This Christmas…

I’m currently sitting on my couch with my feet up, laptop….well, on my lap. The fireplace and Christmas tree are giving my living room a warm and cozy glow. The few presents I was able to give my family this year are all wrapped and placed around the tree. I have to admit that this past year hasn’t exactly been my favourite so there is no one looking forward to a new year more than me.

In my 36 years on this earth I’ve had ups and downs and lonely moments here and there as anyone has, I suspect. But I’ve never felt more lonely than I have this past year with everything that has happened. At the same time, I’ve also never been more thankful. Any kind of tragedy or heartbreak quickly reminds us to take inventory of our lives and the people and things in it. It reminds us of what we still have. It reminds us that the seemingly little things that we tend to take for granted are actually the big things.

My family has always been close. We’re definitely not “The Cleavers”, nor did I grow up in anything resembling a “Currier and Ives” painting. But when one of us goes through something difficult, the rest of us are there in whatever way we can. We make fun of each other constantly, we fight, we make up, we’re all up in each others business, we laugh, we cry, and we support. If you hurt one of us, you hurt us all. If one of us celebrates, we all celebrate. That’s what families do. Over this year I’ve been more thankful for my family than I’ve ever been. They have helped me in countless ways. They’ve cooked me meals, listened to me vent, took me shopping, encouraged me when I wanted to give up, let me be myself and allowed me to cry or get angry when I needed to. It’s really made all the difference to me to have that kind of support around me this year.

Though I can’t imagine what this past year would have been like without my family around me, that is exactly the reality for many people. Especially around this time of year. We can get so caught up in the commercial side of this holiday that we tend to overlook or conveniently forget that there are those that are actually and literally lonely. No support system. No one to call or lend a hand or some encouragement. Wether they’ve passed away or maybe have grown apart on poor terms, Christmas isn’t always “merry” for everyone.

This time of year is also hard for people financially. Think of the single mom that really wants to give her kids a magical Christmas but simply can’t afford it. Or the elderly couple that no one comes to visit anymore or they aren’t well enough to go out and purchase things for themselves and it’s just the two of them and a couple cans of soup. Or the person that is just getting back up on their feet again after an addiction and the only thing that they can focus on around this time of year is to make it through another day sober. We’re so busy getting caught up in our stuff that we end up missing the point entirely.

I don’t know what your Christmas is going to be like this weekend. I know for me, at this point I don’t even know if I’ll get to see my own kids or not. At this point I’m still waiting for an answer. I know I don’t have the money in the bank that I would like to have. I know I wasn’t able to spend what I wanted to spend on my family. I know I’m feeling a bit lonely at the moment. This time of year tends to do that. And there are other things in my life that aren’t the way that I would like them to be. But, I’ll tell you what I DO have.

I know that this Christmas, I’ll be surrounded by my family. I’ll be surrounded by the people that love me and support me unconditionally. I know that they’ll be TONS of food! A full turkey dinner with all the trimmings provided by my family ( and homemade egg nog by yours truly!) I know that Christmas morning I’ll get to watch my nieces and nephews open their gifts and then we’ll all eat a ton of homemade crepes for breakfast! I know that throughout this holiday weekend that there will be tons of laughing and eating and celebrating another year of God’s faithfulness.

Now, let me fill you in on something else. This entire week, your social media feed is going to look like Christmas threw up all over your screen. It’s going to be coming at you from all directions. The perfectly cropped family photos that have 5 filters on them, with matching outfits. Meanwhile, behind the scenes they’re screaming and begging each other to just sit still for “one good one or else!” The pictures with table settings that look fit for a Queen; like a member of the royal family is about to waltz through the door at any second. (Psssst….they’re not.) Or the countless baking and adorably decorated cookies and gingerbread houses and the giant pile of expensive gifts under the tree. When you pull back the curtain, more often than not, their kitchen is a disaster, everybody in the house is stressed and/or exhausted and they’re all about to have a mini stroke next month when their Visa bill comes in the mail.

On a bit of a side note, before anybody sends me hate mail, I’m not saying that any of those things are horrible or wrong. But I am saying that for those of you that will look at your social media feed this week and you’re one of the ones that feel bad because your Christmas just doesn’t compare to those of others. Don’t you dare feel a stitch of jealousy! Don’t you dare feel the need to go into debt just so you can “show someone you care”. I love receiving gifts like anyone else. I love eating lots of good food. I love baking and decorating. But NOT at the expense of my sanity…or my bank account. And certainly not so other people can merely “oooo and ahhh” at the expense of my utter exhaustion. If there’s no real joy in it for me then I’m not doing it.

If you’re one of the ones that will look at all of the families getting together this week and that isn’t your reality, I know it’s lonely. But you are not alone. I know it sounds cliche but it’s true. Perhaps you have friends you can surround yourself with that have become your family. Find thankfulness there. Or perhaps there is a local church nearby that helps out around this time of year, even if it’s someone to talk to. Find thankfulness there too. More importantly, God loves you! He is always with you. He is always there to listen when you need to talk. Social media is not the standard of the Christmas season. Pinterest is not the “how to” guide on the holidays (or anything else for that matter.) Find thankfulness wherever you can with whatever you have.

Amidst all of the chaos that lingers around the holidays, find the moments to spend time with each other…that doesn’t involve a screen! (Unless you’re watching “White Christmas” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” or any other Christmas themed classic, then of course it’s fine, naturally.) Take the time to really soak in the moments. To laugh and to really be thankful. Be intentional about looking for thankfulness. Especially for the little things. Because those are actually the big things.

I wish you all a holiday full of thankfulness and a very bright and hopeful New Year!