It’s that time of year again, the time where family and friends gather together and give thanks for all that we have. Across the United States, we congregate around casseroles and pumpkin pies. We laugh and hug and dodge Aunt Freida’s sloppy kisses. We’ll challenge each other to backyard football and then return to the warmth of the indoors to scrape at the last bits of apple pie. Grandmas will rock their grandchildren to sleep. Grandfathers will tell stories from their childhoods. Mothers and fathers will try to settle rowdy children while aunts and uncles wind them up again. As the day ends, we will curl into warm beds and count our blessings while drifting blissfully off to sleep.
But what if we aren’t feeling grateful?
What about what we don’t have?
What about the family that chooses not to show up?
What about the blended families fighting against the tension of combining two cultures?
What about the missing daughter, the incarcerated son, the absent father, the bruised relationships?
What about the homes with too little, the broken heaters and empty fridges, the lonely kitchens and silent tables?
What about the mothers visiting the jail, the fathers calling children who won’t answer, the college student sitting in the empty dorm?
What if this holiday season feels less than joyous?
What if we feel less than grateful?
Don’t lose hope, there are a few things we can do when our holiday season feels less than ideal.
This stinks. It does. It’s OK to wish things were different. It’s OK to grieve the circumstance you are in right now. Take some time to cry, yell, and stomp your feet if it makes you feel better.
Give thanks anyway
This sounds contradictory, I know! That’s OK. It will make you feel better, I promise. Give thanks for something, anything. Thankfulness might look like this, “Hi God, I want to tell you I’m thankful for the sun, my shoes and my pet fish.” It’s OK if your prayers of gratitude are simple, expressing gratitude out loud does wonders for our hearts.
Change your posture
When I’m feeling sad about my circumstances, I just want to crawl under the covers and disappear. If you are like me, you may want to hide when things are feeling bad. Don’t do that. Stand up, look around you. Ask yourself, who needs help? Changing our posture often changes our emotions. If you feel lonely this holiday, invite someone to spend the day with you, if you are struggling with relationships, find a support group, I guarantee you are not the only one feeling this way.
I am encouraged by Philippians 4:6-7, especially the phrase “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.” I am intrigued by this idea. Have you ever known someone whose presence is one of peace no matter the circumstance? I have. Being around that person filled me with an extension of her peace, it was fascinating. I would love for my world to look perfect, I would love for my family to be together this holiday season. I would love for the meal to be warm and the relationships hearty. Those wishes are based on circumstance, the thing I desire more than anything is to be filled with the peace of God that surpasses understanding. Even more than the picture-perfect life, I desire to be that person that brings peace to others wherever I go.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I pray that this holiday season, no matter your circumstances, that you feel the peace of God fill you.