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Keeping Christmas Wonderful!

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Christmas is a wonderful time of the year!

  That wonderfulness could be somewhat diminished this year, however, since my son and his family won’t be able to come home, yet again. They are on stateside and we all thought, “Oh boy, we get to celebrate together this year!” And initially it seemed possible, even though they would have to fly home from abroad where my son is studying for his master’s. However, after relocating and getting established in their new life there, expenses proved to be greater than originally thought. Sadly, the much anticipated Christmas visit had to be cancelled. 

 

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  This is the part of missionary life that proves to be quite a challenge. Especially when I hung each family member’s stocking on the mantel. I know that when we (our daughter’s and their families) take down their stockings full of Christmas surprises, it will just plain hurt to see 4 stockings hanging empty and undisturbed on the mantle.

Yet that’s our reality!

   But there’s another reality that demands my focus. While my son and his family were home during their stateside over the spring and summer, we stored up an abundance of memories of time spent and enjoyed together. The memories we made as a family and with many friends grow all the sweeter as we ponder them over Christmas. 

   And next summer we will come together for one more visit before my son and his family return to their mission assignment. Many more memories will be made and added to the store we built up while they were stateside. 

But there’s the main focus!

   What we focus on will determine whether or not we have a wonderful Christmas. So, I’ll focus on the gift of time we were given and that will bring much comfort. But there’s another focus that is paramount to all others.  Focusing on the extraordinary event of the birth of the Christ child and the fact that we as a family acknowledge and celebrate that whether we are together or not is the necessary focus to making Christmas wonderful!

 

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Finding thankfulness in separation

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   The Thanksgiving holidays typically presents a challenge for me and my family! While this year we celebrated in full by traveling to the Smokey Mountains with our 3 daughters and their families to our favorite resort that boast of an indoor (which our grandchildren stormed) waterpark, it was never far from our minds that 4 of our members were missing–our son, his wife and their two sons.

   However, my son, by the grace of God, was able to connect with all of us via a phone call, catching up with us at the restaurant where we met for breakfast after checking out of our hotel. Yet I found myself feeling guilty as I began describing what a wonderful time we were having, as if we had no right to be enjoying ourselves so much when he and his family couldn’t be there to join in.  It’s kind of a tricky emotional balance to celebrate Thanksgiving enjoying the presence of my daughters and their families while grieving the absence of their brother and his family.

   While sitting out on the balcony of our room one morning, I contemplated the blessing of celebrating Thanksgiving with my 3 daughters, 3 sons in law, and 8 grandchildren as close as an arm’s reach from me! But how could I be thankful that thousands of miles separated me from my son, daughter in law, and 2 of my grandsons.

Then God brought this to my mind.

   “Consider the love your son has for Me. It is deep and consuming. It is the kind of love that motivates and empowers him to make the sacrifices and live the life to which I have called him. Likewise, it is the kind of love for Me shared by all of you, that enables you to release him to his calling and make the sacrifices required during this particular time of the year.”  

   For sure, I wrestled on and off with the temptation (I call them fiery darts) to focus more on the reasons I had to be downcast than on the reasons I had to be thankful. Remember the account in the Bible where Peter, one of the 12 disciples, almost drowned during a storm at sea when he took his eyes off Jesus and began focusing on the storm (Matthew 14:22-33)?

   So for me it was a matter of where I placed my focus. My family’s love for God and their willingness to be sacrificially obedient to Him was the focus I needed if I was to celebrate Thanksgiving with a ‘thankful’ heart. It wasn’t a focus that ignored the sadness that I felt in being separated from my son but one that comforted and strengthened me in that sadness without diminishing the joy I felt as I celebrated Thanksgiving with those around me. 

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