I have been taking a break from social media recently. Though I've kept my instagram pictures linked (so that family/friends can still keep up with our kids and our littles' families can still see what's going on with their precious wee ones) and replied to direct post notifications, I've been "absent" from the facebook world. That's pretty huge for an "addict". I even deleted my mobile app from my phone. (*gasp*)
I found myself in the position of needing some white space. My heart has been anxious and my emotions in turmoil and usually that signals that I need to step back, pull in, and just let God do some work from the inside out.
Christmas season is here. I thought I was going to be able to reclaim the spirit this year. Reclaim it back from grief.
I started that way. I started with enthusiasm early.
I lost it.
We just got our tree up this week. We only put up a small one instead of our normal big one or multiple ones. We put just a portion of ornaments on. We didn't bring up the boxes and boxes of decorations. I normally have Christmas shopping done in October. I am not even halfway finished. It's become harder than hard to shop for "stuff" when we are losing that connection with "stuff"....especially as we know our hearts have been called to foreign missions. It's harder to shop for "stuff" that really doesn't matter or will just be added to piles of other "stuff".
I just don't have that spirit and excitement that I thought would return.
Yes, oh BIG yes....is that greatly due to the surge of emotions that comes this time of year with the memories of November-December 2010 when we faced the news that Daddy had advanced cancer and then his being welcomed home to Jesus just five weeks later! Yes, Christmas is VERY hard. While families gathered and created amazing memories, my memory became gathering around that giant table at a funeral home making final plans with my siblings and Sweet T. Standing in that room that no one wants to stand in as you try to process picking out a casket and all those little details. You can't fathom those "unreal" moments until you've done it. Christmas morning is an incredible time for parents as they watch their children beam with joy as gifts are opened. That joy was replaced with our children looking at us with giant tears and wondering if Christmas would ever be the same as they opened their presents that friends rapidly packed in our van as we made the mad dash to get home to TN. Christmas became the moment that we gathered around and greeted friends and family from far and near as they came to extend condolences and share memories of a man whose loss seems deeper each year. Instead of the aftermath of eating too much, bags of ripped wrapping paper and boxes to clean up....we stood in snow and watched our Dad/grandpa/husband/etc.. lowered into the ground.
Yes, that does change Christmas.
Yes, that does hurt a heart.
Yes, this time of year DOES create the need in me to pull inward to try and process a wide array of emotions. (Not all the memories are grim. Many were beautiful. Last hours were priceless as we saw bits of heaven come down to earth as his earthly battle ended. Beauty in the reminders of the value of community of believers. Glimpses of the hearts of many. Reminders of his impact. Incredible medical team with HUGE hearts. Other cancer patients with joy that overflowed. Friends that truly became a life-line. A husband that proved how very much of a rock he is. )
It's more than that.
This is the time of year that I crave solitude. I crave the simple. I crave Christ.
It can be hard to find those moments any time of year, but especially when the calendars are full this time of year. It's been especially hard this year to find that solitude with a house full of littles (5 two and under---whew!!!---but I LOVE it), a semester of home education with our 3 wrapping up, and just life in fast forward motion.
I have to stop.
I have to find the place that I find Him the most.
I can't do that with a technology saturated world.
I can't do that with a deluge of information overload.
Facebook is an amazing tool of connection and encouragement. It can also be the center of WAY too much drama. It can be a discouragement as too much of the negativity of the world creeps in, even in the circle of believers. It can leave you feeling lonely even though surrounded by a multitude. It can leave you with negative emotions of jealousy, bitterness, or "less" than.....if you let it. Some people just find it necessary to stir up controversy and sometimes it's best to just distance yourself from it.
I used to say my excuse for spending so much time on it was because it strengthened my relationship with Christ because of the many blogs/speakers/writers/mentors that I follow that encourage me to dig deep, keep my eyes focused on what matters, and constantly challenge me to grow.
Yes, that is true....but....
How many times did I let *them* be my Bible? Let *them* do the work for me? Let *them* do what only the Holy Spirit needs to do?
Sometimes the best and only place to find God is to be WITH HIM. Alone. Without someone else's words guiding. Just me and Him. Just me and His word. Just me LISTENING and SEEKING Him without the crowding out or noise.
It's been good for my heart.
It's been good to not worry about what others think, what others are doing or not doing, etc... Yes, I do feel disconnected with what is going on in other's lives....
...and yes I have missed out on some important things, prayer needs or praises, etc... I've missed some dear friends. I've missed the daily bantering back and forth with my husband and "publicly" encouraging him.
I feel so connected.
I finally feel like I'm back at the well with a thirsty soul being filled from the PRIME source. Not catching someone else's leftovers. If I'm not filling up from THE SOURCE and finding THAT place that keeps my eyes on Him, I can't keep up. I can't give to my family. I can't balance the needs of the Littles in my care that I love so much. I simply just can't be me. I suffocate. I shut down. I drop way too many balls that I can no longer balance.
Physically, I've been in a flare up for 9 weeks and counting. It's been some of the most trying times since the beginning years. Pain has been intense and the exhaustion has been worse than I can remember. Being too tired to fix nutritious meals or exercise has left me packing back on pounds that I have been grateful to be rid of, which creates a cycle of not feeling well because of not being in the best physical shape I can be. Though I'm feeling like better days are within reach, I know that the only way to survive these rough days is through Him. He has provided and will continue to. I feel me coming back more each day.
I can't get to Him if I'm crowding Him out with too many things, too much information, too much drama.....or just too much of anything that causes separation or clouds my vision.
Christmas may still not be what I want it to be again. This Christmas I find myself still deeper in grief than I expected and to be honest I don't know if that day will ever come that I can celebrate and embrace the joy of the season without the depth of loss stinging and cutting so deeply.
But....Christmas is STILL overflowing with hope.
God has been BEYOND amazing and alive in our lives this year and we look forward to the new year to come with greater expectation than we've ever experienced. We've seen some amazing miracles this year and had some incredible time of growth.
I'm happy to be finding this place of connection, even if I have to step away from the outside world to do it (though I'll be back....but just in a more balanced approach!). I'm happy to be finding it even if I have to dig deep and SEARCH. Even if it's taking me out of my comfort zones or from what I feel is my "normal".
Where I find Him.
And...oh...how I need Him more than ever.