You might find her coordinating our WV mission team, or in the back running powerpoint and sound on Sunday morning, or leading a small group, or overhauling the database we use to stay in touch with people, or facilitating the connection of weekly prayer requests to our intercessor team… Cindy loves Jesus, loves His church, and loves people so well. She is a significant part of our Restoration life together.
Today she gives us yet another gift: a peek into her heart.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…
Without a doubt, the birth of Christ is a joyous occasion, a reason to celebrate and enjoy time with friends and family. I don’t know about you, but along with the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth comes a whole lot of busyness, grief and pain – to the point where the joy and the “reason for the season” can get lost. Before I go any further, I want to state clearly that the purpose of this post is to shed light on the dark places that come with this holiday, to open a dialogue about how we really experience this season so that we can encourage and support one another.
Whether you have lost a loved one and are facing the first Christmas without them or you are grieving another holiday that doesn’t fit the Norman Rockwell mold, this season brings with it a lot of pain. On top of that, as Christians we can feel an added pressure to be joyful and put on the happy face because being anything less than joyful at Christmas time just doesn’t seem right. All of these things lead to some very dark and isolating moments, ones we’re not likely to share which makes matters even worse.
So here goes, I’m going to out myself… I hope that others will follow suit. I hope that we can share the real pain as well as the real joy that comes with this season.
First, a little background. My parents were divorced when I was very young and what that means for me today is that my time is divided over the holidays. Mom lives in NH, Dad lives in PA and I live in VA. So, every year I do a Christmas “road show” traveling to see everyone. This year I will be gone about a week over the holidays covering roughly 1,000 miles round trip of the eastern seaboard in potentially inclement weather and bad driving conditions. The travel alone is stressful.
Underlying the stress of the travel there is a deep sadness of the “death of the dream” of where I thought I would be at this point in my life. Most of the other 11 months of the year I am pretty content in my singleness, but something happens this time of the year that unlocks the aching for companionship that stays more dormant the rest of the year. I long for a day when I can be settled and not travel at Christmas, but the alternative right now is staying in VA and being alone…not a preferable alternative. I also long to experience Christmas worship with my church family instead of worshiping as a visitor in a church not my own.
All in all in recent years, Christmas has made me long for Easter which has become a far more joyous holiday for me, not just because it’s the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection but also because it doesn’t have all the other “baggage” that comes along with Christmas.
I know for many the loss of loved ones becomes especially pronounced at Christmas as well, whether that is from death or broken relationships. We longingly remember times together in years past and grieve the loss of those times in the present and future. Recently I re-read a blog post from Christmas last year of a friend of mine who died in April from liver cancer. She spoke about reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, and I was brought to tears about the fact that this year she is celebrating Christ’s birth with Him in heaven cancer-free and pain-free. Now THAT’s something to be joyful about!
My dream for Restoration is that we can be a place where we can be real about these things and not put on the happy face and muddle through. I encourage you to share your pain about Christmas, either as a comment in response to this blog or more privately with others in our community. I would love the opportunity for us to be lifting these concerns up in prayer for one another throughout the season and generally for us to be aware of the pain that comes with the joy.