Last week my husband spent the week in Utah with his family due to the death of his Grandpa. It was a sad time in their family and a time when everyone needed to be together for support and to share happy memories of their beloved grandpa.
However, back in Oklahoma, Casey’s absence was extremely eye-opening. Just an hour after I dropped him off at the airport, I found myself singing “I’ll have a blue Christmas” as I finished Christmas shopping for our families. Can you believe it? I spent the week counting down the hours until he would be back, wishing he were back sooner. I watched Christmas movies, baked cookies for work and for a neighbor, wrapped presents and went to bed early.
None of the above mentioned things were very much fun though. Without Casey to enjoy these things with, they were just kind of “blah.”
This is when I began to think about those who spend their holidays without their loved ones, for whatever reason it may be. Last week I interviewed a man who returned just in time from his deployment overseas to spend Christmas with his family. Both he and I found it hard to keep our eyes dry as he talked about all of the things he missed most about his family in his absence.
In another instance, I talked with a friend at church whose husband is currently deployed. She is one of the strongest people I know as she carries on as normal for her daughter and herself. She is brave and someone I look up to tremendously.
Talking to this man who so selflessly serves our country and my friend who also serves our country, but as a military wife, put my longing for Casey to return into perspective.
I have been fortunate to not have to spend Christmas away from my loved ones in my lifetime, something I learned that I have taken for granted over the years. The year my brother was deployed was incredibly different and not as fun as years past where the oldest of our family was present.
I began to think about the loss of Casey’s Grandpa and how many families will spend this Christmas without loved ones who in past Christmases filled chairs and big spaces in their hearts. I can’t begin to imagine the pain they experience the first Christmas, birthday or significant holiday without the person they love dearly.
Then in church yesterday, our family pastor delivered a message about finding joy in Christ, regardless of the horrors and less-than-joyful things the world throws our way. He talked about how Christmas is sold as a season of joy, but can, in fact, be the exact opposite for those experiencing loss or separation from loved ones.
It troubled my heart, as I can’t imagine another week away from Casey ever again, to think about how the enemy robs my brothers and sisters in Christ of their joy, especially in the season when we celebrate our Savior’s coming to Earth in humanly flesh.
I am a problem solver. I just can’t sit by idly and not try to fix things for people, sometimes to a fault. So, naturally I was thinking of ways I could help those around me whom I know might be suffering this Christmas season.
Aside from the absolute peace the Lord provides when we think there is no point in seeking joy in our lives, I thought of a few things that might help ease the pain of loss or separation from loved ones at Christmas.
- Invite someone to join your family’s celebration. If your family is anything like mine, a few extra people could probably go unnoticed in our crowd! What might seem like just a small gesture of hospitality could mean that someone else doesn’t have to spend Christmas alone, longing for community or some form of family Christmas.
- Send a Christmas card with a personal tiding of joy and cheer. This might be something that someone like myself with a love language of words of affirmation might only appreciate, but I truly enjoy each Christmas card my husband and I receive. It makes me feel special, and I appreciate the kind gesture.
- Gift them with something not of monetary value. Schedule a weekly coffee meeting with someone who may be widowed or their spouse might be deployed or not around for some reason. This would be something great for those who value quality time, also one of my love languages.
- Bake them something yummy. It could be because I’m Baptist, or southern, or most likely a combination of both, but down here, food is a love language of its own. I baked a couple of batches of cookies last week and gave one to my neighbors and then brought another to the office. If baking or cooking are things that don’t terrify you, it’s always nice receiving something that’s been made with love.
- Finally pray for peace in their hearts. Pray that the God of all peace and understanding provide them with a peace that soothes their hearts. Pray that they would run toward the open arms of our Father in the absence of their loved one, and that they would find the fulfillment of His love for us as His children.
Christmas is a magical time of the year, for most. Consider someone around you today whom you can spread some cheer or just give a shoulder on which they might need to cry. Be there for someone this holiday season. It’s the best Christmas gift I can think of giving.