Typically, when I think of Thanksgiving I think about mouth-watering food spreads, board games with friends and family, children on sugar highs and long naps on a comfy big couch. But this year, my thoughts and feelings have been different. My Thanksgiving (and my family’s) will look different this year. This will be our first Thanksgiving without my mom. She passed away in April, and so our family is seven months in to learning how we operate in her absence. It’s been especially challenging because she was the “boss” and in charge of everything our family did. She loved holidays and hosting! She would prepare amazing food spreads and have fun things for us to do each day I was home. So, as I head into this holiday season, I am overwhelmed at the thought of her absence.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but as people talk about what they are thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving, I cringe. I don’t want to have that reaction, but I do. I want to be happy for them because I know we have so many things to be thankful for, but my heart can’t seem to line up with how I want to feel. I want to experience joy but my heart is heavy. I’m hurting, and being thankful in the midst of that pain just doesn’t make sense. And frankly, it seems impossible and wrong. I have friends who are currently experiencing the sharp pain of lost loved ones and I wonder if they feel the same tension that I’m feeling heading in to the holiday season.
As I talked to God about the tension this week, He reminded me of last year and the years before. He reminded me of other really tough times and how we got through them. He reminded me that I DID get through them and that somehow I DID experience joy and hope. It wasn’t impossible.
As I walk into the holiday season, here are four things I will be doing and I encourage you to do as well.
1. Talk to God
Even if you are struggling, talk to God. Come to Him with your questions, your anger, your frustration and your sadness. He doesn’t need you to have it all together. He wants you to come to Him exactly where you are; He can handle it.
2. Take a minute to remember
Set aside some time to think through previous hard times that you’ve gone through with God. Try and remember how He showed up for you. He didn’t leave you alone then and He won’t leave you alone now.
Here is a message Pastor Chris gave on having hope in dark times.
3. Have a plan
Don’t go into your holiday without a plan for the day. Think through what you want the day to look like and what you want to get out of the day. Our family will be lighting a candle for my mom near her picture on our mantle at home. On Friday we plan to make ornaments in her memory and hang them on our Christmas tree together.
4. Tell your friends
Reach out to your dinner group and ask them to be praying for you. Let them support you! We all need people here fighting for us. If you aren’t in a dinner group, you can sign up here.
Remember, our hope isn’t found in our circumstances, it’s found through experiencing God. I hope these four things allow you to do just that this holiday season.