Home for the Holidays

Ahh, the holidays. Christmas cheers ringing, while #redcups make a triumphant return… newly decorated and overflowing with something peppermint or gingerbread. Moments of mirth covered in Christmas lights are wrapped up in pretty paper, complete with a big, red bow. Scores of people stare dreamily out frosted windows, warming their heart with visions of Holiday bliss. Only… it’s not always like that, is it?

While many people content themselves with tearing paper chains and counting down the days until they’re home, there are those who are removed from the quintessential familial fantasy. There are those who may have suffered a great loss this year, have strained home lives, or have nowhere to “go home” to.

Broken, divided and blended homes are more common than ever, and Home for the Holidays isn’t always the highlight that it’s painted out to be.

What happens when Happy Holidays just aren’t?

Things to remember this Holiday Season:

1. Life is as tenuous as it is fragile. In the last couple of months my family has suffered two huge losses. For someone who writes her heart for the masses, I am actually a highly private human being. Still, I will confess with all vulnerability that it’s been a god-awful time for my family. How is one expected to celebrate seasonal cheer when suffering gaping heart holes? The answer is honestly. Death mars joy, but it doesn’t defeat it. It also sharpens your perspective on life and love. Life isn’t so much a rollercoaster (being high or low exclusively) as it is a train ride. Joy on one side of the tracks and tragedy on the other: simultaneously.  Life is all the more complex and complete because of it. This holiday, love extravagantly and unreservedly. You never know who won’t be seated at next year’s table.

2. Family are people and, sometimes, people are mean. If familiarity breeds contempt, than familial familiarity breeds outright disdain. Whether it’s an absent father, an overbearing mother, a critical grandmother or an obnoxiously successful sibling, not all families fit into a picturesque mold. Families fight. Tempers and tensions rise in close quarters. Someone says something, something goes flying and suddenly, the whole evening is “ruined.” Friends… people are people, living is messy and that doesn’t change just because the seasons do. Let’s not be surprised by that. Or, jaded. Take a breath. Swallow your pride. And for goodness sake, hold your tongue! Take a look around the room. Your family may not be perfect, but they belong to you. Cherish them.

3. Home is where your heart can rest safely. Humans are as resilient as hearts are, and we make do with what we’re given… even when it isn’t much. While this season kindles warmth and love in some, it makes others increasingly aware of how cold, hollow and empty life can be. Some people don’t have a safe resting space, where their souls can breathe. If you are alone this holiday season, I won’t preach at you about a God who sees you at your lowest and loneliest moments… but as one of His children, I can attest to that truth. Christ is no longer a baby in a manger and no matter who you are, or where you are, you are not exempt from His fiery, relentless, all-consuming love. I promise you.

This year for the holidays, great or grating, don’t take a moment for granted. Be thankful, be kind and if you can’t be jolly, at least be careful not to let your face say what your lips are concealing. Cheers.

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