I remember one Christmas in college, I sat alone in my dorm room, eating chocolate chip cookies. They were terrible cookies, I learned the hard way that margarine doesn’t cut it. I had a couple houses to visit that year, and was grateful for the invitations. But that day, sitting in my cold dorm room eating hard cookies, was a time in life when the holidays didn’t feel jolly and bright.
Ever since my (biological) mom had passed, there was a sense of dread around the holidays. For one, it would remind me of how much she loved Christmas and how it wasn’t the same without her. Secondly, it would remind me that I felt like a bit of a nomad since her death. I had invitations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was truly grateful for them. But I didn’t feel like I fully belonged at any of those places. Primarily, because the dream in my heart was for a family of my own. I imaged having a husband to sip hot chocolate with by the fire. I’d imagine that we’d stay up late, making sure the kids were sound asleep before we wrapped presents together and put them under the tree. The picture-perfect image I had in my head was a far cry from eating hard cookies alone in a cold dorm room.
I wanted to be jolly around the holidays. I wanted it to be the happiest time of year for me, like it was for many others. But there were many years for me when the holidays felt lonely and in limbo.
This year, I extended an invitation to someone to join us for Thanksgiving. She expressed gratitude but I sensed in her a twinge of the way I used to feel. It feels a little bit like you are a bird visiting someone else’s nest. You know the nest that belongs to you isn’t finished yet – so you’ll need to flit around a little longer until God say’s yours is ready.
I felt compelled to write this to extend a hand of comfort to those who might feel unsettled during the holidays. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the brokeness of a family, or the dream of a future family you’re waiting for – I want to encourage you that if God can weave a nest for me, He can for you too.
Yes, this year I get to to stay up late sipping hot chocolate and wrapping presents for the kids with my awesome husband of 12 years. Year after year, it never gets old. The sadness has faded and the holidays do feel merry and bright. I get to pass on to my kids things that I wasn’t given (and I’m not talking about presents under the tree). It’s fulfilling, it’s peaceful, and I’m bursting with thanks. But peeking in through the window of a life like mine around the holidays doesn’t paint the full picture. What you see now, is not what it always ways, this is part of the reason I burst with thanks.
After I became a Christ-follower, I understood the true meaning of Christmas and that helped. But I also discovered a God who is a God of hope and a verse that I clung to when I felt the holiday restlessness:
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6
If this holiday season doesn’t match up with what you hope for, I understand. I’ve been there. Holding steadfast to verses like this one helped serve as a reminder to me that my Heavenly Father was working behind the scenes. He is a loving Father to the Fatherless, defender of widows, the one who sees the lonely and sets them into a family. He knows every desire of your heart before you even mutter a word in prayer to Him. He’s faithful to fulfill His promises, both for this life and the life to come.
If I could go back and speak words of wisdom to the lonely girl in the dorm room, I’d tell her this: “Don’t wish for a fast-forward button. Take this time to observe, grow, and learn. Learn how to have peace in God, things won’t always go your way and you’ll need it. Grow in gratitude and contentment, your kids will need to see you model it. Find a Godly couple you admire and glean from them, ask for the hard feedback that will help you grow. Don’t get offended by their response, see it as a tool God uses to help you become the wife and mother you aspire to be. You may feel like the little bird this year, flitting from nest to nest for the holidays – tuck Psalm 68:5-6 in your heart, and hold it tightly and prayerfully. God’s still working on your nest, don’t stop praying for it. He’s putting all the pieces together, preparing a place for you.”