A Not-So-Perfect Christmas

Christmas means the celebration of Christ, the giving of gifts, time off work and time with family – it is my favorite time of year and favorite holiday.  The nativity is up on the bookshelf in a place of honor with all eyes resting on the Christ child.  There is a mantle filled with angels and greeting cards by the score.

From the outside looking in the scene is idyllic; almost perfect.  But really, nothing is ever quite what it seems.  Nothing is ever as good as it looks on Instagram.

Perfection doesn’t exist this side of Heaven.

The close of 2016 marks the first full year without my grandmother and her loss is only one that my family and extended family have experienced.  It is so hard to adjust to the loss of a parent or grandparent and there is a heaviness in their absence.  In the last several days I’ve read so many accounts of people who are celebrating their first Christmas without a loved one, perhaps you can relate?

It is also marks the first year a family member will not be celebrating with us due to an illness not easily understood by adults, let alone children.  Indeed, we had no way of knowing this time last year, that 2016 would be marked by a crash course in mental health related issues for a loved one. Mental health illnesses are sometimes invisible diseases – often there is no visible sign of the diagnosis, unless you’ve been trained in what to look for.  We are struggling to adjust to a new course for which there is no good map and over which we have little say.

And, then there are friends and loved ones struggling with a losing battle to cancer.  These are the battles that seem to place everything else in perspective.

As a momma, it all weighs so heavy on my heart.

I’m tired from trying to figure out doctor appointments and family visits; how you coordinate and explain a visit to the hospital on Christmas day and yet still ensure a sense of normalcy for the littles.  How do you explain death and dying and mental illness to a 7 year old?  I have this image of a mother hen with her chicks under her wing and I want that to be me.  I want to hunker down with my brood and turn our backs to everything big and bad out there.

And, while Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, this year I’d rather be calling for the coming of Christ.  

I’ve been thinking about the days ahead, about the new year.  I’ve been thinking about what to expect and how to be better prepared for the unknown.  You see, 2016 caught me off guard – perhaps even asleep at the wheel.  I wasn’t expecting the challenges we faced as a family.

And today, as I sit here in the quiet, I am vowing that the new year will be different.  The troubles will come – of that there is no doubt, but I won’t be lulled into complacency.  I am taking my cue from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians; heeding his instruction on what it means to be a Christian both in faith and in practice and where we can find our strength.

In Ephesians, chapter 6 verse 11, Paul extorts us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  He reminds us that our battle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12.)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth bulled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the Lord’s people.  (Ephesians 6:13-18)

As I enjoy this time off from work and nestled in with my family, I plan to usher the new year in with prayer.  I will also start the first in a two part series on how we can pray for our children – I hope you will join me.

If there is something I can be praying for you about today please share in the comments below.