Maybe it's just me, but it's not easy being honest about how I really feel about the holidays. I yearn for those days, many turns of seasons ago, when I felt excitement about the holidays. That cozy, curl up in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, decorate the tree, shop for gifts, sing carols, sit in the living room in the glow of white lights, Advent calendar, Christmas Even candlelight service, Christmas morning breakfast with the family sort of excitement. Even though I know the deep treasure of Christmas is not these things in themselves, it's been so long since Christmas felt good.
But I'm not interested in writing the "Woe is me" stuff. I know I have a lot to be thankful for. I am filthy rich by most standards of the world. I have a warm place to rest. I eat three or four healthy meals a day. I can shower every day in hot water and dress in warm, clean clothes. I drink water that I don't have to boil or buy in a bottle, unless I want to. I have a job and a regular income and health benefits. I own a car and I can actually afford the gas to fill it. I have family and friends and a boyfriend that love me. I am well educated. I am healthy. I live in a country that, far from perfect, is still a land of freedom and opportunity compared to many nations. I live in a beautiful city, in a beautiful part of the world.
And, while any of these things are subject to change, my most precious possession is not one that can be taken away. The love of Christ. His life, in me. Hope.
Still, it's a fine line to walk between being real and being thankful.
I'm thankful for all these things, and more than these. So much more than I can count. But that doesn't change the fact that I miss the way things used to be at the holidays, with my family. I miss my Papa. This Thursday, he would have been sixty-one. This Christmas will be our fourth one without him. Time enough, I had originally thought, to adjust to him "missing" from our family. Time enough, it seemed, for the table not to feel empty, for our family not to feel like we're walking with an uneven gait. He balanced us. And I notice his absence and how our family aches for him like a phantom limb.
So I think there's room for honesty and gratitude during the holidays. The holidays are painful for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, and there's no reason to gloss over this.
Yet. I'm thankful for the ways my family is learning to walk in a different stride, learning to run again.
I'm thankful for hands to hold.
For the shelter of each other's arms.
It's times like these when we learn to share our hugs, to wrap each other tight.
We cry, we laugh, we pull each other along.
And we thank God for the beauty of life that blooms white in the seasons of death.
I may not enjoy the holidays as much as I used to. But then, I may be more aware of my gifts than ever before.