Christmas looks different this year than it did last year. I feel like a fish flopping around in unfamiliar waters. As each day passes and we inch closer and closer to Christmas, I feel this urgency to mark things off our family “Christmas To Do” list because how else will my children experience the joy of Christmas and the magical awe and wonder this time of year brings. But who am I kidding; this is more about me than it is my kids. I think to myself maybe if I read one more blog about advent, check off one more Christmas activity, or sit by the tree and take in all its glory and splendor, then maybe, just maybe the “Christmas Spirit” will swoop in and fill my heart with joy.
The other day I was texting with a dear friend and told her that I have found myself in a state of grieving. No, nothing tragic has happened, in fact the complete opposite. I have a perfectly healthy, beautiful newborn and it’s our first Christmas as a family in the state I love, with the people I love. And yet my heart has strands of joy mingled with grief, threatening to choke it out. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation, where everything around you looks good, perfect even yet your heart is having a hard time experiencing joy. If so, you aren’t alone.
In the times of quiet that I’ve had lately, which if you’re a mom you know are few and far between, I’ve been trying to figure out why grief during this joyous time of year and the one thing that keeps glaring back at me is CHANGE. Change and I have a love/hate relationship, we really do. Over the past year, our family has gone through tremendous change. Good changes like moving from Ohio back to our beloved state of South Carolina, a job change for my husband, and a precious new baby added to our family. However, we’ve also experienced loss during our change like the close proximity to our dear friends as well as our rituals and rhythms that we had grown accustom to over the past seven years living in Ohio. And as I find myself with the year coming to a close, I think all this change has finally caught up to me. On my way home the other day from running a quick errand, my grief could no longer be contained and hot tears ran down my face. I’m not an overly emotional person, so a part of me scolded myself for being so silly but the other part knew that it was necessary. Kristen Strong says, “With new change also comes the promise of God’s presence like never before.”
This third week of Advent we celebrate Joy, perfect timing for me and I have a hunch it is for others as well. I’ve been asking God to fill my heart with joy and open my eyes to the joy around me. This takes work on my part as well, it requires me to name my blessings even in the midst of change, it requires me to step out of “chronos” time, the hard, slow passing time and into “kairos” time, God’s time. And when I do these things, I am drawn back into His presence. Change whether welcomed with open arms or forced upon us no longer carries with it grief and joy floods my heart.
May your heart experience true joy this Christmas even in grief and in spite of change.