If it wasn’t for a certain misfit named “Buddy”, I would swear that I was the escaped Christmas elf come to earth. I love everything about Christmas. The songs, the lights, the special treats. The parades and cheesy movies, the trees and decor, the presents and the gift wrap. I record all the new and classic TV specials and am always disappointed in myself when I can’t get to them all before the end of the season. Even though I’m a native Texan, I dream of a white Christmas every year. It is not an exaggeration to say that I have jingle bells on my toes and tinsel in my soul. Except…the last two years have been hard. Last year’s Christmas newsletter was full of cancer and complications and job loss and seizures. Putting some of that behind us, I had hoped this Christmas would feel different. But it doesn’t. We still have financial stresses, complications with Shelby, and I’m facing yet another surgery. Instead of feeling sparkle, twinkle, jolly, most days I feel a little frazzled, a little tired and a little lonely.
As a city of Grapevine Employee, I was gifted tickets this year to our annual North Pole Express train ride and event. We forced the teenager to go and set off on a family Christmas adventure. It was everything that usually ignites my Yuletide spirit, but I wasn’t feeling it. While I liked the sights and sounds, my heart was heavy. Then Shelby started to laugh in sheer delight. It started when we began to sing along with the carols playing over the train’s loud speakers and built to near frenzy when Mrs. Claus came into sight. She laughed and laughed. And I started to cry. Shelby is satisfied with her lot in life. No, not satisfied. Joy-filled. Shelby – the child with uncontrolled seizures. Who cannot bathe, dress or toilet herself. Shelby, who will always be dependent on the care and kindness of others. She is truly happy. There are a lot of hard things about having an eternal toddler, but the innocence, light and love that inhabit her are the trade off. As she laughed, I could almost hear the narrator of the classic Grinch cartoon, “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that Lauren’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”
I recently read Lysa Terkeurst’s latest book It’s Not Supposed to be This Way, subtitled “finding unexpected strength when disappointments leave you shattered.” You may or may not have heard about her very public betrayal at the hands of her husband. While I feel like I currently have more issues than a magazine subscription, my troubles look like fairy tales compared to that. And yet, I feel like her message is so similar to the sermon I heard in Shelby’s laugh on that train. How are we supposed to feel about God when our normal doesn’t look like we think it should? How can I reconcile knowing in my head that God is good and kind and not always feeling it in my heart? The book challenged me to search myself for ways I am more attached to the outcomes in my life than trusting God in the process. And yet we have permission to stop pretending that we don’t get exhausted by our disappointments. But “To hope is to acknowledge reality in the very same breath that I acknowledge God’s sovereignty.”
Hebrews 12:1-3 is a very familiar passage to me, but I never before thought of it as an action plan for my “blahs”. Although by no means a foolproof blueprint for reclaiming my joy, a good place to start is by asking myself what sins are easily entangling me? And what would it look like for me to persevere right now? And lastly, what joy has been set before me that will help me endure? Now in actuality, our troubles are not always caused by our actions, and it may take time to regain enough strength to feel like we are persevering instead of barely hanging on. But we can turn to God’s Word and His promises to see that there is always a joy set before us – that He rescues and reconciles humanity to Himself. And that all started when His son Jesus was born to us in a barn. That is the picture frame through which we must view everything that happens to us.
Since my family’s train ride to the North Pole, I decided to revisit the lyrics to my favorite Christmas hymn and admit that there is nothing wrong with me feeling like the”weary world” we sing about (“O Holy Night”) right now . I still have plenty of reasons to rejoice and feel the “thrill of hope”. The baby in the manger came for me, He lived for me, He died for me, and He saved me from destruction. So I am lifting my eyes off of my temporary circumstances and looking to Him. It won’t be a perfect effort on my part. I still live in a world that’s hard, but the more I focus on Jesus and the incredible gift that He is, the more I can experience the joy Shelby is teaching me about.
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Dawn Rickards says
I love this blog! Your words of wisdom backed by the word of God are inspiring and exactly what my weary soul needs!
Thank you Lauren, for your transparency and honesty!
Thank you, Dawn. We can be weary together. Saying a prayer for you right now.
Sarah Geringer says
Lauren, I so appreciated learning more about you and your family in this post. I’m reading Lysa’s book too, and it’s slaying me and healing me at the same time. Where are you in Texas? We’re visiting the Dallas area over Christmas and if you’re anywhere close, I’d love to see you!
I am very close! We are in Grapevine. About a 10 minute drive from Dfw airport. I would LOVE to meet you in person!
Kristi Woods says
The authenticity–and permission for us to uncover ours–shines in this post, Lauren. It certainly sounds as though it’s been a rough year+ for you, and I’m sorry. How like our God to use a child–baby Jesus and your own–to pour joy into life, coating the “hard” with His coloring. May your Christmas continue to flow w/joy in a way only possible with the Almighty. I pray His comfort will be yours. Thanks for visiting at my blog, as well. Merry Christmas! (And I LOVE Buddy. What a great movie!)
Thank you for your kind, kind words Kristi. Merry Christmas.
Tammy L Kennington says
What a beautiful post, Lauren. I know you’re encouraging many through these words. May you be filled with His strength and comfort!
Peace and grace,
(Your neighbor from Crystal Twaddell’s linkup)
Thank you for your well wishes, Tammy. Merry Christmas!
Lauren, I am so sorry to read about your weariness and worry during this season when the whole world seems to be joyous.
I am praying for you and sending some love your way. Focus on your wonderful family and your faith. I know you will. God does not promise us life on a monorail, but He does promise to be there with us for the ride.
Love the picture of Shelby and Santa. Your daughter has an infectious smile! 🙂
By the way, have you ever read Amy Julia Becker? I am reading one of her books right now, and it made me think of you.
Her name sounds familiar. I will have to look her up. Thank you for the prayers and well wishes.
jodie filogomo says
Gosh Lauren. I can see why your holiday spirit was a little lagging, yet seeing it through the eye of Kids (no matter what their age) really puts it in perspective for me too. In a way it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.
I’m always so serious in life, so my word for the year was fun. Because life is short. No matter who you are. And I think we honor those around us and God by enjoying it.
Sending hugs, love and prayers for your surgery. And even though it may not seem appropriate, maybe a little laughter too?
We honor God my enjohing life. Huh. That’s an interesting thought Jodie. Thanks for weighing in.
Tina at Mommynificent says
This is good advice for any time of year! Thanks for sharing it at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
Thank you for hosting, Tina.
Karen Friday says
So beautiful, Lauren. Love all your reflections here. And especially about Shelby’s laughter and how her “small heart great three sizes that day.”
Thank you, Karen.
Heather Hart says
Hi Lauren, I love this post and could relate to much of your feelings. I love Christmas, the lights and sights, the sounds and smells that fill the air, all of it, but sometimes it’s hard to capture that Christmas feeling. But I love the reminder that while life is hard, Jesus is enough. And when we fix our eyes on Him, it changes everything.
I’ve chosen your post as my feature for this weeks Grace and Truth Link-Up on Candidly Christian.
Thank you so much for the feature, Heather. I am so honored!
Love all of this. and will share! (Btw, my calling is to destroy loneliness in all it’s many faces and places. So what I can do? Your friend in CA who also likes the idea of a white Christmas but a true weather pansy. On the coast, Sue)
Calleen Petersen says
Love, love, love! I understand this so well. I didn’t realize you had a child with special needs. May you find your joy this Christmas.
The same to you, Colleen.
Ps just ordered Lysa’s book for a struggling friend – through your link. (:
You have alleviated a little of my loneliness by interacting here, Sue. Thank you!
Karen Woodall says
It’s easy to be overwhelmed in the season of ‘joy’ with all the to-do lists coupled with lives that often don’t look like a christmas card. But I’m so grateful that God meets us where we are, but doesn’t leave us there. Blessings to you and your family as you seek Him! thanks for the post
Mary Geisen says
I feel the holiday season can either make or break us. In your struggles and weariness, you face burdens that are much heavier than others. But I hear hope in your words and a sense of joy when you watch your daughter light up. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
Thanks for the encouragement, Mary.
Oh how I love Buddy the elf! I laughed out loud when I read that part. Our last two Christmases were hard ones as well, with my husband having medical issues. We have an amazing and trustworthy Father…we just need to lean into him. Thank you for sharing this at Friday Fellowship! I hope you come back this week. 🙂
Thank you, Julie!
Kristin Hill Taylor says
What a heartfelt, encouraging post, Lauren! Thanks for sharing it at #PorchStories. Also, Lysa’s new book is on my list to read, so I’m glad to hear a few of your thoughts on it.
Mary Hill says
Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup this week.
Thank you, Mary.
Thank you, Lauren! Reading this again just so that I can soak it in. It’s so real and so good. Blessings for a hope-filled, peaceful and joyful Christmas!
Thank you, Carlie. Merry Christmas.