10 Comments

  1. Jennie
    December 8, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

    Wow, Cindy. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to write it and for being honest about some things surrounding this time of year in your life. As I read about those hard things, my heart aches. Actually it aches from the pit of my stomach. I admire your bravery and your desire to help others by sharing what is on your heart. I am also honored to know how to specifically pray for you during this season. So very glad to be in the RAC community with you. Hoping others will post. Heck, maybe I will search for some courage in my own self and be back with a piece of my own story. Thanks for all you do for RAC and for this post. So grateful!

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  2. Jeff Walton
    December 8, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

    Thank you, Cindy, for sharing these thoughtful words. Christmas is not my favorite holiday, due to the unnecessary anxiety it brings. This year, my sister isn’t going to join my parents and I for Christmas. Partly it is due to financial limitations, but mostly it is due to increased strains between her and my mother. It is far from the ideal, but quiet conversations with others have revealed shared stresses, usually worse ones.

    Before Thanksgiving each year, Dean Miller prays before Kairos for all of the unhappy situations that people will have to navigate during this season. It has been a welcome acknowledgment of this difficult time, and also a reminder that returning home to two married parents that know the Lord is far easier than many of my friends Christmases.

    Your comments about singleness are also something that I can partially echo. While I don’t feel a significant need to be paired with someone, it feels like staying single is not an option, since marriage takes all of my friends away. One of the most “alone” moments I’ve felt in recent years involved being in my house with six other people — my roommate Greg was watching a DVD with his girlfriend, J.P. was working on wedding planning with his fiancee, and Robbie was studying with his fiancee. I was completely alone. Efforts to befriend married friends usually fall flat (especially those with children) because married people have to work hard to maintain relationships with singles (there are no natural connections like play dates for the children or soccer practice). If you don’t have a wife that is friends with your buddy’s wife, you can forget ever getting on their calendar.

    Cindy, thanks for being vulnerable in this space: it’ll be a good step towards our growth into a real church with pains that are known.

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  3. Cameron & Carolyn
    December 8, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

    This is wonderful, Cindy. One thought that came to mind is that — as Erin has been mentioning — Advent isn’t the time that Christ has come yet. It’s the season before — the season when all is not yet set right; it’s the season of waiting and wondering and anticipation. I think your sentiments are so poignant and beautiful precisely BECAUSE they capture the true spirit of Advent — knowing the brutal reality that things are broken and difficult, but having faith that the Promised One will One Day repair what is broken.

    To Jeff’s points, this is opening a great discussion that’s important for our community: How can we build true community across the “marriage divide”? As a married father of four, let me agree with Jeff and just own it. It is fairly hard for singles to find their way onto my social calendar. But some wonderful strides from some in our community gives me great hope that — if we all lean toward one another — we can make progress here.

    Consider:
    1. Some dear friends of ours — Brian and Teresa — don’t yet have kids. And yet, when they invite us over for dinner, they have also set a table with crayons and butcher paper for my daughters to color on. We felt so humbled by their love for our kids — not seeing them as a problem in search of a babysitter.

    2. We have come to love Adam and Nadia. They join us for dinner periodically and they understand when we have to excuse ourselves to put our kids to bed. On a couple of occasions, they have offered to come over to babysit; Carolyn and I get a little “date night” and then come back and enjoy some wine and fellowship with this great young couple. Separately, Adam and I are meeting up tomorrow night after the kids are in bed just to hang out and share a drink.

    3. There’s a great group of guys at RAC who — in warmer months — go cycling early in the morning (to minimize impact on the wives of the guys who have kids). The guys range from fathers of full tribes to married guys to single guys.

    So — yes — it can be hard to bridge the single-married divide. As a parent, it’s absolutely easier to take my kids to someone’s home who already has a play gym, diapers, and a high chair. But with some creative loving thinking about the needs/opportunities that each season creates, I think there’s a wonderful, community-affirming path that we can take together.

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  4. Elizabeth
    December 9, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

    I appreciate this post so incredibly much. I pray that our community can be a “real”—honest with our feelings, questions, struggles, pain, wonderings, joys, even our doubts. So thank you so much, Cindy, for stepping out.

    You know, I remember John Yates saying in a sermon a few years ago that Christmas is his least favorite time of the year—and he is THE “family” guy. So I don’t think having one’s own family is all that much of a counterweight to the potentially difficult parts of this holiday (especially the way it is celebrated here in the US these days). In fact, when you add kids to the mix, you introduce this incredible responsibility for keeping the little ones focused on the reason for the season, while also trying not to blow the budget, and having to deal with the inevitable post-present-opening-let-down, AND still dealing with the kind of extended family stuff that you talk about in your post. It’s all pretty hard. But I do hear you on the being alone thing. I remember being overseas for Christmas with no family, before I was married, and it was deeply sad. And I wasn’t even a believer then!

    All in all, doesn’t it feel like amidst all he present giving and getting and party going, there is a lot in the way Christmas is done here in this country that can remind us that this just isn’t how it’s supposed to be?

    I am thankful for Advent, though, when I can keep it, because it is a daily chance to really think about the gift that God gave us in that humble birth of His Son in a stable to a teenage mother surrendered to God’s will… and it can take my heart past the losses that Christmas reminds us of (as you so aptly point out), and the focus on the materialism of it all, and instead point it toward the the love that became flesh and walked among us that morning thousands of years ago.

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  5. Elizabeth
    December 10, 2009 @ 5:41 am

    Cindy–I woke up this morning still thinking about your brave, wonderful post. And I wanted to write quickly to apologize for not listening well, namely by equating your struggle with how your life looks now and how you wanted or expected it to with a couple of Christmases I spent alone overseas in my 20s.

    There is no real good that comes from making the struggles of life relative, but I did want to acknowledge that some — like undesired singlehood, or childlessness, or early death of a loved one, or one that our extended family deals with – an autistic child, for example — are simply heavier weights to carry, needing a whole different kind of dependence on Jesus and His Holy Spirit than, say, trying to keep one’s children off the materialism of Christmas. Please forgive me. Anyhow, I am praying for you, and for all of us who find it hard to stay focused on the Christ child in this season celebrating His birth…

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  6. Jeff Walton
    December 11, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    A lot of cricket chirps out there.

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  7. Erica C.
    December 11, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    I do appreciate the Advent season’s ability of compelling us to long for things that should be.

    I agree, Cindy, there is a haunting heart sickness that can grab your soul during this time (the lack of sunshine doesn’t help either).

    During this week’s Adventy Fireside Chat, there was mention of God submitting Himself to time for our sake. I love the clear and sober encouragement from Hebrews in the midst of our waiting for the fulfillment of promises that have YET to arrive: “All these people {Hall of Faith, i.e. Noah, Abraham} were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.” -Hebrews 11:13

    In our overwhelming moments, let us remind each other not to lose heart, but rather anticipate together the mysterious hope of our faith–when promises will be fulfilled.

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  8. Anne
    December 12, 2009 @ 9:00 am

    I’ve really enjoyed reading these comments as well as your wonderful post, Cindy. (Is ‘enjoyed’ the right word? Well, I don’t know. But I know I thank you for them.) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, the fact that it’s sooooo not the way it’s supposed to be. In my own life, the holidays bring quite a lot of sadness around the way life is here on earth. This year I don’t personally have too much negative drama, but I’ve had plenty in the past, and the scars tend to speak up during this Advent season. (I like Cameron & Carolyn’s words about Advent being the time BEFORE His coming. Good reminder.) The scars’ voices are fresh and poignant. I might like to shut them up, but honestly, they bring wisdom and gratitude and compassion for myself and others, like you, who walk with me on this path. And so I spend some time with them, these scars with voices. We review their pain. We don’t stay too long, it’s just a visit. Jesus is there, as in all things, and He has things to teach me from this new vantage point. I wish I could feel more enthusiastic about more lessons.

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  9. Josh
    December 19, 2009 @ 10:37 am

    @Cindy: Such a cool, honest post. Thanks! My dad lost his brother when I was about 2 or 3, and my Uncle was 32ish. Pretty much every Christmas my grandpa cries, and this year (thanks to Alzheimer’s) my grandpa has begun saying “Josh is dead” instead of my uncle’s name. It doesn’t really affect me strongly, but it has made it more clear as I get older that Christmas can really suck for some people.

    My question is, how can we help? You’re not the only one going through this – so this question isn’t just for you, Cindy. But, what can we do? Honestly – how can we as a church support, encourage, and bring joy beyond praying? This isn’t rhetorical, what do you all think?

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  10. Cindy
    December 20, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

    Thanks everyone for your comments – both here and the many I’ve received in my email and in person. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve felt from my church family. I am so encouraged by the conversation here – thank you all for piling on!

    To your question Josh, I’ll share some thoughts that are general, not just to my situation. I think if we are a place where we are intentional about being in relationship with one another (e.g. stepping out of our comfort zones and reaching out to one another instead of just doing our own thing, being willing to be honest in response to “how are you” instead of just saying “great!” when we aren’t, or on the flip side asking “no, really, how are you?”) that will go a long way.

    I had a wise older woman once recommend to me that we should build relationships with one another modeled after Jesus (the outer circle of 12, inner circle of 3 and the closest 1). I think in that type of community you are able to know and be known in a way that fosters true connectedness. Relationships where you pray together and follow up with one another in a way that’s meaningful (i.e. what’s going on w/such and such…).

    Anyway, those are just a few thoughts. I should also say I’ve experienced many of these things here at Restoration. Would love to hear what others think…

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