Christmas was my mom’s favorite time of year. I think she started talking about it and planning it on January 1. The presents she would purchase, the dozens of different cookies she would bake, the meal menu and house decor. The family get togethers. It meant the world to her and when we lost her a little over a month before Christmas, I felt like I lost the world. So from Thanksgiving until Christmas, in my feeble strength, I attempted to push the sad thoughts as far as I could to the back of my mind and focus on everything and anything to take my mind off of the pain. I would become mom for everyone in my family, my brothers and especially my dad. With everything I did, my thoughts turned to mom and how she would do it. I baked endless amounts of various Christmas cookies, breads and candies. I wrapped each present perfectly. Every room was decorated. I was determined this would be an amazing Christmas for everyone. But it wasn’t. Anyone peeking into our windows that Christmas might have thought that everything appeared to be amazing, but our hearts were hurting. When I opened the gift my dad presented to me, my heart broke even more. It was a charm necklace my mom had purchased and engraved months before and it said~”All our love Mama and Daddy 2003”. I held on to that necklace like I was holding on to mom. She had picked it out and with all her love she had held it and thought of me. I choked back the tears for fear I would make everyone sad. I smiled and put it on, but inside my heart was weeping and that night after everyone was gone and my kids were in bed, I turned off the lights and with only the light of the Christmas tree, I broke down. I didn’t just cry, I sobbed~heart wrenching, take your breath away sobs from the pit of my being.
It can be so easy for someone to sit and write a blog about dealing with the stress of the holidays along with teething babies and diapers and terrible two’s or how to be thankful amidst the constant activities in our already busy lives and how this Thanksgiving we should focus on being grateful, but those things are all a part of life. If we can’t be thankful for the small things, God help us. So what about those that are going through the heart wrenching moments~ finding out a husband had an affair, the doctor informing you that you have cancer or worse~that your child has cancer, the death of a child, a sibling, a parent, a loved one. Losing your spouse and soul mate after 50 years together? How do those people find thankfulness amidst the heart ache? God has brought some amazing women into my life. Women that have suffered not just one of the things I mentioned, but all of them, and yet they shine the love of Jesus so brightly that you can’t help but smile when you are around them. How can they be this way despite everything they have been through? I truly believe they made a conscious choice to have a thankful heart from the very beginning. A gratefulness to God for everything, even the small stuff like diapers and terrible two’s. They looked for God’s goodness on their lives in every situation. They longed for God and saw that goodness and knew how very much He loved them and they held on to that hope and love when true heartache hit home.
That Christmas, when I felt like utter darkness was surrounding me, I chose to cry out to God, the only One who truly understood my pain. He did something amazing in that moment. He showed me His Son, only a baby lying in my Christmas manger under the beautiful glow of the tree. The hope for an entire lost world, my lost world, and I thanked Him. I clung to Him that year, my hope and strength and life and love. My everything. And I thanked Him for His gift to me of salvation. Because of that baby, His only Son, I would see my mom again in Heaven one day. God gave me a thankful heart and it was my Christmas miracle.
It isn’t easy to be thankful in the heart wrenching moments, especially if we are trying in our own feeble strength, focusing on anything and everything to take away the pain, except the Only One Who can. As we head toward the end of another year, this Thanksgiving focus on the ultimate gift. Our Savior, who was born in a manger and gave His life for us. You may not be going through anything painful this season, but perhaps you are allowing the small stuff to overwhelm your soul and take away your thankfulness. Instead~ Open your eyes to those around you. Look past what you think is such a hard situation and see the hurting hearts of others. Pray for them and daily choose to practice thankful and grateful hearts in the small stuff God has blessed you with. Allow it to be a learned behavior but most importantly focus daily on thanking Him for the gift of His Son and when you feel like the darkness is all around you, the glow of that gratefulness will shine through from deep within your heart and you will be able to say “thank you”. ❤️