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This Thanksgiving was so different, but no different. While Covid was a component, it wasn’t the culprit.

The holidays are not my favorite time of year. In fact, they’re my least favorite, which seems almost sacrilegious, especially because, I am religious. Not only am I religious, but Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Tired of consumerism, but loving food to a fault, a holiday centered around foods unique to once a year and family, was just great with me. It segued into transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland. I relished the Christmas spirit, with my children underfoot or at older ages, making their Christmas gift lists overtly known. The gift exchanges with friends, baking, giving extra to those in need, I loved it all, but so much more, because it was done within the framework of my family.

Which is probably why it’s so hard to find joy in the holidays still, ten years after my divorce. Wait, it might be eleven! But I’m not counting. Those are the holidays that I still want, and cannot have. I made the decision soon after the divorce that I would not give in to the temptation of a stale emotional state. So, for the holidays, I would do my best to maintain the integrity of who I am. Each year, while on a lesser scale, but still in earnest, I pursue the holidays. I do my best to maintain a semblance of the home and traditions my kids grew up in. While the family we knew died, we don’t have to live like we died, but can live and thrive.

But that is no easy task. Thriving can mean striving, and if one is always striving, seeking that life that we desire, the one that brings us joy and peace, the process can be arduous.

Even today, with just my daughter, our two dogs, and myself, I made a full Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, a whole turkey, and the works. Because of medical issues, my daughter did not eat (these are not related to her medical issues she had in HS or college). I can imagine what some of you are thinking, and it’s probably not, “Can I have the recipe?”

Since the divorce, this family still struggles to find its footing. The reasons are complex, and for many families of divorce, this is not the case. But it is the case for ours, and I know there are others.

In spite of the big meals I make, the bounce in my step, the decorations of tinsel and sparkle, the holidays are difficult, and I find myself enduring them, instead of running into their arms with the excitement I once knew.

Well-intentioned people have advised me with admonishment to move on, reminding me that God is my husband and my father. My first response is to punch them. I want to say, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, since you have one.” Would one say that to someone who lost a child in death?

Punching them isn’t cool though, and I could not agree with them more. Without God as my husband and father, I would not be here today. Besides the health of my daughter, my relationship with my children, and living without my family during the holidays has brought me closer to God than any other thing. God created my family. It is his design. And I believe that as my heavenly father and husband, he mourns with me, with every ornament I hang, the disappointments I bear, and the tears that fall.

If you are divorced and strive to thrive, but face the glare of the holiday lights that expose the losses, and intensifies the pain, I see you. I feel you, and I know you. God created the design of family to be the pillar of our society, and our strength in times of good and bad. Every form of media emphasizes the value of family. That when we have our family, we have everything, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances.

What does that mean then, for those who don’t have family, or it’s been dismantled beyond recognition? When that family is no longer there, like the rag that gets tossed around a bit, yet still predictably, always ready for use when needed?

There are times I turn to some of my amazing friends. Some people will turn to romantic relationships, drugs, or alcohol. Determined to wedge something into that empty space, they attempt to complete the puzzle that was uniquely made for their family.

My friends are a generous salve. They are angels in my life, divinely appointed for me. And while they are sometimes an answer to prayer, they, nor drugs, alcohol, or romantic fulfillment can answer prayers or change hearts.

Every year, it’s the same drill. I brace myself, I prepare myself, I’m disappointed, I grieve, and I beg God for mercy. And every year, he delivers in specific, unique, and holy ways that are difficult to articulate, because I think, all miracles are.

This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. It was fragmented and disjointed. I couldn’t find the answer in one TV illustration on how to handle the complexities of Covid. None of the experts on TV addressed my personal scenario. But God heard my pleas and answered my prayers. He gave me courage to find the right words when I needed them, and tenderness in my execution. Angels were on my side and in my presence. My daughter and I shared a time of conversation that united us and a memory that I will treasure; one on which we can build.

The holidays shine a light on the brokenness that we work so hard to recover. But there is one who is the light of the world, whose light is so powerful, that he will not let the darkness overpower him (John 1:5). He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34).

Covid is hard. I understand that the destruction it’s caused. But the media and God are right. That when we have the love of our families, we can overcome any hardship. Of the hardships we face,  none compares to the hardship of losing one’s family.

Being this transparent is hard for me. But I know this hard walk. It’s exhausting and discouraging when we don’t reap what we’ve sown. It reminds me of some favorite movies. One I recently saw called The Biggest Little Farm. It documents the enormous energy that a family puts into building a farm out of nothing. One fiasco and tragedy after the other occurs, until ultimately they discover how all of those mishaps shaped their farm into the success it is today.

The other movie is more relevant to this time of year. That is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  After so much sacrifice and devotion to the people he loves, George Baily faces the potential collapse of his business, and not because of any fault of his own. Through an angel, and the beautiful gift of perspective, George is able to reconcile his losses and overcome his despair.

It’s true that in the end, George has his family. But it’s God who gives him the perspective he needs to be pointed in the right direction, positioning himself for God’s miracles.

Many of us can relate to George. If that weren’t true, they wouldn’t have made a movie about it! Look for your Clarence, and let him point you in the right direction.

You can do this, because God can do this.

PS: Oh, and a whole pie. These are the best store-bought homemade pies ever.

 

Mug Hug 3

Ahhhh, cream. My morning is happy; my Half and Half is replenished.

This is a repeat mug, but still, it hugs my heart.

This has been quite the exercise, writing every day. Like everything, it’s got two sides: it’s a privilege with a lot of satisfaction, and it’s a commitment that begins to feel like an obligation, so I am glad I’ve got two days left!

While I prepared for Saturday’s dinner I had “It’s a Wonderful Life” on. Outside of Les Mis, could there be a more amazing movie?

George Bailey has everything a person needs to make a difference in the world. He’s talented, ambitious, likable, and good. Even snarky, young George calls Mary, “brainless,” by which Mary is completely unaffected. He is determined, driven and ready to explore the world, go to college, then he’ll build skyscrapers and build cities.

In this scene George tells his dad that he absolutely does not want to take over the building and loan business his dad established.

Morgan Stickney of NH also had plans. She was positioned to become an Olympic swimmer, but as outlined in this NY Times article, she lost a leg. My own daughter has had medical issues that have altered her direction. I have a friend who anticipated a magical year with her new husband, to discover within a couple of months of their marriage that she had breast cancer. Another friend’s financial security and well being was taken from her when she was laid off after 15 years.

All of us experience a degree of disappointment. Some to the point where where our plans abruptly change our course.

The degree of impact one can make in the world doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to allocation of trouble. It would make sense if the people with all the aptitude for great things would be granted a life free of obstacles, freeing them up for super big accomplishments. That the less ambitious would receive more interruptions in life, because their plans aren’t quite as productive or don’t equate to the big deal successes. But there seems to be no plan for difficulty allotment, which is both fair and beautiful.

I think that’s because God doesn’t think about sky scrapers and Olympic successes. That’s not to say he’s not in our story while we pursue our dreams. I know he’s in my story, and I’m sure he’s with Morgan Stickney in her journey. But as we learn in George’s story, the greatest success we have is the connection we make with people every day. While someone is building a sky scraper or in line at the grocery store, or passing someone on the street, are we looking up with a smile that says: You matter. You make a difference.

And when we do that, we make a difference.

Yesterday at church we heard our final message about the 4 elements of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. The passage our pastor shared was this: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35.

George’s guardian angel Clarence, intervenes when things get desperate for George. In the end, George discovers why his life is worth living, with or without sky scrapers.

How wonderful it is, the difference we can make.

For previous posts of My Twelve Mugs of Christmas, click here.

Day 8 Mug Hug

Today’s mug is actually a favorite cup, and I can get it any time of year. As much as I love good coffee, I also love McDonalds, as a company. With a lower price, their lattes are adequate. Their stores are clean, their service model is consistent, and they strive to offer a variety to please the current trends. I have a friend who eats one ice cream cone a day from McDonalds, and another friend who daily gets her $1 soda. I like how I fill out a 1 minute survey with my receipt and get a free small latte, and I like their frequent buyer cards. I especially like Susie at my neighborhood location. I don’t go often, but she always greets me with a smile, as if she knows me. I marveled at her one day last year. Winter calamity put the fear in everyone and shut down most of the surrounding businesses, but Susie greeted me with the same enthusiasm she greets everyone, every day.

This morning had me out the door early running a Christmas errand to my daugther’s house on the East side. Hence, a change, but I’m happy to share my enthusiasm for the good ole’ American icon: McDonalds.

I am surprised they don’t have holiday cups for the season. I guess another reason to like them. They’re a practical bunch.  Merry Christmas, McDonalds!

For previous posts of My Twelve Mugs of Christmas, click here.

Day 9 Mug Hug

I’m not crazy about this mug. It’s bigger than I like, and doesn’t shout “Christmas.” But it shouts “Bridgette,” (as well as “Beijing” and “Starbucks”). She brought it back from China when she went in eighth grade with a group from OES. So this is as much a hug from Bridgette as it is a Mug Hug.

The busy traffic of life has a way of zipping past, our memories left so far back, we can hardly recall ever being there. But there’s something about touching an object or a person or living an experience that knocks on the heart, awakening a memory and welcoming it in.

When I grabbed this mug it was like, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” This mug reminds me of this thing, and that thing reminds me of that person, and that person reminds me of that event, and when I did that thing, and I remember a lot about that moment in time. Some things I didn’t love or could make me sad, so in this moment, I skip past that, and reach for the things that I did love, because after all, this is a Mug Hug, and even though this is NOT Folgers, this is the best part of waking up!

For previous posts of My Twelve Mugs of Christmas, click here.

Day 10 Mug Hug

 

This is from a set I got a few years back at an after Christmas sale from Pete’s Coffee. You may see it again, or, maybe not this exact one, but one of the other three, that all look the same.

I realized that if you read my blog, “Getting There,”  you read that I had a burning question about my furnace, which was: Has it been broken all these years? The answer is, “Yes.” I could be embarrassed about that. I kind of am. But I’m also, very much not. I am capable and competent in a lot of things, but this was not one of them. As much as I’d discussed my cold house in the winter, no one ever said, “Have you checked to see if the upgrade kit on your TRANE XL 80 has been replaced?” Ugh. I could have gone my whole life and not been compelled to know that information.

Lesson learned however: Get the annual equipment checks.

For many of us, our grateful hearts do the heavy lifting most of the year, but the holidays remind us of our reality that we work so hard to manage or deny. The holidays demand our attention like a mom who places both hands on our cheeks, twists our face in her direction and straight into her eyes.

For encouragement about peace and joy, click here to listen to our pastor’s sermons on the four aspects of advent. I’m so grateful for Pastor Brad Williams whose messages lift me up and equip me for a life that’s not easy to navigate.

That’s it for today. I’m diving in to work. Today on the agenda: Work on Explanation of Services for my new biz, and a website.

For previous posts of My Twelve Mugs of Christmas, click here.

PS: If you receive an email when I post, know that I constantly see room for improvement in my writing, so the post always changes once I hit PUBLISH. To see the most current version, go to the website!