Here it is Christmas Day. How are you feeling as you roll over and greet the day? Do you anticipate planned holiday events or is there a part of you that dreads your feet hitting the floor to begin the rituals of the holiday? Will you be alone or is your day filled with savored traditions that fill your heart with joy?
Our holidays are different now than they were when our children were young. “Well, duh! Of course they are!” But I am slow to acknowledge the change that is inevitable as children grow older and become their own people and make their own families. Somehow we believe it will always be like it is when they are young. We develop traditions and we expect that nothing will change. And then it does. And it can feel very much out of control. That’s because it is.
So today I am writing to those who find themselves in a different stage of life. A place that they expected, but didn’t expect at all. They knew it would come, but somehow it came sooner. That time when children grow up and leave the nest to feather their own nest. For those who no longer have children at home, but now have parents who need them in a way they haven’t before. For aging parents who find themselves dependent upon children sooner than they wanted. I write for those who are waking up alone because death or divorce took their partner in an untimely manner. I write for those who are adjusting to a new normal, one they haven’t quite embraced.
Dave and I are empty nesters and we have been for a few years. It wasn’t as easy for me as it was for Dave. He likes to sing along with Alan Jackson in his song Remember When , “…when the children grow up and move away, we won’t be sad, we’ll be glad, for all the life we’ve had.” I’m glad for all the life we’ve had, but it was hard for me to see the kids join other families and spend holidays with new traditions and new people. I remember sitting and crying at the thought of the table being empty at Easter and no one around the tree on Christmas Eve. So, if that’s you today, it’s okay! You are normal and it will be all right.
I have friends who will get up today and the pitter patter of feet on the floor won’t be toddlers running excitedly to the Christmas tree, but parents or loved ones who need shelter and a place to call home. The new normal is figuring out how to expand their hearts to include a diagnosis, event, or life situation that brings new people into the house. I remember making this adjustment for a dear friend of mine. When I learned of her predicament, I put my head in my hands and I prayed. I reminded God that I was frail and I didn’t think I had that much love in me for another person. So, if he could please show up that would be awesome. And you know what, he did. So today, if that’s you, his well of unconditional love is limitless. He will provide exactly what you need if only you will ask.
The quietness in some of your homes today is deafening. After my father passed away the hole where he sat yawned black and cavernous, threatening to swallow me whole. I missed his leadership in reading the Christmas story. I missed his quietness. I missed playing games. I missed the way he smelled. I missed that he loved chocolate and Mt. Dew. I missed that he tapped his fingernails on my head when he walked past. I missed him. And my insides ached. Many times I felt very alone in my grief and loss. If that is you today, my heart goes out to you. No matter the reason you are alone, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Deuteronomy recounts the Israelite journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The journey which should have taken a few days, has taken them forty years. The Israelites are on the verge of a really wonderful change. This fledgling nation will now have a land to call their own. They will truly be a nation. It’s a great day! But for Joshua, the new leader, it looks daunting. He had a normal way of doing life. Living in the desert, while not perfect, was familiar. He knew how to navigate the challenges of finding water, gathering food, watching for enemies. He understood how to set up camp; he knew how to do church. Life in the Promised Land is uncharted territory. There was no one to ask about how to do this.
Except that God was still with him. That didn’t change. As I read God’s instructions to Joshua, I am overwhelmed with his compassion and deep understanding of how difficult the change would be not only for Joshua, but for the people. It’s worth reading and I believe there is a message in it for you and I as we navigate the twists and turns that life brings to us.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you! He will neither fail you nor abandon you.Deuteronomy 31:6, 8
In times of radical change we are invited to listen with Joshua as the Lord our God tells us that we are not alone. When panic and fear stand at the door and knock, we can turn them away, because the Lord has promised to go before us into the change. He will be with us, no matter how difficult it appears. We are not abandoned to figure it out on our own.
When I imagine someone going before me into new territory, I think about what that will mean. He can warn me of pitfalls, places where the path drops or makes a sharp incline. If someone has gone ahead, she can share the joys I will encounter and help me look forward to bright sunrises and beautiful places to rest along the way. It isn’t just warning about hardship that makes the process more pleasant, but also helping me to see the beauty in the journey.
As you begin your day, I invite you to see the Lord God going ahead of you. Ask God to sanctify your imagination and then ask him to show you how he is preparing the day for you. Ask him to show you how he is way ahead of you in the planned events. He will not fail you or abandon you, no matter how different today might look.
And if your day is filled with traditions that you have enjoyed for many years, I invite you to do something new. Ask the Lord God to show you something today that you have never seen. Allow him to do a new thing in your traditions.
And no matter where your day may take you or what you might encounter, you are not alone!
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26