Encouragement if the Holidays Feel Lonely

untitled-design-5I 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.”

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Thoughts on the Friendly Ghost

After we took the kids trick-or-treating on Halloween, we watched the movie Casper. I can neither confirm nor deny that I shed a few tears at the end (why did they only give him until 10’o clock! My heart!) My son made a comment; “I want a ghost for a friend.” To which I replied, “You have a ghost for a friend. You have the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, or whatever you want to call Him — often brings up imagery in people’s minds. For some, that imagery is scary or off-putting depending on their background. But the Holy Ghost is not something we should be scared of at all — let’s just say Casper was not the original friendly ghost. 😉

For one moment, will you humor me? Scrap the imagery that freaks you out, and read what the scriptures have to say:

The Holy Spirit is our: 

Comforter (Isaiah 11:2)

We all face times when there is nothing any human could say to us that would bring consolation to the pain we face. These are the moments we need to lean in to the Holy Spirit.

Counselor (John 14:16)

Do you ever feel like you don’t know who you can trust? Do you feel like there are untouchable subjects in your conversations? There isn’t a topic off limits with the Holy Spirit. You can tell him anything and everything – and the best part is His counsel is always right, good, pure, trustworthy and true.

Advocate (John 15:26, 16:7)

Everyone wants to have someone in their corner and on their side. It’s powerful to consider that God would send His spirit to say, “I’m for you. I’m on your side.”

Guide (John 16:13)

A guide doesn’t just tell us which direction to go, but also yields us when we are headed in a wrong direction. If you are facing life-altering decisions, you need a trustworthy guide.

Helper (John 14:26)

If we have the choice to do something on our own or do it with help from the spirit of God, why wouldn’t we ask for His help every time? He makes heavy burdens light.

Revealer of Truth (John 14:17, 16:13, 1 Cor. 2:12-16)

We all have questions, doubts, struggles and moments of confusion. There are times when we need to set aside our tendency to be led by our feelings and emotions, and instead allow the Holy Spirit to reveal what is true.

Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2)

I often hear people say, “Life really knocked it out of him” or “That’s life.” Life is often spun with a negative connotation to it. It speaks of heaviness and hardship, but that isn’t true life. The spirit of life (true life) brings freedom, hope, peace and joy — the kind that is not dependent on our circumstances.

Teacher (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:13)

If we humble ourselves and admit there is room to grow and learn, He is right there to teach us. Are you open to being taught?

I am enjoying the journey of experiencing the Holy Spirit work in and through my life. I’ve had the honor of being a confidant for a lot of people. My husband and I know things about many people that they’ve never told a soul. We see tears from people who never cry in settings that aren’t customary for tears. This isn’t because we are so great, it’s because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. This true spirit of life is not scary or off-putting at all, His spirit gives people an invitation to a safe place in the arms of an advocate, comforter, and guide.

The invitation He’s given you is certain, the question is, have you given Him one?

Making the First Move

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I spent many years praying and waiting for various fears to go away in my life, until one day I realized the fears weren’t budging. There I was, still stuck in my comfort zone.

I wanted to be an honest friend, but I feared ruffling feathers or being misunderstood. Better be silent.
 
I wanted to give writing my all, but I feared my all would never be enough. Better shrink back.
 
I wanted to learn martial arts, but I feared I lacked the fortitude. Better play it safe.
 
The list goes on and I’m sure you can relate.
 
One day I was reading the book of Nehemiah and I realized something. Nehemiah felt an overwhelming call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which would be no easy task and would be met with opposition. Nehemiah 2:2 says he was “very much afraid.”
 
Guess what? He did it anyway.
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This was encouraging for me because I was tired of remaining latent while waiting for fear to vanish from my life. If fear wasn’t going to move, I needed to make the first move.
 
This year I’ve had some rocky conversations as I learn how to be an honest pastor and friend. I signed up for a writing program, trying to take the experts advice even when it’s out of my comfort zone. And I started Muay Thai (which includes an hour of me trying to talk myself out of it before every class). 

 

Maybe one day I’ll wake up and I won’t fear sharing my heart or my writing anymore. Maybe one day, I’ll show up to Muay Thai without a pinch of nerves. Maybe one day I’ll master lovingly speaking the truth, without any hesitation. God’s perfect love casts out fear, but while I’m in the process of absorbing His perfect love I may have to take some steps and those steps might be wobbly. As for now, as for this week, there’s still a little fear. The good news is, I know now that I don’t have to wait for fear to make the first move. I can wrap my hands, slip on my boxing gloves, punch fear in the face, and do it all over again tomorrow.

When have you had to make the first move on fear?