Christmas is just around the corner! Many people have sweet nostalgic memories of cookie decorating, ice skating, or gingerbread house making during this season. It can be a time of joy surrounded by the warmth of your family. For many others, Christmas can be a reminder of all you have lost. It may bring back memories that activate past trauma and you’d rather stay in bed and not face all the holiday cheer. My guess is that I am not alone when I say that I fall right in the middle of those two sides. I absolutely love the Christmas season and all the fun activities and food that come along with it. I love the holiday traditions I have started with my boys over the years and look forward to much of the merrymaking. However, Christmas has begun to come with a mirage of memories I would rather not have and no matter what holiday fun comes up, I still can’t shake the feelings of sadness that come along with the season.
I have written over the years much of my story and the heartache that I have experienced. In 2016 just a few short weeks before Christmas, my world was flipped upside down. I had already decorated my christmas tree, hung the stockings and wrapped presents. I had made my Christmas bucket list for our little family and was in full holiday swing, when I got news that changed everything. The following days and weeks that led to Christmas were filled with great anxiety and uncertainty. I walked around in a fog as packages kept arriving at our doorstep. All of sudden, we were the sad story of the season and as much as I was grateful for all the generosity, I truly wanted to just hide from it all.
Last year in 2019 just a week before Christmas, I was caught up in all the holiday hustle and bustle. We had a full schedule with Christmas parties and school concerts. Then my three year old son got sick and all the festivities came to a screeching halt. He was sick enough to miss out on an entire weekend full of fun Christmas hoopla and traditions. The doctors told me is was just a common cold and he would be fine, but his health kept getting worse as he became extremely lethargic and constantly fought a high fever over several days. I finally took him back into a doctors office to check on him. This time the doctor looked me straight in the eyes and told me to get him to an emergency room immediately. The 40 minute drive to the closest children’s hospital was awful. I had no idea what to expect when we got there. This was the last thing I wanted to be doing especially a week before Christmas.
I have been through hard things. I have walked through extreme trauma more than once that totally upended my life. On the outside this experience was not that. Ultimately my Lucas only spent 4 nights in the hospital and recovered. It has been a year since then, and I can now summarize his story well because it had a good ending. All turned out okay, and looking back it may not feel like that big of story to most people. To me however it impacted me in a way I never expected. The uncertainty of those 5 days and 4 nights felt like all time had stood still. As much as I want to tell you that I trusted God in it all and clung to his goodness, honestly that just wasn’t the case. My faith was shaken and fear ran wild in my heart and mind during that time. I could not capture my thoughts no matter how much scripture I spoke over myself and prayed for peace. In the middle of that week, I came home to grab some essential items and take a quick shower, and I completely broke down. I can remember sobbing from inside that shower doubting in God’s goodness and expecting the very worst. I gave into the feelings that God really has it out for me and I was destined to a life of heartache. My fears went to the very worst scenario, and I even imagined planning and attending my son’s funeral on Christmas day. I haven’t written much about this because I have felt ashamed at how quickly it felt like my faith was crumbling all around me in such a short time. Honestly I think I was surprised at how hard it was to calm my anxious heart. I figured I was an expert at this by now. I have a lot of experience in seeing through heartache and grasping for joy. This time felt different.
I now can see God’s gentleness and kindness through that entire time. I learned again that God’s love for me isn’t dependent on how much faith I can muster up in a hard time. Despite my doubts and fears, God still was there comforting me and guiding me. I don’t have to have it all together and be this picture of strength that I think people want me to be. Those doubts and fears may have been consuming me then, but I wasn’t alone in them. I found that when exhaustion just got the best of me and I just couldn’t be strong anymore, God sent a team of people to care and love for me. Both physical and spiritual family loved me through that week bringing coffee and gifts and most importantly prayers. I felt so loved, yet once again despite being extremely grateful from all the generosity, I wanted to hide from it all as well.
When I look back at Christmas last year, I first think of the hospital and the fear of losing my son.I remember all the questions with very little answers the doctors had for me. I remember going almost a full week without much more than an hour or so of sleep at a time. I remember feeling so alone and weak. When Lucas looks back at Christmas last year, he remembers all the toys and gifts that people brought him in the hospital. He remembers Santa coming to his room and dropping off all kinds of wonderful presents. He remembers all his fun visitors. There is no sadness in his voice as he recounts that time. We need each other’s perspective. We can look back at this hard time, and see both the sadness and difficulty of the situation, yet rejoice in the joy that came out of it. It would not be a full picture without both sides of this story.
I truly believe you can always find God at work in your story, even in the messiest parts. I would even say especially in your messiest parts. Often times, it’s not until after the story has unfolded when you can see it better. I have lots of difficult stories that God has allowed in my life. This story of Lucas’ illness is one of the few where the chapter is closed and it is fully in the past. For this story, it took me reflecting back on it after the fact and seeing how God was moving and loving me through it all. Once I was out of shock and survival mode, I could see the truth more clearly. Now that it is over, I can see the joy of watching the polar express together. I can see the blessing of the many gifts that were given that brought a smile to my little boy’s face. I can see the friends and family that gave their time and money to encourage me. I can remember that in the midst of great sorrow, joy was there. I can remember that just a few short days after my son was hooked up to oxygen in a hospital he was playing a shepherd in the church nativity back to full health, a true miracle! I can also see how this week at the end of 2019 was preparing me for a long and uncertain 2020 of trusting in God’s faithfulness.
Most of the difficult parts of my stories are not wrapped up and over. I am still navigating the pain from them on a daily basis. God has not given me that clear vision of what he has done or is doing yet like he did with Lucas. He has asked me to walk steadily and dependently trusting on Him and his character. This Christmas we wrap up a year that was certainly filled with lots of uncertainty! There will be sadness as past memories of the way things used to be are remembered. There will be heartache over the loss that was experienced this year. Many of us may just want to hide from it all! I encourage you to take that pain and hold it one hand, while grasping for the joy of Christmas with the other. Truthfully Christmas is the perfect time of the year to find hope if you need it. Remember, Jesus came through the darkness and showed himself to be Emmanuel, God with us. Remember, he was a man of sorrow that came so we may have abundant life in Him.