Oh the Holidays…. they conjure up such a wide spectrum of emotions. There is beauty, warmth, joy, and spending meaning moments with those closest to you but there is also sadness, loneliness, isolation, grief during this time. That all too often seems to be intensified by the media, Instagram, and Pinterest telling you how you should feel during this season; while shoving in front you constant reminders of those picture-perfect families with thoughtfully decorated snow-laden houses around warm inviting tables filled with love, laughter, and every kind of comfort food you can imagine. But for many of us that is not always the picture of the holidays we find ourselves in.
I admit, the holidays can be fun and a glittery distraction. It has been a joy starting traditions with a little four year old and watching his excitement as we put up the Christmas tree. Him proudly telling us his chore is to turn the Christmas tree on every night is sweet and heart-warming. But, since moving away from family and friends and celebrating the last four holiday seasons separated by miles, oceans and countries from those we love, the holidays are often a mental exercise in trying to not let the lonliness, the isolation, the nostalgia creep in. To not dwell negatively on the the differentness of celebrating holidays in 85 degree weather, eating tamales, surrounded by palm trees and hearing a lot of “Feliz Navidad” can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility.
I find myself trying to overcompensate at times, trying too hard to recreate traditions, trying a little too much to build up the hype of the holiday season. We put our Christmas tree up the beginning of November here, Spotify Christmas albums are blaring from my computer by late October. I start making everything pumpkin (if I can find it, or have someone transport it from the US for me) as soon as the calendar says September. Maybe it is not the healthiest of coping mechanisms; maybe it is natural to do this when everything else feels so foreign. Either way, this year as Thanksgiving is fast approaching and everyone has gratitude on their mind. I decided to try and take it beyond my coping mechanisms of pumpkin cookies and jingle bells. In the spirit of trying to be positive and grateful amidst a stressful and tough pregnancy, through Gavin recently having pneumonia and Strep throat. Between frustrations of restrictions on my medical work related to violence, lies, and unrest, and through the stress and strain of feeling the burden of financial support-raising for many ministry needs; it is easy to get lost in the jungle, to lose your footing, and fall into a “whoa is me attitude.” It is that much easier to find yourself focusing on what you wish you had. You try to cram into the gaps left by those missing pieces with the wrong shaped puzzle pieces; rather than putting together the pieces that you actually do have right in front of you.
So this morning, I pulled out my journal and started a list…my list of how much I am thankful for, for the bounty in my life…and it went a little like this….
- My loving and ever-supportive husband
- My crazy and stubborn but sweet and sensitive little four year old
- The new little baby boy growing in my tummy, and making it to 35 weeks of pregnancy
- Cooler temperatures and the sound of rain on our tin roof
- Quiet mornings with a hot cup of good coffee after Gavin goes to school
- Saturday morning breakfast making banana granola pancakes with Gavin while British Premier League Soccer (Seth’s favorite) plays in the background
- A thoughful and supportive team here in La Ceiba
- Our Honduran church family and the connections we have built
- Barbecues with our neighbors
- Beautiful mountains, beaches, and skyscapes all around us
- Our little yard that we have worked so hard to create with mango trees, palm trees, Hibiscus, orange trees, and papaya trees
- Our health
- Wonderful network of friends and family State-Side that support, encourage, and love us well
- Jobs that we enjoy, are passionate about, believe in and challenge us
- Those random times at the grocery stores when you find Kale, or Hummus, or real Half and Half.
- Seth's delicious rustic homemade bread right out of the oven
- Of course most importantly to live by Grace and Forgiveness in my life with the ever-present Hope of the Gospel
- And the list goes on…
So this is my sentiment, my mantra, and statement to myself that I am trying to embrace right now:
That I continually have a joyous thankful perpective. May I dwell on the positive and all the many ways that I have been blessed and all the beauy that inhabits my life. May I not fantasize about a “perfect other life” I could be living…you know the one where we live on this cute little ranch in Montana with a beautiful garden in the perfectly decorated rustic farmhouse in the cute town that looks just like Stars Hollow from the show "Gilmore Girls" with all my good friends and family living close by (ok maybe that is just my fantasy life). May I be present in the here and now. May I embrace and choose joy in the daily steps I take here. May I keep my focus close and not strain to live in a made up future but celebrate my life in the present.
May I choose to find perfect peace and delight in the littlest of details. May I choose to smile and savor that hot cup of coffee as the sun rises over the mountains, even when the annoying yippy dog in the apartment downstairs is constantly barking, and the construction men are hammering away on the house next door. May I cherish the sweet and messy Cheerios-scented kisses that Gavin gives me in the morning. May I hold fast to the encouraging text of a friend, a timely email from one of my Atlanta sisters, or that soul-soothing phone conversation with one who knows you better than you know yourself. May I linger on the kiss and warm embrace of Seth as he gives me a hug while passing by the kitchen as I am cutting up a pepper for the dinner I am prepping.
Because this is what life is made of. This is the everyday moments that we need to hold onto with remembered gratitude. This is the good stuff, my friends. The quiet, the subtle, the almost unnoticed of the everyday that so easily passes you by if you don’t slow those steps down, the flicker that misses your gaze if you avert your eyes, that disintegrates in a second if not captured, if not believed, and truly lived in that moment!