My boots echoed on the Target floor, a steady tapping with each step. I remember thinking to myself, as long as I can hear that tap, at least I know I’m still moving forward.

It was Christmas, and the months leading up to this season had been filled with unexpected sorrow, grief, and turmoil. I purchased only what was necessary, and made my way back to the truck which was parked at the far end of the parking lot. I climbed in, laid my head back against the seat, and began to sob.

This wouldn’t be like any Christmas I’d had before. There was no joy, no cheer.

That was years ago now, but I can close my eyes and vividly remember the pain and the heartache.

Have you been there? Perhaps you’re there now.

For many, the holidays are times for friends and family to gather. Times for baking pies and sharing laughter. Times for cheering on our favorite teams and eating too much turkey and dressing. And though the holidays can bring about stress and anxiety, they will typically bring a good measure of cheer and celebration as well.

But for some, the holidays are not so cheerful. In fact, the holidays can be just plain hard.

Some may be gathering around the table this year, but they are gathering for the first time without their loved one. There’s an empty seat at the table and hearts full of grief.

Some are working around custody schedules, each parent hoping for time with their little one. Each wishing that things didn’t have to be this way, and wondering how in the world they’ll make it work.

Some will sit around a Thanksgiving table this year that looks entirely different from the way it looked in previous years. The place, the table, even the people sitting beside you may not be the same.

While some make lighthearted banter about a myriad of topics, others feel heavy with worry as they wait expectantly for test results, as they wonder what their future holds.

For some, the financial stress of everyday life is unbearably hard and the thought of the holidays only compounds the worry and despair.

And others will not be seated around a table at all this year, but rather beside a bed as they visit their parent, sibling, or spouse in a hospital room or nursing home.

You see for a lot of our friends and neighbors the holidays are wrought with difficulty and sadness. And it’s so important that we realize this.

I think we can all agree that the core of the holiday season is love. After you take away Santa and toys, cooking and parties, even after you peel back the layers of the beautiful Christmas story itself, we are left with one thing.

Love.

Let’s share love this holiday season. Let’s not get so caught up with shopping, cooking, and wrapping that we forget what’s most important.

Let’s remember the family spending their first Thanksgiving or Christmas without their loved one and take time to write them a card. May we not forget that person who is forgoing the holiday feast this year because their spouse is in the hospital, and take time to stop by for a visit. Let’s call up that friend who’s spending the holiday alone and take time to invite them to our house for lunch.

Because when we TAKE TIME, we show love.

And without love, this Thanksgiving and Christmas season is indeed meaningless.

We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

And friends, if you are hurting this holiday season, if you find this all unbearably hard, please hear this. While so many things in your life may have changed, while so many things may be uncertain, God’s love for you will never change and is always certain. And because of His great love, there is always hope.

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Originally published on the author’s blog

Ginger Hughes

Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother to Ella and Elam, and a part-time accountant.  She is a Georgia native, but presently calls the foothills of North Carolina home.  She loves coffee, nature, and reading, but with two children under six, she struggles to find time in the day for any of the above!   She is a Christ follower and a fellow struggler on life’s journey who seeks to find joy in the everyday. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace, and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children, that we are not alone in our brokenness, and that we are all deeply loved.  You can read more of her writings at nomamasperfect.com