Perfectly Imperfect Holidays
No holiday, no plan, no family, no friend is perfect. However you feel about the holidays, and how you usually spend them, the season won’t be all bad or all good. We live in a broken world, but it is not a world without grace. But there is always something to be thankful for. There is always beauty to find, always something to learn.
Maybe you don’t want to hear that right now.
Accept blessings as they come is one of my Six Tips to Do More than Just Survive the Holiday. Check out the rest!
Stumbling on Open Ground
One of the greatest things I’m learning on this walk of faith is that there is a blessing in everything. It is always God’s intent to bless us in and through all circumstances. The difficult part is accepting the blessing. Acceptance allows us to find it, hidden within whatever packaging it arrives.
Sometimes we mistake pretty packaging for the blessing.
Sometimes we miss the beauty because we reject the pain it’s wrapped in.
In his book Stumbling on Open Ground, Ken Mansfield writes about his bouts with two different rare cancers. Treatment was excruciating. But in it he found intimacy with God I can only imagine. He hadn’t experienced that depth before everything was stripped away, everything but pain, and he yielded himself to it. I’m not talking about masochism here. I’m talking about not railing, and not running. I’m talking about admitting that we’re powerless, and that there we are surrounded by grace even in the worst of circumstances. Breathe it in.
Maybe there’s an empty place at your table this year, and it’s like the heart has been ripped out of your holidays, out of your life. Maybe it’s been a hard year, and you just want to see the end of it.
My first Christmas without my mother, I was so busy, and everything was so topsy-turvy, I didn’t have time to grieve. I worked every day and evening at one of my three jobs for a month straight; I didn’t have time to compare the year to the previous. I remember setting up an artificial tree in the north-facing windows in the living room of my apartment. I remember a silver-colored garland of hard plastic musical instruments, harps and… I remember getting to the end of my shift at JC Penney on Christmas Eve, the mall closing early after closing late for weeks, and the relief of knowing that no one could ask me to work the next day. But I can’t remember anything about Christmas Day.
Firsts aren’t usually like that. And spots of grief can darken moments the rest of your life. God doesn’t tell us not to mourn. But it’s foolish to forget Him, or blame Him, when the answer is to seek Him, and rest in Him.
The Greatest Gift
A good friend once said that if God never gave us anything besides redemption, it was still more than we deserved. He provided the Way, the best thing, the only thing that really matters, worth more than anything.
But it’s not easy to live.
And it’s not helpful to hit someone with when they’re struggling. The last thing to say, or imply, to someone in pain, is that they shouldn’t hurt. Or that they wouldn’t hurt so bad if their faith was stronger.
It’s true that when time ends, the things of time will fade away. The pain will be washed away, and the pleasures will pale, in God’s Presence. But, until then, we live this life, in a broken world.
God’s promise for the ultimate future of His children can be a comfort in our suffering.
But, first, we must acknowledge the pain.
We need to find God and His grace in it, not beyond it. He is there, but He is also here. It is only now, in this moment, that we can sit with Him, receive from Him, be held and comforted.
Our hope is rooted in eternity. But that hope allows us to hope in each moment. It’s not just about getting through; it’s about being in. It’s not just about finishing, but living. And growing.
We can’t live in the past or the future. Only now.
Life can be hard. It can hurt. But with pain comes the promise of comfort, and growth. With brokenness, comes the promise of healing. With everything, comes grace. The hard part is seeking, accepting, and yielding to them.
The Hope of Advent
The meaning of the first candle lit for Advent is HOPE. Read more about Advent hope here.
Check out my review of Stumbling on Open Ground.