"As Miserable As You Make It" may seem like a strange title for a post that's supposed to be encouraging. While most of us try to be festive, cheerful, patient, and in good spirits, many folks struggle much around holidays, especially Christmas.
Christmas of ‘95 brought incredible joy at the prospect of our family finally having a new addition in mid-July 1996. We got the good news just before Thanksgiving. We were floored by a drastic change of events only a few days after Christmas. My wife suffered a miscarriage, and our world instantly crumbled. We tried to have a family for a long time, and it was suddenly gone. I don’t want to dwell on our despair, especially by having to wait those four days until after New Year’s Day to have anything done. That was over twenty-five years ago, and it’s something you never get over, but you learn to live with it. You hold onto your faith at times like that because that's really all you’ve got.
Some of you might’ve lost a spouse or a parent near the holidays, just as I did. My dad and best friend passed away on October 9th, 2007. That close in the fall to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I remember friends telling me that the holidays would be difficult. That wasn’t very encouraging, and I’m thankful it proved not to be the case. I remember sitting in Mom’s living room looking at Dad’s chair that Christmas and thinking, “You know, this is a lot different and feels weird, but it’s still good. I still have my mom and all my siblings, my son, my wife, my nieces and nephews, and in-laws. This ain’t what it used to be, but it ain't bad.
Maybe I over-analyze stuff, but that’s just the way I am. I figured out that year that what we had wasn't something miserable but a “new normal.” For the foreseeable future, that was how things were going to be. It changed again in 2015 when my baby sister moved to the Outer Banks. There were two more missing. More change came the next week because their son moved down with them. The day will come when nieces and nephews will go off to school or move away and start families of their own, leaving more empty spots. Death will once more invade our family someday. It’s all part of living.
Change is inevitable, and you can't turn back the hands of time, but you can travel back there in your mind. I’ve thought a lot about my family and how things used to be. But I’ve also looked around and seen how God has blessed me tremendously beyond measure. I’ll always cherish the past, but there’s a reason today is called the present. It’s a gift from God to be enjoyed with those we love. Don’t waste the present by trying to live in the past.
I still look at the ultrasound picture from ‘95 and think about my little one, but I don't dwell on it. I have a 26-year-old son who’s the absolute joy of my life, a wonderful home, family, and relatively good health. Why should I make myself miserable over things I cannot change?
As you go through this holiday season, look around at the gifts God’s given you. If there’s breath, there’s life. Cherish the past but live for the present because next year, it will be the past. Time marches on, as the old saying goes. I’ll admit I’ve gotten choked up a little writing this and exposed some personal feelings. If it can help someone get through the season and see the blessings God has let you keep for another year, aren’t they worth celebrating? Make yourself dwell on the goodness of God, and before you realize it, you’ll have made it through the days ahead.
I apologize to anyone I may have brought down a little. That’s not my intent. If you can dwell in the past and make yourself sad, you can live in the present and make yourself glad. It’s only as miserable as you make it.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for those in my life I have the ability to love and treasure. Show me how to remain grateful and content during every circumstance. Amen.
Your turn: Are there painful memories that prohibit you from enjoying the holidays? How can you shift your thinking to embrace what you have and live thankfully?