I choose joy.
I choose peace.
I choose love.
I choose family.
I choose to embrace.
Because of Him. Because of the gifts He has abundantly poured out. Not because I deserve them in the least, but because of His grace.
Two years passed earlier this week since the moment our worlds turned upside down with the "simple" news that Dad was sick. Two years that started the five week whirlwind journey that took our breathe away. (my thoughts last year as this day passed by).
The holidays are hard. I can't lie.
Two years ago the week of Christmas, we were fighting for life and fighting to let go. Not something we EVER imagined five weeks prior.
On the eve of Christmas Eve, we were placing our Daddy's hands in the hands of our savior....while most were scrambling with last minute holiday gifts, cooking, etc... Instead of wrapping gifts and watching the joy and anticipation take over our children, we were watching hearts break. We were picking out a casket and writing obituaries, making calls, and trying to claw out of a fog.
On Christmas Eve, we were picking out songs and pictures for slideshows and displays. We were scrambling to find clothes for ourselves and the kids to wear to the visitation and services ahead. We were trying to decide how to still give our kids some version of holiday joy in hearts that were shutdown of all things joyful. We were digging through boxes, bags, and suitcases to find as many of the kids holiday gifts that friends had frantically packed two days prior as they ran through our home trying to find anything and everything they could think of that we might need in the coming days. Nothing like the holidays we had been expecting or dreaming of. We watched our kids look at wrapped presents with such confusion and turmoil.
On Christmas Day, we spent our day standing in a funeral home sharing memories, sharing broken hearts with friends and family from near and far, finding strength in the most unusual places, having breakdowns in even stranger places. A day of reality that still feels so unreal. Not a day of "Christmas" we ever imagined possible.
The day after Christmas, the day that is typically spent quietly with our family of five, we spent with our "family" of hundreds. A white Christmas of all things. The day that many spend in shopping chaos, we spent celebrating the life of a man that was bigger than life and trying to say "see you later". We saw God come down in His glory in ways we never imagined. No matter the heartache, the power of those days are ETCHED in our memories.
You see, once you've taken that journey your life is forever changed. To take that journey on a holiday adds such a layer of emotions that are indescribable.
Last year, Thanksgiving and Christmas just couldn't be the same. As much as I wanted it to be, as much as I tried and tried relentlessly, I just couldn't bring that joy back into our home. The chaos in my brain was just too much. We tried for the kids. It failed.
The holiday spirit seemed to evaporate. We poured ourselves into the celebration of Christ's birth as our focus and THAT was well beyond more beautiful than we've ever experienced in years prior. As beautiful as that was to feel in our home, it was still so empty. It was suffocating.
I felt guilty. I felt guilty because I couldn't bring the joy back. I felt guilty because though Christ was more celebrated in our home than ever, it wasn't "enough" to fill the void. How dare I admit that? Wasn't that like saying HE wasn't enough. I felt guilty for feeling so sad and depressed. After all, as such a strong, Christian woman on the outside shouldn't I have been able to keep all of that in check in my heart?
Now here we are, a new year and a new opportunity. Will the joy return? Will the lights return to they eyes of our children? Can we celebrate without the heartache sitting so heavy?
Yes and No.
No, we won't get through the season without heartache. Reality? I don't get through a single day without some reminder of the hole left behind. Every year is going to be a reminder. No getting around it.
Yes, the joy will return. How do I know? Because it's already here.
The desire to decorate, celebrate and embrace the season with fresh eyes and heart....has already arrived.
What made the difference? Time and choice.
Time doesn't erase, but it does offer new levels of healing with each day.
Choice allows your brain and heart time to line up with their conflicting sides.
I don't want everyone of my children's holidays to become "dark" and dreary. I want them to remember their amazing grandfather with joy. I even want them to remember those really hard weeks, but with a sense of hope and community. I want them to remember the friends that rallied around each of us, the Holy Spirit that carried us, and the laughter that did seep in! I want them to remember the fact that when we couldn't, God did. I want them to yearn for heaven.
Those things can only happen if we begin to move past the deepest hurts. Not ignore them, but embrace and move forward. We are NOT forgetting him. We are just making the choice to embrace the good. Embrace the joy.
Christmas is for joy. Celebrations of the most amazing gift ever given. Christ. Yet, it's also the time to embrace our families even more and hold them even tighter because they are the gift that He has given us.
We are moving on. Wait....I don't like how that sounds. Rather than moving on....we are just moving differently. A new reality. It was forced upon us, without our understanding, but trusting that God's ways our MUCH bigger than ours. We can't stay in the darkness. We have to embrace the light. You know what: Daddy gave us that message with his life as a whole, but he specifically gave us that message in his last days. That doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt..........oh boy, does it ever. But....embracing joy is the priority. Choosing life. Choosing joy. Choosing family. Choosing trust. Choosing love.
*Let me also take a moment here, to make a statement. This isn't meant to hurt anyone, it's just meant to cause us all to think about how we handle a new situation. Our hearts are heavy as we think about life going on and moving in new directions. Daddy is never leaving our hearts. He is never going to be second best. He is never going to be replaced. Yet, please remember this: it's hard to be alone. Memories don't go away. Love doesn't fade even when that person is physically gone but in our hearts, etched in places that CANNOT be removed. Please offer love, acceptance, and grace to those in the process of starting over. It's hard. Harder than many can imagine. When a widow/widower finds a chance to feel love again, whether romantic or friendship, please allow and support it. Don't judge. Don't try to decide whether it's been long enough. You are not the one that can make that decision for someone else. Don't make a situation that is so conflicting in the heart/brain even harder. They've already been through MORE than enough heartache to last a life time. Don't add to it. Being a widow/widower doesn't come with an instruction manual and each day has to be taken, one day at a time. Specifically, in our situation, I just want to say this: our blessing has been given. It may be new territory for our hearts and brains and we don't have an instruction manual either, but out of love and wanting our beloved family member to enjoy as much as life as possible....we support. It may be out of our "comfort" zone and feel strange, but OUR comfort isn't the question. WE support. Enough said.*