There’s just something about the holidays! I was listening to Dan Foster on the I-FM morning show and he said something that caused me to pause. He said it was a scientific fact that most suicides occur around the holidays than at any other time of the year. My first thought was ‘Seriously?’ but even as I thought that, something about that statement resonated within me. I recalled that for several years…and I do mean several, I would begin to get inexplicably sad (depressed even) around the holidays. Many a time I cried for no just reason once the harmattan haze begun to appear. I smiled at everyone who smiled at me; I had a ready laugh for any funny word/situation around me; but…. I was as sad as could be inside. Many a night, I simply stayed awake all night and just CRIED!
I remember clearly when it was that I finally identified what the problem was. I was homesick. I was longing for what were the best moments of my childhood family times. My parents had one of the rockiest marriages ever; so much so that each of my siblings and I had, at one point or the other, sworn never to get married. It would probably have helped if some of their friends had a good marriage, but alas….we had no role models to benchmark against in that regard. Anyhow, as I have grown and matured over the years, I have come to realise that if they had managed so many of the external influences better, if they had communicated more clearly, my parents might jolly well have made a pretty good go of it. But, this is not really about my parents’ marriage….. No, it’s about the responsibilities of Christmas. Allow me explain.
One thing that I will give my parents any day, is that they tried their best to make the Christmas holidays work. Maybe it was the ‘Peace on earth and goodwill to men’ angle, but they did their best to play ‘family’ at Christmas and in the New Year. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t spoken to each other in 6months, or that they were currently not speaking to each other; just before and at Christmas, they took us on family outings, we went shopping, put up the tree and decorations, wrapped presents, we even had Christmas stockings stuffed with all the wrong things, and Christmas crackers full of nice nothings. More than anything else though, unfailingly, every Christmas day and every New Year’s Day, off we went to my father’s favourite Chinese restaurant (and as I write this, I come to a new realization that this is also part of why I love Chinese food. Wow!).
We would sit at that table for at least three hours. It was a thrill to have such uninterrupted time with my father, seeing him laugh and hearing him make some of the funniest jokes ever. Now, my father was a military man to the core so believe me, seeing him in relaxed mode was a real treat. It was awesome seeing my parents constantly laughing and smiling across the table, though as we got older we also realised that sometimes those smiles were directed at us and not at each other; plus it was amazing how well they’d perfected the art of talking across each other through us, rather than with or to each other. But you know what? As a teenager, that just didn’t matter one jot. It was family time and we loved it, especially me! The whole ambience of the green and red colours and sparkling lights and decorations everywhere we went, just added so much to the family mood. And the icing on the cake?…..a surreal element brought in by the fog (okay…harmattan haze, lol). It was almost our own ‘white Christmas’. No we had no snow, but it was nice and cold and my dad had the Jim Reeves, Bonny M, Sinatra Christmas music on to boot.
But then came the split and it was all gone. Poof! In a flash, one New Year’s eve we started the day as a family and by the wee hours of the New Year, we were no more. Time passed, I grew and moved away from home but I left a portion of my heart in those Christmas experiences. Even as a young wife, as in love and happy as I was with my husband, I would unfailingly dissolve into a real emotional mess every first week of December and I had the poor man at wits end by Christmas. But God stepped in and I am eternally grateful for that.
When my second son was 2yrs+, I had an epiphany. There I was, one son sleeping in my arms and the other leaning against me on the sofa while watching cartoons; yet yours truly was struggling with tears. The usual childhood memories plagued me and I was a ball of misery waiting to implode. I was so incredibly lonely and sad (yes, even while surrounded by the two sweetest children ever) and it was only the fear of having to explain to my son why mummy was crying that kept me at that time. Then two things happened in near perfect timing.
My baby opened his eyes and stared me deep in the eyes. He then lifted his free hand, touched my cheek and just kept his sweet pink fingers there. He didn’t need to say a word! He couldn’t anyway. But I heard him in my spirit. He was saying that he loved me with his entire being; that I was his world; I was the making of his Christmas memories. Then, my older son sat up, turned to me and said so intensely ‘I love you mummy’. He put the sweetest softest kiss on my other cheek and then leaned back into me. I thought my heart would just burst with love, with joy, with gratitude, with….just about every other expression of love that you can imagine. I suddenly realised that Christmas for me was no longer about the memories of my childhood. Christmas was now about the memories I would build for these and any other children God would see fit to bless me with. In that split moment, I realised I had a choice. I had a choice to either dwell on everything unfair that I had been through in life, everything that I ‘could have-would have-should have’ been or done; or, I could let go and build a new set of experiences that would bless not just me, but all those around me and especially my new family.
I realised in that moment that I had a choice about what kind of marriage I would have, what kind of wife I would be, what kind of mother I would be, what kind of relationships I would have. I realised that so much of my future lay in letting go of inconsistencies in my past – past pains, past disappointments, and even past joys that threatened to keep me in a past that would take away from my enjoying my present. I realised that this was part of the true message of Christ and thus a responsibility for me every day, but more so perhaps at Christmas.
The birth of Christ was about a redemptive move; about letting go of old sins and making a way for an eternal joy; about newness; about hope. In the same way, I had to let go and make way, so I could live fully present in my present, building a new set of memories that would help my children live their future in wholeness. I would have failed Christ if the testimony of my children ended up being that they didn’t experience the joy of Christmas or the joy of living life to the full, because I was too wrapped up in my past to create a present reality for them.
So today, I want to encourage each of you. I know because I know, that each of us has that one ‘something’…. that one pain, that one disappointment, that one regret; that deep inside of us we know we have not completely let go. There may be that one person you need to forgive ….you don’t want to, but you know that you need to forgive. Make that move today! Whatever that ‘something’ is, I encourage you today that even as Christ freely gave Himself to be born of man in order to pave a way for your rebirth and eternal salvation; this Christmas….let go! Breathe! Yes, you can do it! The Lord will help you. Search your soul my sister. As a wife, mother, daughter, friend, colleague… what is it from your yesterday that is still standing in the way of your being able to give completely of yourself, in sincerity and truth, in any of your relationships?
If you appreciate the full implication of the birth of Christ, then lay all those past issues on the alter and ask the Holy Spirit to take them away from you completely. He is able. Live whole! Live free! Love completely! Laugh from the inner recesses of your being! For even as Christ was born for you and I this season, He birthed your wholeness as He did mine. Your responsibility this season is not to make His birth of non-effect. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. You can and you will.
I’m looking at your future sis……you look so much better already. And those in your life….wow! They’re positively glowing.