That's what I am trying to do with this hard first Christmas. In my heart and in my home. For me. For my children. For all those around me. This is hard, intentional work. I don't always like it. It's nearly impossible to do without my tribe spurring me on (even if they don't know they are doing it.) Many days I would just rather wallow in my sorrow. Sit in my bed looking at pictures and videos, crying, and wishing for the old days to return. But that is not what I am called to do.
I am called to lean on my Savior, put all my trust in Him, let my mouth be ever filled with His praises, and keep putting one foot in front of the other until He calls me Home. But let's be honest, that is just hard to do some days. For all of us. We're all grieving in one way or another. We're all living a life different than the one we imagined. We're all facing an empty seat once filled by a loved one no longer with us. There are all kinds of "firsts" facing us every day. We can drown in the sorrow or we can reach for the Life Giver, whose hand is stretched out to us, and trust Him, even before He calms the raging of the seas around us.
I don't have all the answers on how to turn this hard Christmas into the Holy hard of praise, but I know I must not stop trying. Here are the things the Lord has given me so far:
Though it's hard, I cannot expect others not to share their own joys during this season. Whether it's Christmas or new babies or engagements or weddings, I cannot expect others to dampen their joy because it's hard for me to watch. I have been commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. There are many times my human nature takes over and I do not want to do this. Many times, I just want everyone to wallow in my sadness with me. But, oh, how blessed I have been. My tribe has mourned so well with me. I must also learn to rejoice well with them. Each little joy they experience is an opportunity for them to declare praise for the goodness of God and all He is doing in their lives. I must learn to join in that praise, even in the midst of my sorrow, rather than drown it out with lies from the enemy. I don't have to jump up and down and overdo it. I don't have to put on a fake face, but I can rejoice because my God is good and He chooses to bless and use His people. There will come a day when I will have much to rejoice over (can I get an AMEN?!?!?) and these same people who have mourned with me will be delighted to rejoice with me. Oh, Father, teach me to rejoice and praise You in the joys of those around me, even in the midst of my sorrow.
Crying is OK. For me and for you. And it is not an indicator of a lack of faith or hope. This is sometimes a hard lesson to learn. It feels like, if we have faith in Christ and know that the death of our loved one was grace from God because they have started their eternity with Him, that we should not mourn or cry. But that is just not true. Sadness is now part of this broken world in which we live. Tears will come. Sorrow will visit our hearts. Take the time. Let the tears fall. Then open the Word and read His truth, sing loudly and declare His praises, drop a note to someone who needs to hear they are loved. Shed the tears, but don't stay there. (Again, easier said than done.)
Sometimes we see our best growth in the darkest of times. I know this has been true of me. I have often thought in these last nine months of how badly I feel that my husband clearly never got the best me. The me that was his wife is so far behind the woman I have become in this harsh, dark, winter season. Like the amaryllis that blooms in winter, I have truly seen the grace of God blossom in and through me during this long, hard winter. I am stronger because my weakness has forced me to return to God, on my knees, trusting Him for every.little.thing. I am more compassionate (most of the time) because God's compassion has been lavished so beautifully on me by my Lord, through His word and through His people. I am less judgmental (again, most of the time) because I have seen first-hand how hard the enemy works to steal, kill, and destroy all that belongs to the Lord. I am more in love with the Word because I have seen first hand how it sustains, grows, and moves me closer to my Savior. I am more real and open because I know now that's the only way to truly declare the goodness, graciousness, and love my Savior has for me and the rest of the human race.
My life, at this moment, will make others feel awkward. And it's because they love me and want to help, but really, there are no words and it's hard to know what to do. No one wants to speak of their pain because it somehow seems "less than" mine. No one wants to declare their joys because my pain is still so raw. Please hear me with two things: hard is hard. Please don't ever feel you can't share your struggle with me because it's different than mine. Secondly, you aren't hurting my feelings when things are awkward. I feel awkward most of the time! I love you, you love me, and somehow, we'll navigate this crazy life.
Even in the darkest night, there is still grace and still reason to praise God. You just have to choose to look past the pain and the sorrow to see God at work. Sometimes, you have to beg God to give you His eyes to see all the little glimpses of grace He's sprinkling in your darkness; that person who drops a gift card in the mail, the random hug at church, the people who step up to take your kids once a week so you can have some peace and quiet, the song during worship that speaks right to your heart, and so much more. When you see those glimpses, write them down, then the next time you feel alone and hopeless, pull out that list and let the Lord fill you with praise!
This turned out to be more random than I anticipated (I have a headache that just won't go away and it's hard to focus) but I hope it helps you turn your hard to praise, whatever your hard may be!