To love Christmastime is to love my momma.
Everything bright. Everything sweet. Everything happy.
She was the embodiment of it all.
Her childlike giggle could be heard in any store where Christmas ornaments and decorations could be found. Even though our house was bursting at the seams with red and green and snowmen, she could never get enough.
Now that she is gone, Christmas takes on quite a different tone in our home and hearts.
Christmas devoid of her contagious joy feels . . .
Everything sad. Everything dark. Everything lonely.
The first Christmas without her looked a little like this:
Christmas celebration with my husband’s side of the family in full swing. All of the casseroles were eaten and all the presents were unwrapped, and my kids began swirling around in the torn wrapping paper Tasmanian devil style. After everyone had a good laugh through slightly concerned glances at what was obviously Christmas hype overload, it found me.
Stillness set in when the business and anticipation of Christmas morning had played itself out and brought with it the sting of her absence . . . and it absolutely unraveled me.
I left the room with hot tears spilling down my cheeks and the rest of the day was a blur of more presents, more food, and more reminders of who I was missing. I survived the rest of Christmas (which also happens to be my birthday) in zombie mode and I am sad to say I didn’t really enjoy the day with my children and family as much as I tried.
I was absent in my grief.
Fast forward to this year and a lot has changed. We finally got to adopt both of those cuties mentioned in the wrapping paper whirlwind after two years of fostering them. They are now looking forward to their first Christmas to officially bear their new last name and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
In our family alone we celebrated four engagements this year. There is so much love to go around and so many good things happening and still, I couldn’t help but feel that old familiar feeling creeping in to pull me down.
Until this morning.
Do you ever just have a musical craving?
When Christmas music began playing on the radio this year I’ve been wanting to catch a certain song. A song I was too afraid to play myself because it was her favorite. On the way to church, I decided to see if I could listen to it without reducing to a puddle.
As soon as the music filled the car, I felt her with me, as if she were sitting in the passenger seat right beside me. I saw her bee-boppin’ and belting every word through the sweetest grin just like she used to. Tears pooled in my eyes but they didn’t belong to sadness; this time they were a product of something I hadn’t let myself feel in too long.
The words rang out:
Stop in the hurry of Christmas
And listen for the angel’s call.
Stand in the quiet and hear His voice.
Oh, in your heart, hold on to Jesus,
For the hope He brought is living on.
And the song that warmed that winter’s night
Still changes lives.
Repeat the sounding Joy!
(“Joy” by Avalon)
I felt her telling my burdened soul, “It’s OK to let yourself feel it.”
It was as if she reached down, cradled my face in her hands once again and stared deep inside of me to fix what was broken. (A superpower only mothers possess.) In that moment I could feel the warmth of her soft skin and the sweet smell of her perfume.
It was then that I realized I wasn’t living in a way that honored her memory at all.
She wouldn’t want me to endure or survive Christmas.
She wouldn’t want me to be so lost in my grief to unknowingly risk wasting opportunities to make memories. Memories that bring joy to life for years to come. Memories like the ones she and my father worked to create for my siblings and me even into our adulthood.
She would want me to step back and soak in how the Christmas tree lights dance in the eyes of my sweet babies.
She would want me to celebrate the slight chill in the air (we live in Florida, we take what we can get) by making hot cocoa and cuddling up to watch all the classic Christmas movies.
She would want me to dig out the Elf on the Shelf, even though I failed miserably at moving the sorry thing every night last year.
She would want me to create that Christmas magic for my kids like she did for her three when we were small.
And when they grow older, she would still want me to write “From Santa” on one special package, even if it served just as a reminder to keep our inner child alive.
She would want me to teach my children that even though Santa and presents are captivating to a child’s heart, the real magic of Christmas lies in the manger.
As obvious as this revelation of mine may be, I have to believe my Heavenly Father gave me a gift this morning. Only He could work things together so perfectly that my mother’s favorite Christmas song would bring me the wake-up call I didn’t know I needed.
Of course, I will always ache for my momma’s presence, and Christmas will never be the same without her here. There will always be profound sadness accompanying that fact because her absence is incredibly profound.
And though I don’t have her anymore, I do have something she left behind: joy. Resounding joy.
And it would be a shame for me to waste it.
Whatever you may be facing friend, I pray you find a way to let yourself feel joy in this season that too many of us are just surviving.
You see, I’m learning that joy is not always as elusive as we make it. If you stop to take a look around or even turn up the music, you just might find it in the most obvious of places.
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