Now that we’re past Halloween, it’s time for the preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas to begin. Have you noticed that Costco already has Christmas trees on display?! You may be working on your Thanksgiving dinner menu or trying to figure out what gift to get your tween for Christmas. But for many of us, the holidays do not represent happiness and joy-filled times with our loved ones. Maybe you’re like me and you don’t look forward to the holidays…
Let me explain. I’m not “anti-holidays.” However, holidays are a painful reminder to me that not everyone is surrounded by their loved ones during these special times. My parents divorced when I was young, so my earliest recollections of the holidays did not involve my family being all together. My siblings and I often split time on holidays between our parents. For example, we would spend Christmas Eve with my dad and his new family, and then we would spend Christmas Day with my mom. But some years we went to Florida to see my paternal grandparents, so we didn’t see our mom for Christmas at all… These experiences were very painful for my tender heart, because I wanted to be with both of my parents on holidays.
Fast-forward to my own marriage and divorce, when I found myself again splitting holidays. This time, my son was the one traveling between his mom and dad. As a mother, it was particularly difficult to spend a holiday away from my son and I experienced debilitating depression. I wanted him to have both of his parents with him on holidays. When my son was younger, I did join my ex-husband’s family a few times for Thanksgiving dinner or for the opening of Christmas gifts. But as life moved on, sharing holidays became less feasible.
Even now, as part of a blended family with my new husband, we still face splitting holidays. Last Christmas, we didn’t have any of the children with us. With all of my experiences with split holidays, I thought I was used to the difficulty of being away from loved ones for the holidays. But the pain hit again — actually, the pain was even more crippling because now I was not only apart from my son, but I was also apart from my bonus daughter and bonus son as well. My husband did a great job of distracting me during this time with visits to new coffee shops, but the heartache remained…
This year, we are again facing split holidays — our boys will be in Texas with their respective parents for Thanksgiving, so my husband and I will be here alone. Instead of dreading yet another split holiday, I want to shift my focus to blessing others. Philippians 2:4 (NLT) reminds us, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Taking this verse to heart means I cannot merely wallow in my own sadness — I need to help others who also struggle with depression and sadness during the holidays.
I’m not exactly sure what “take an interest in others” looks like for this season in my life, but I’m praying for God to show me tangible ways to bless others. And I’m sure He will answer my prayers because Galatians 6:2 (NLT) instructs us to, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
Maybe I will make a pie for a family facing the first holiday without a loved one. Or maybe I will go to coffee with a single parent whose children will be away for the holiday. Or maybe my husband and I will host some sailors who cannot make it home for the holidays. Or maybe I will volunteer my time with a non-profit organization that serves those who don’t have the resources to celebrate the holidays.
Regardless of my final decision, I want to put into practice the words of Romans 12:13 (NLT): “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Will you join me?