Finding Purpose in the Pain of Christmas

Author: Karly Grant

Christmas. For some, that word brings feelings of excitement, glee, celebration, and magic. For others, that word invokes grief, dread, lost hope, or sadness. Or maybe you find yourself at a crossroad of all these emotions like I do? No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, I want you to know that you are seen, you are heard. The One who we remember and celebrate this season cares so deeply for you, about the real you and your emotions, more than you can ever imagine.

I am the first to get excited when Christmas decorations start going up, music with jingle bells starts playing, and Hallmark publicizes their list of new cheesy movies. I literally squealed with excitement upon arriving at work one day to see that decorations had started going up. I love the magic of Christmas; the excitement, the beauty, the memories, the laughter, the family time.

Karly Grant Christmas.png

When I dig a little deeper beyond the surface aspects of the holiday season, that’s where the fairy tale ends. It is so easy to be reminded in this season of all the hopes, dreams, relationships, and people lost. It’s amazing how quickly, with just one thought, the feelings of cheer can switch to those of sadness.

For me, as well as many others, cheerful Christmas memories include estranged family members and people who have passed away. Where these losses are felt year-round, they can be especially hard during this time of year. It is difficult to gather with family and reminisce about the good ol’ days, when there is someone dearly loved that is not there to celebrate with you.

Another area of pain in this season comes in the form of unfulfilled hopes or dreams. We all have that perfect Hallmark picture in our minds of families gathered around the Christmas tree, caroling, festive parties, and happiness. While I love all of these things, nothing brings up thoughts of inadequacy or dreams lost for me as quickly as a holiday party. As a woman in my mid-30’s, I am reminded almost immediately upon arrival at such festivities of my singleness. I know it is never the intention of the people hosting the parties, but I quickly notice the seemingly happy couples and feel left out of a part of the cheer.

I always dreamed of being a happy family. I looked forward to the day that my husband and I would stay up all night assembling gifts, only to be awoken too early by our children and relish in the joy on their faces as they opened gifts on Christmas morning. The older I get, the less likely it is that I will get to experience this dream that I’ve placed on a pedestal and that hurts.

So the question remains, how do we find the balance between the cheer and the pain? How do we embark upon this season while keeping it real, but not allowing the enemy to speak lies that will either gloss over the pain with fake cheeriness or allow ourselves to have a pity party that brings gloom to the whole season? For me, I’ve found the answer is in Advent.

Advent is a season recognized by some churches that leads up to celebrating the birth of Christ. It is not something prescribed in the Bible as something that Christians must do, but something that I have found helpful in the last couple of years. As a child, my great-grandmother used to give me an advent calendar. I looked forward to opening up a window every day in December and eating the waxy piece of chocolate hiding behind the yuletide art. As an adult, I find the depth of diving into the words of God so much more fulfilling.

Last year was the first year that I purposely focused on the season of Advent. I did it imperfectly and missed some days, but it was definitely helpful to remember how much God loved me and to combat the lies that Satan brings during this season.

Last year during advent I focused on the word “joy” and even bought a little nativity set with this word prominent among the display of the manger. It was a year of hope as I looked forward to what I thought was ahead. I thought it would potentially be the last holiday season with my family for a while. God had another plan, but that’s another story. Joy is not the same as happiness. I still felt the pain of the hard times, but I knew that I had true joy because of the baby in the manger and the sacrifice that He made.

Christmas Karly Grant

This year, I still have the nativity set on display in my window sill, but as I look forward to the advent season, my word is “intentional.” I am going to intentionally spend time in the Word of God, intentionally focus on being real with Him in my prayers. Hard times will come. Emotions will come, but as I dive deeply into God’s Word and remember the truth of why we have so much to celebrate this season, I will be intentional about not allowing the lies of the enemy to overtake me or lead my thoughts down a road that only leads to destruction.  I pray that this year people will see the joy that comes from Christ as I am intentional about celebrating Him, even amongst the hard times, as I try to live out the words of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey, but she is willing to trust Him.

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Faith and Hockey Sticks

Author: Holly Berg

Two years ago my husband and I signed our son up for skating lessons.  He’s been dreaming about playing hockey since he was old enough to walk. He was born in Oil Country, he bleeds copper and blue – heck, he even eats dinner sitting below a framed photo of his dad with Ryan Smyth!

We figured it was time.

Topher was ecstatic! Never mind that he was enrolled in beginner figure skating – he was convinced he had been drafted to the Oilers!

But skating wasn’t as easy as Topher thought it would be. It’s one thing to zip up and down the hallway with a plastic hockey stick and entirely another to do the real thing!

In his first lesson the coaches taught the kids how to fall down and how to get back up, first on mats and then on the ice. Topher was a pro … until he stepped onto the ice.  He did exactly what his coaches told him: get on your hands and knees, wag your tail like a dog, get one foot up, brace one hand on your knee and use the other to push off on the ice and stand up.

But Topher couldn’t do it.

Not in the first lesson, or the second, or the third. Eventually one of his coaches would help him to his feet so he could participate in the other activities, but Topher was so afraid to fall that he would barely move. Then one of the other kids would accidentally bump into him and knock him over, and he would be back to Square 1, shaking his little bum in the middle of the rink.

Halfway through his fourth lesson I was starting to wonder how much patience his teachers had. Would they recommend remedial beginner skating lessons?

But then HE DID IT.

It might have taken him three and a half 45-minute lessons – most of which he spent on his knees – but he did it!

And I have never been more proud of my little man.

He didn’t give up, not once.

Week after week after week …

He practiced at home, he practiced at his grandparents’ house, he recited the steps over and over and over.

He tried his hardest in every single lesson. He showed dedication and confidence.  He knew he could do it – and he kept at it until he did.

Two years later, Topher is a full-fledged hockey player.  His favourite drill is the Superman, where he dives onto the ice, sliding across the surface on his belly before jumping to his feet and gliding away. Skating is now as natural to him as breathing.

* * *

Some days I picture God as a proud parent, standing outside the rink as we learn to walk through life as His followers.  Sometimes we’re like Topher: cautious, afraid to move in case we fall.  God watches us struggle, but he also sees us as we get down on our knees and try again.

The Bible says that we can “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, NIV) It also says that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..”  (James 1:2-4).

I remember when Topher was learning to skate, the day when everything finally clicked. As his mom, I didn’t count how many times he fell, I counted how many times he got back up.

Maybe God does the same thing.

Following God is hard. We mess up and we make mistakes – sometimes the same ones, over and over again!  But He sees us. He knows we can do it!  We need to get back up, brush ourselves off, and try again.

I don’t know if following God will ever be as natural to me as skating is to Topher, but I hope it will be. I want to develop endurance and strength of character and have confident hope, but like Topher, I need to practice. I need to be obedient in the small things as well as the big things. Every day, week after week after week. I need to recite God’s promises over and over and over. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

And I want that life.

~~~

Readers,

What encourages or keeps you from getting back up after a fall?

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.

An earlier version of this post appeared first at Scattered Words.