Your Merry Little Christmas is Over & Your Troubles Are Not out of Sight

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas. May your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out of sight…”

I am a Christmas tree goes up the second weekend of November kind of girl; a Michael Buble holiday station on Pandora before Thanksgiving, a giddy to go Black Friday shopping and come home to wrap gifts and watch White Christmas kind of girl. Like so many, Christmas is my favorite time of year–preparing for it is joyful and I still feel the butterflies in my stomach when we go to bed on Christmas Eve.  Though, now the excitement is more about the gifts I will be able to give more than those I will receive (though, Mark knocks it out of the park).

We adore being with both sides of our family; we happily anticipate or family gatherings which are always full of laughter, board games, gifts, and stuff-yourself-good food. Always.

Except for this year–this year, through our own family’s journey with Shannon’s leukemia, my eyes were opened to see that for  so many Christmas is not an entirely merry time. This year, both of Mark’s sisters and his parents spent Christmas miles away from us in Texas. This year, as I sang along to Christmas tunes on the radio, I would be suddenly struck with a wave of sadness when a song carried my memory into the home of my in-laws full of twinkle lights and the smell of mom’s sticky buns. This year, while packed tightly into a pew at our Christmas Eve service, a helplessness came upon me as tears streamed down the cheeks of my man.

This year, you may not be only miles apart from someone you love, but perhaps that someone is on the other side of eternity. This year, you might be sitting next to someone you love, in a pew, but he doesn’t love you anymore–or at least it doesn’t feel like he does.  Perhaps, you are so lost in depression that you cannot enjoy the precious people who surrounded you this year. I don’t know what may have tinted the merriness of your Christmas this year.  But, I know we are not the only family feeling both joy and pain.

I also know this–

“For the wounded, for the hurting
For the lost, and for the lonely
You came, Jesus you came…

For the outcast, the defeated
For the weary, for the weakest
You came, Jesus you came…” (Elevation Worship, Let Us Adore, emphasis added)

Sweet friend, Jesus came as a little baby, lived a holy life, and died the kind of death you owed because He knew.  He knew every Christmas wouldn’t be merry and bright–He knew some years you’d come into December feeling wounded and lonely and walk into the New Year defeated and weary.  He came for you–as you are today–merry or not.

As we look forward to the New Year–the time when we all hope for fresh starts, new goals attained, and right relationships, run to the one who came for you. Know that He came to give you life abundantly even when especially when your troubles are not out of sight. Know that He has already overcome this world, and He is within you which means, through His power, you can withstand any outside pain or pressure.

I stand with you in prayer as we wrap up Christmas parties and move on to New Year’s football games and sparkling grape juice.  For you, He came.

So, You’d Like to Be More Flexible?

In the fall of 2012 our days changed forever. We officially became business owners on September 25 when Biggby Holland opened its doors to the public for the first time. God has used this business (now three coffee shops, not just one) to profoundly bless our family.  These businesses have given Mark a place to work and walk in his giftings.

These businesses have also been the tool God has used to grow this careful, scheduled, planning, reliable, quality-time driven momma to become much more flexible.

In the first months of our business being open I saw Mark only when I drove out to the store–he would be home for 5-6 hours and spent those hours sleeping beside me.  A month after opening, I was unsure if he’d be at Charlotte’s first birthday party, until he pulled into the driveway. During those months of being primarily a single parent, friends & family would regularly make comments like, “I don’t know how you’re doing this with such a good attitude,” or “I wish I was more flexible like you.”

Though the first months are far behind us, if you own a business, you understand the requirement for flexibility does not diminish.

One store is out of hot cups–Mark takes off to grab more and deliver them.

Our toaster is broken at the first store and the grinder won’t work at the second–no Mark for dinner.

Managers quit, staff is sick–Mark is working 70 hours making drinks + the hours to actually run the business.

I share just a few examples with you, not to complain, but to paint a picture for you.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t like plans changing at the last minute–especially when they involve your husband missing dinner with the family, or putting the kids to bed by yourself and explaining to them why daddy is gone tonight, or finishing the last half of a birthday party without him.

When these situations first started, I would get angry, and I’d let Mark feel my anger with my short or exasperated tone of voice.  In my heart, I was having a mini temper tantrum because things weren’t going my way. But, God loves us too much to leave us as we are.  He kept allowing the situations, and kept allowing me the opportunity to (a) throw a fit or (b) access His help by the power of the Holy Spirit and choose to respond with a sweet and gracious spirit.

Thankfully, most times, I now choose option (b).

I still get regular comments as I did in those first months, “I wish I was more flexible like you are.”  Well, if you’d like to go with the flow better, like I (usually) do now–I have good news for you!  Flexibility has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with faith.

Either I believe God is sovereign or I do not.  If I do believe He is sovereign, then I accept that the espresso grinder, broken toilets, and sick staff are not out of His control. So, when my plans change unexpectedly, and my response is to grumble, I am grumbling against the One who orders my steps and plans my days.

So, when I respond sweetly to these demands for “flexibility,” I am really just flexing my faith muscles–faith that God is who He says He is and that He loves me and is deeply invested in my good–not necessarily my temporary comfort but my eternal character.

So, mommas, whether you’re an easy-going middle child momma or a first-born planner, you can flex those muscles and be as flexible as you choose to be.

Does it Cost You Something?

We meandered through the toy aisle at Target as each of my girls searched for the “wow” item they would place in their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  By the time we had chosen those items and found ourselves choosing crayons, colored, pencils, and then toothbrushes, and soap, Charlotte quietly said, “I wish I was keeping these things.”

My firstborn, Audrey, who always works so hard to say what she believes adults want to hear, replied, “I am thankful for what I already have at home.” I didn’t respond immediately as I was still pondering my response for Charlotte; so, Audrey was sure to repeat herself twice until I confirmed hearing her.

“I’m glad you feel that way, Audrey.  You know Charlotte, it is really good that the things you are choosing are so special that you would want to keep them yourself; that means they will really bless the little girl who receives these gifts.  And, you know what else?”

“What, Momma?” she said, still quietly

“It is okay for it to hurt to give them away–it means we really are making it an offering to God.”

And, mommas, as Christmas lists are being written, Target toy magazine pages are being dog-eared and marked with circles, Black Friday ads are being released, and we’re figuring out what we will get for the teachers this year, I want to encourage my heart and yours, it is okay for it to hurt to give.

Yes, giving is a joy — watching the face of someone as they open a tangible expression of your love for them is precious.  But, our gifts to our friends, family, coworkers, bus-drivers, & mail-carriers, are really expressions of love and gratitude to our Father–the giver of all good things.  And, King David reminded us not to offer to the Lord that which costs us nothing (Read the story in 2 Samuel 24). So, be a good steward; follow the Lord’s leading as you make a Christmas gift-budget, but be willing to sacrifice and hurt a little as you present a pleasing offering to your Father who gave you His best gift.