A Different Christmas

This is a different Christmas for us. Just John and me. Breaking away from our normal traditions and treating ourselves to warmth, sunshine, and time together in one of our favorite places.

I'm always thankful for John. But maybe extra thankful for him this year because I can't imagine how I would have gotten through 2017 without him.

This has been a year filled with disappointment, heartbreak, and deep wounds. Some wounds that we experience in life are not deep and they fade away with time. If they even leave a scar, it's one we don't notice. The wounds I've experienced this year are not those kind. They are the kind that keep bleeding ... right through the bandages you keep applying. And even when the wound no longer gapes open and bleeds, it's tender and easily reopened. Some days, you think you're finally beginning to heal. And other days, you wonder, Will I ever? But you remind yourself not only that you will, but why you will.

Christmas. The birth of our Redeemer. The day we celebrate the birth of the One who heals our hearts, the One who restores all that is lost and all that is broken. He's alive and in control.

In spite of how different this year is for me personally, I have not been dreading this day. I've focused on how blessed I am to be spending time with my husband. I'm thankful for the blessing of such a loving, faithful, supportive man in my life. I'm thankful every day for his continued good health. And I've been looking forward to the privilege of spending a special, romantic Christmas with John; having him all to myself. But there are still twinges of pain in what is missing this year. I won't go into any details (so please don't ask), but there's an ache in my heart for four very special little people that never goes away. Some of my close friends and family know the grief that has overshadowed every day of my life this past year. And the inability to understand my circumstances.

This has also been a year of tremendous personal growth, for which I am thankful. I have endured. I have overcome. I have not succumbed to bitterness or unforgiveness. I actually say the words, "I forgive you even without you asking" every time the pain and frustration causes me to have imaginary conversations in which I confront the person who has broken my heart. And I have experienced the process of being set free daily from the bondage that plagues those who cannot forgive. So, in some respects, this has been a year of triumph. It just depends on which lens I look through. And I'm ending the year on a high note spiritually, focusing on the resilience God has once again given me.

So, I was feeling "merry and bright" yesterday. The airports were not crowded like we expected. Travel was easy and pleasant. We arrived at our destination and I was so excited to be exactly where I was. And then the wound got jostled a little bit. Ah-oh, a little blood seeping out. How to make it stop before John sees my momentary loss of joy...

It seemed like all around me were grandparents. My heart warmed and also broke a little as I observed two young kids literally squeezing the life out of their adored grandma. They didn't just hug her. They were holding onto her from both sides and not letting go. They were clearly so overwhelmed with joy to be in her arms. I'm sure they must have traveled to see her. And she was there waiting for them. Their enthusiasm for being with her was palpable. From that point on, it seemed like I could only see grandparents reuniting with grandchildren and the happy exuberance of those little hearts. Kind of like when you're single and all you can see are happy couples.

I told John I hadn't even thought about seeing that "scene" everywhere I looked and how much it would impact me, so it caught me off guard. He sweetly said, "I knew it would happen and expected it." I told him I didn't even want to share what I was feeling because I didn't want him to think I was going to be sad. But it's hard for me to put on any kind of false front. I'm just so transparent. It's a blessing and a curse all at the same time.

I regained my joy over a delicious dinner at a favorite restaurant and refocused on all I have to be thankful for. But I woke up this morning with anxiety so severe that I was afraid I was getting sick again (physically). I've had several good days in a row after battling chronic nausea since October. I blamed my physical condition on stress until a blood test revealed my elevated liver enzymes. And now I have an appt. to be evaluated by a GI specialist in a few weeks. But I know stress is a factor in my recent health challenges, so I started to immediately pray and ask for help not to let the anxiety bring on more nausea. I want today to be happy and celebratory. I want it for John as much as myself. He deserves to have a wife with a smile on her face.

Last week a friend challenged me to read a book called One Word. It's a short book and a quick read. I actually listened to the audible version, lying on my bed with my eyes closed, giving it my total focus. I loved the message and the challenge. I immediately began to pray about my word for 2018. The book emphasizes that you don't search for your own word and make a decision. You will be given your word and it will be confirmed through more than one "message." You'll either read it or hear it or somehow the word will keep jumping out and you'll just know.

I had several words come to mind that flowed into the one word I believe I have been given. The first word I pondered was surrender, then hope. I thought about letting go and heard the word release. That took my thoughts to freedom. All these words had significance for me and they all were inter-related, holding deep meaning for how I wanted to graduate from 2017 to 2018 in my spiritual growth. But the book was right. I couldn't choose the word. 

I kept asking God to make it clear what word He had for me. And from that point on, I just kept getting confirmation of the word "release." And I don't mean release as being released. I am hearing the word as in MY JOB going forward is TO RELEASE to God every struggle and every care. It is my verb to live by this coming year. Whatever is still invading my thoughts, disrupting my peace, holding me back, threatening to rob me of joy ... I am to RELEASE it to God. RELEASE my will to His. RELEASE my plan to His plan. 

Yesterday I took out my Kindle during the flight and looked through my library for something to read. I remembered that I had started a book by Kris Valloton and somehow got interrupted before finishing. The book is called Heavy Rain. So I opened it up and started reading where I had left off. Almost immediately into my reading, I read these two passages:

" 'Sent ones' yield their authority to God and allow Him to carry out His plan through their lives and the lives over whom they have authority." (Yield is synonymous with release in the context I've been contemplating this word for 2018).

Then, "Joseph's personal victories had brought him into a position of favor and authority, which released a corporate covering over his family...What they had meant for evil, God used for good."

Joseph has always been one of my favorite characters of the Bible. His story of betrayal and rejection followed by God's plan of restoration and ultimate healing has always inspired me in my own times of suffering and adversity. I can't count the number of times I have quoted that sentence (what they meant for evil, God intended for good) to myself, as well as Romans 8:28. As I read on the plane, I felt assured that God was telling me that RELEASE was my word for 2018.

So when I woke up this morning with anxiety (not even understanding where it was coming from, since I had gone to bed feeling tranquil), I began to pray silently. John was still asleep and I did not want him to worry about me first thing Christmas morning. I asked God to let me hear His voice, what He wanted to say to me. And I just listened and waited for Him to respond. He reminded me of my word. And then He started to answer me by bringing songs to my mind. Each song had a message and confirmed even more what my word and my "assignment" was. I can't even remember every song He gave me. There were so many. But the first one was "Not my will, but thine." The last one was "I'm so happy, here's the reason why, Jesus took my burdens all away. Now I'm singing as the days go by, Jesus took my burdens all away."

The irony is that these songs are from my past and I never think about or sing those songs. For many years, any songs from my past have only been triggers of negative memories and spiritual oppression. But now God is using past songs to comfort and encourage me. It amazes me how He works in our lives. And it's a reminder of how much healing He has already brought to wounds I suffered with for decades.

Another song He gave me this morning was "You're a good good Father...that's Who You are...And I'm loved by You...that's who I am..." I felt that I had a strong connection this morning as I stayed still in my bed and just waited for Him to talk to me. What a special Christmas morning. One I will not forget.

The message of this blog post I'm hoping to convey is that God will use every experience in our lives to bring about His purpose and His plan for us. And even when we are going through disappointment and heartache, we can have joy and peace if we yield our own desires and plans to His will and His timing -- always knowing and TRUSTING in His goodness; that He is truly working ALL things for our good. Whether you embrace this truth or not, it is still true. But there is comfort in receiving it and believing.

My prayer this morning and going forward is that I will go through 2018 fully releasing my plans, hopes, dreams and my pain to Him and His plan for my life. Lord, I give You my life; all my plans, all my joys AND sorrows. Do what You will, how You will, when You will. I will trust You.

I believe -- I have always believed -- He is working ALL things for my good. Even this (whatever it is at any time or moment). 

If this isn't your happiest Christmas, I hope you will be encouraged that God is in every circumstance. I don't believe that everything is ordained by Him or sent by Him. Evil is never His will. So I don't say anymore "Everything happens for a reason." What is ordained and sent by Him is the redemption and restoration; that everything -- even evil -- will be used for our good. He doesn't necessarily send it. But He always redeems it for our good and His Glory!

I have been thanking Him lately for my trials and tribulations -- even the one I'm still in. Because everything He has brought me through has been my making and has instilled deep faith in my heart that He will never leave me or forsake me. Those are not just words written in the Bible. They are truths I have lived out. And I know He will see me through everything I ever walk through.

That assurance makes every Christmas a time to rejoice no matter what our temporary circumstances may be. And I wish everyone reading this blog post the peace and joy of this day -- that Christ has come and will come again. The next time, He will take us with Him. No more tears. No more suffering. 

I wish you a Merry Christmas and 
a Transformed New Year!


Anonymous said…
Hi shari
Lovely picture of you both and you both look well , glad you got through 2017 hope 2018 is much better
All the best this year
Shari said…
Thank you, Steve! Always good to hear from you. I am confident 2018 will bring good things and looking forward to this year. All the best to you, my friend. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for staying in touch. It's nice to hear from friends who are reading my occasional blog posts.