For Those of Us Struggling at Christmas

A friend asked me to write something during Advent for our church’s weekly newsletter, and to be honest, I thought I wasn’t the best choice this year. What on earth did I have to say? It turns out, I had a lot to say, and I wrote this:

Dear Friends,

I have been in this place before, the Land of the Hard, Sad Christmas.

My family has had a string of very bad years. My youngest child, who turns four during Christmas, has never known a holiday when I wasn’t stressed out of my mind by sadness and worry about the serious illness—or recent loss—of one of his grandparents.

I’ve heard all the standard advice for Enduring the Hard, Sad Christmas; make your own new traditions, keep things low-key, and don’t try to do everything. I agree with all of that.

Except that my kids are young and they are really excited about The Tree and Santa and The Christmas Pageant. They’ve had to endure these hard years too, and I want to give them the opportunity for joy and wonder when I can. I suspect it’s that way for a lot of us, who would maybe rather not this season and who are doing things anyway because someone is depending on us.

I’m trying.

But my efforts feel weak. For example, I just can not deal with hanging the Christmas lights in our yard this year. I don’t know why I’m stuck on this one task in particular. I’ve attempted it a couple of times, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. My kids, however, are finding such fun in seeing the lights the neighbors have hung, and I’m thankful for that. I have no idea if person who strung those cords was glad to do it, or if they thought it was the most annoying chore, or if maybe they found it really difficult, too. But I do know that we have enjoyed their light, even if our neighbors don’t realize it.

I recently wrote and shared something on my blog that was pure goofiness. (Sometimes I can’t laugh, and sometimes it’s my only way to cope.) A few days later, a friend told me that my silly bit of fluff writing made her smile and got her through an unexpectedly tough day. I was pleasantly surprised, because I’ve felt like this year, especially, I don’t have enough to give to make a positive difference to anyone.

Since that conversation, I’ve been reflecting on the idea that sometimes, if we give what we can, small though it might seem, we might still do some good. I don’t look at a neighbor’s single strand of lights in a tree and think, “Well, that’s not enough.” I think, “Hey, they got their lights up. Good for them. That looks pretty.”

If you, too, are walking in the Land of the Hard, Sad Christmas this year, I’m sorry. I can say from experience that God usually grants us the days and the grace to come out on the other side of it. But while you are here, look for beauty and laughter where you can, and let your heart rest there. Be thankful for the light that you can see. And put out into the world whatever light you have to give, feeble though it may seem to you. It may be just enough for someone else who needs it.



About rbpepper

Rebecca is an artist, writer, and photographer with degrees in Theater and Social Work, and is currently a Stay at Home Mom to her three kids. Some part of her house is always a mess, she lets her kids paint on the table and design their own costumes, and she makes excellent allergen-free cookies. She lives with her equally creative husband and children in a part of Virginia known for being "pretty close to Dulles Airport", and dreams of moving to an old farmhouse in New England.
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