimate confident humility she displayed as an angel came to tell her, a young unmarried teenager girl, she was to be the mother of the Son of the Most High, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:38 ,”I am the Lord’s servant.” Mary answered,” May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Most of us can’t imagine responding that way, but she was confident in her God and not full of herself. For her it left no other choice but to obey even when she didn’t understand.

So what are your hurdles that are preventing you from choosing Jesus, particularly this season as we celebrate Him and His birth? Seek Him this Christmas and open your amazing gift of Love. You will not be disappointed. He is waiting for you.