Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, I have fond memories of going with my parents and younger brother to the Christmas tree farm. We would brave the cold and snow in search of the “perfect” Christmas tree. Once we got the tree back to our house, we would turn on Christmas music and decorate the tree as a family. I always looked forward to the Christmas season, and I loved putting up the Christmas tree.
Now, putting up the Christmas tree is bittersweet. While I still love the Christmas season, the holidays are very different. I no longer live at home with my parents, and my closest family members are hundreds of miles away. I’ve always envisioned myself being married with kids, but that hasn’t happened yet. So, instead of cutting down a real tree and decorating it with family, I find myself putting up an artificial pre-lit tree and decorating it by myself.
It would be easier to skip putting up a Christmas tree, but each year I choose to continue to do it because my Christmas tree is full of memories. Some ornaments were given to me by friends or students, but most of the ornaments are the same ones that hung on our family Christmas tree when I was a child. They remind me of Christmases full of excitement, happiness, and fun. This part is also bittersweet, because now Christmas (and all holidays) are a mixture of joy and grief.
The first time I remember grief slipping into the holidays is when my mom was initially diagnosed with breast cancer. With each holiday, I remember thinking, “Will this be our last one together?” Presents became less important to me, as I started to focus more on being present with the people around me. All I wanted was more time with those I loved.
Nine years after her diagnosis, my family and I experienced our first Christmas without my mom. Grief didn’t just slip in that Christmas, it seemed heavy, like a thick blanket of snow. But, just as the Christmas lights glimmered in the night, moments of joy pierced through the darkness. Sometimes you just need a little bit of light to give you hope.
Today, I don’t feel weighed down by grief, but it still lingers. And I’ve learned that’s ok. In order to grieve, you first have to experience love, and I’m thankful to have had a mom who showed me love.
As I look upon my decorated Christmas tree, memories fill my mind. The memories may be bittersweet, but at least I still have the memories.
My eyes always gravitate towards the top of my tree, though. There, underneath the angel, are ornaments that remind me of my mom. Even though it’s hard not having her here, I know she’s with the angels, celebrating the birth of our Savior in heaven, while I celebrate His birth here on earth. Some day we will once again celebrate together. Thinking about that always brings me joy.
The past 8 weeks, I’ve gone through Jennie Allen’s study, Proven, with a group of women from my church. I always look forward to Women’s Bible Study. Not only do I enjoy getting to meet new women and hearing their stories, but God always uses these studies to reveal truth to me.
During the last week of our study, we read John 21. Simon Peter and the other disciples were out fishing all night and caught nothing. Their nets were empty.
I imagine their frustration, disappointment, exhaustion, and hunger. Then, a voice from the shore says, “Friends, haven’t you any fish? … Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (John 21:5-6a)
Some was an understatement, as they caught 153 LARGE fish. Their nets were no longer empty but filled. They had an abundance.
This man on the shore turned out to be Jesus, and not only did He fill their nets, but He invited them to join Him for breakfast. I’ve heard this story many times before, but this last detail I previously overlooked. Now, I can’t help but focus on it.
Back in January, I wrote a blog called “The Need to Run.” I talked about how I’ve never enjoyed running, but sometimes, I run as a healthy way to cope with stress.
This past summer, a friend said she was starting a couch to 5K program using an app on her phone. I had no desire to run a 5K, but I did want to get in better shape, so I entertained the idea.
I found a couch to 5K app that had thousands of 5 star reviews. Several people commented that they never considered themselves a runner until they used this app. I remember reading one review that said, “This app can turn anyone into a runner.”
I thought, “If this app has helped thousands of people become runners, maybe there is hope for me.” I was up for the challenge, so I downloaded the app.
"Scars are beautiful when we see them as glorious reminders that we courageously survived.” ~Lysa TerKeurst
Faded and hidden
My eyes still see
These scars upon my body
How can you still love me?
Beauty for ashes
Yet I still see
These scars upon my body
Am I still your masterpiece?
Evidence of pain
Overwhelmed with shame
Felt like I was the one to blame
Then I called upon your name
You took my shame
Said I wasn’t to blame
That you still love me the same
And that’s when hope came
These scars now remind me
That I have survived
Healing is possible
You have a purpose for my life
These scars now remind me
Of what you carried me through
Your love lit the way through the darkness
My scars point me back to you
It started off like a typical day at the park. I was walking the trails, listening to music on my phone, and enjoying hearing the sound of a nearby waterfall.
I came to the end of the first trail, stopped, and looked at a sign that had a map of the park. I normally would continue on the trail to the right, as I know the trail well. But for some reason, I felt a strong urgency to cross the street and take the trail to the left. I wasn’t sure where this trail would lead or what I would see, but I sensed that I was supposed to take it. So I went.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.