Monday, December 19, 2016

Is This Christmas a FIRST For You?

My heart goes out to anyone that this is their first Christmas without their loved one(s). The memories seem more vivid and the love we had for them is even greater during this beautiful season. Pictured here is our last Christmas with Papa (my sweetheart) who always read the Christmas Story to the grandkids before opening presents on Christmas Eve. He was hilarious -- making the sounds of the animals and the innkeeper and Joseph. Such sweet memories. And, quite honestly, there's this yearning to be with them -- after all, what Christmas could compare to a Christmas in heaven?

My Sweetheart (husband of 44 years) graduated to heaven on November 16th, 2010. That “Christmas in heaven” mindset brought such comfort to me. When my daughter and I were in the mall a couple of weeks after his funeral, we were singing along with the mall’s Christmas music playlist. By then, we had heard every rendition possible of “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You!” and we started to sing along with it, when we both caught the words we were singing…..and we said to each other, almost simultaneously, “Oh….no, we won’t. We’re going to have a bright, merry Christmas, because you are having a bright, merry Christmas in heaven!” We knew then, and I still know now, there’s just too many blessings, and too much to be thankful for -- to allow myself to be singing “down and out” and “woe is me” words and songs. I am just too blessed.

I know people mean well, but I have always found it amusing AND disconcerting, to hear what they would say to try to bring me comfort. Such remarks as: “I know your Christmases must be so hard on you.” or “Just go ahead and grieve – it’s okay!” That first Christmas without him, people would say "It’s so good you’ll be with your family to help you get through this tough time.” I thought ”Wow, those well-meaning friends need a class in “Bringing Hope, Cheer and Joy: 101”

Oh, yes, there are those times when I think about the sweetness of our 44-year love story, and I start to shed a few tears because I still do miss him so much. But then, almost immediately, the tears turn to rejoicing! I think, “These tears will do me no good…except for messing up my make-up”, and then, a profound sense of thanksgiving and praise begins to take over.

There’s several lessons I’ve learned about making it through the holidays: 1) Psalm 16:11 “…..in His presence is fullness of joy” – His presence will always be sensed when I take my eyes off ME, and turn them to Him; 2) Psalm 22:3 “He inhabits the praises of His people” – He is there with me when I praise Him; 3) He promised to be my Shepherd in Psalm 23, therefore, I shall not want because He leads me and He guides me. Why should I be surprised when He provides just what I need?

My Journey of Faith continues. Yes, there have been course alterations and my life-long companion is no longer holding my hand on this earth, but nevertheless, I am finding that the journey still keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. Tthe more I trust God, the more He gives me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” Isaiah 61:3. Yes, those are the words I will give to those who are going through a crisis of any kind! It is possible to be full of joy….whenever….and, even at a funeral! Regardless of the season or time of year, God is so faithful, and instead of singing the “I’ll Be Blue Without You” songs, we can always be singing, "IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!" Might as well embrace heaven on earth while we're still here!