Memories trickle into mind. One by one by two by ten.
Eventually flooding every nook and cranny until the torrent of emotions is almost palpable.
Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Anxiety. Sorrow. Confusion. Desperation. Skepticism.
Until sometimes, heart hardening is too quick to happen.
Especially when more memories are created and added to the movie reel daily. Healthy and unhealthy. Simple and complex. Loving and unloving.
If it could all just be turned off, like a tumultuously passion-packed movie on a screen, it would be so much easier. But it’s not. And it can feel like the repeat button is stuck.
And the joys and love and hope are drowned out when they shouldn’t be.
Do you ever find that it becomes harder to remember to love others anyway when you have tall stacks of difficult memories in one pile and taller stacks of good memories in another pile, but the pain outweighs anything else?
And holidays are too often the hardest.
Maybe because they dredge up the past and slap it in your face. Maybe because they rarely end up like the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies or because they look more like an episode of a daytime soap opera. Maybe because the loss of someone beloved is too fresh and raw to bear a family gathering without him or her.
Or maybe you’re one of the very blessed ones who has a wonderful relationship with your extended family and holidays are truly gifts to be enjoyed. I hope that’s your story.
It’s not mine. And while that is not okay with me, it just is as it is. But I certainly don’t begrudge you your blessings.
Either way, holidays are crammed full of giving and taking. Presents and being present.
It can often be a difficult balance to find.
When plans shift and time is not your own to offer because others’ lives and schedules are more important. When managing and survival becomes your coping skill-set in a vaguely veiled effort to keep your sanity in a season that should be everything else. When January is almost a welcome relief from putting out so much effort and so much self into the merry-making and sometimes the merry-faking.
So, whatever your family situation is this coming holiday season, let us try something, maybe new, maybe not. But let’s try it together.
Let us seek our constancy somewhere else, in someone who withstands the tests of pain and endurance and broken dreams.
Let us ground ourselves in the knowledge that there is someone who will never change, even if the plans and people do.
Let us steady our wavering emotions in someone who is steady and faithful and present, if not in the presents but in His presence.
And here is how I plan to remember this every time I desperately need a reminder of God’s unflinching, everlasting, dependable presence…
The sun that hides behind the clouds is still there. You know it. I know it. Even on the cloudiest and dreariest of days, it is there, brightening the heavenward side and offering silvery linings to weighty weather. And when it sears through and warms a cold, dim world, that same sun shines brightly and full of promises of peace and hope.
The stars and moon are still hung in the sky. Night after night. Even when the clouds obscure their glory, the stars still shimmer their distant light. And the moon, phase upon phase in monthly grandeur, draws reflection and inspection to grasp its majesty, as yet unwavering in its existence. Night after night. Bringing comfort and wonder to weary souls seeking answers.
The rain and the snow and the wind that alter plans and days and clothing choices are unstable, ever-changing entities that, although they may be present for a day or a season, will never be as reliably present as the sun or the stars or the moon.
And the God who carefully, lovingly hung the sun and moon and sprinkled the stars in just the right places at just the right time so that you would know His everlasting presence is the same God who is carefully and lovingly walking beside you through all of the giving and taking, merry-making and merry-faking.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.[…] It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth” (Psalm 19:1-4, 6).
Sometimes, words are not helpful. Sometimes, physical reminders are necessary.
Go outside. Look up.
Remember that He who hung the sun and the moon and the stars in the sky needs no words to tell you how He loves you. He shows you.
Day after day.
Night after night.
Make sure you find Him. He is there.