Is your life exactly how you imagined it would be?
For me, my life looks very different than how I envisioned it. My dream of becoming a teacher came true, but nothing else has gone according to my plan. Growing up, I thought I would get a job teaching in Northeast Ohio, live close to my family, and be married with a few kids by my late 20’s.
What does my life actually look like? I teach on the opposite side of the state and all of my family lives hundreds of miles away. At the age of 36, I’ve never been married, and I don’t have any kids. In fact, I’ve experienced years of singleness. I’ve heard some people say that singleness is a gift, but many times, it honestly has felt more like a struggle. (Check out my blog series called The Single Life.)
In Annie F. Downs' latest book, Remember God, Annie says, “I struggle so much when my expectations of God don’t meet the reality of my current experience with life.”
Annie then goes on to explore the question, “Is God kind even when my circumstances don’t seem to reflect that?”
You were there
at the beginning
from my very first breath
when my eyes opened to see
the loving family you gave me.
You were there
in the room
when my innocence was lost
your heart broke at the sight
you comforted me through the dark nights.
You were there
at the parties
when we celebrated life
joy and laughter filled the air
surrounded by people who care.
This Is Us. Mention those 3 words in a group of people and you will probably see tears start to well up in someone’s eyes. Showing emotion does not come easily to me, but this is the one TV show that I find myself watching with a box of tissues nearby. Apparently this is true for millions of other viewers too.
Why do so many people get excited about watching a show that makes us cry? I thought about this recently as I was watching an episode about an event I knew was going to happen, yet I still found myself needing multiple tissues to dry all my tears.
I think the answer is - great storytelling.
Any great story is bound to captivate an audience.
Over the past 2 years, blogging has become a part of my life. As a blogger, you put your words out there, not knowing who will read them. This part is a little scary. And most of the time, you have no idea how your words impact someone, but you continue to write. You trust that the words you have been given are meant to be shared with others for a reason. This is the life of a blogger.
Once in awhile, someone might share with you how your words have helped or encouraged them. These moments are gifts….little reminders that your words are making a difference. It’s because of these moments that I continue to write.
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.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.