Christmas without family is like breathing without lungs.
Of all the things I find the hardest from being here aside from the transition of when we first arrived, was having to experience our first major holiday without our family and loved ones. But once again, our God is much bigger than we know and once again, came to our rescue or well gave me a spiritual love-slap to get out of my ridiculous pity party. Again. #iamonlyhuman
Having kids will always make Christmas and other holidays seem more busy than usual. These girls of ours are a wonderful distraction as we settle in to living cross the world. I want them to fully enjoy the holidays regardless of where we are or who we spend it with. But I knew that this first holiday may be a bit challenging for us all.
For me personally, I found it hard to get in to the Christmas spirit at first and if you know me, you know that I LOVE Christmas. I proudly inherited this passion from my Mother! I am almost guaranteed to have our tree and decorations up in November and left until February. I just love it so much and I am proud that my kids love Christmas as well. It wasn’t until being in Scotland that I almost felt like I was cheating on the spirit of the holiday back at home, by not really wanting to get a tree and put up decorations or listening to Christmas music. I wanted nothing to do with Christmas here.
I knew my attitude needed some adjustments when my husband even said, "Aren’t we going to get a tree? You must be sick or something to not be wanting a tree.." And of course gets our three year old to also ask me to get a tree in her cute adolescent voice full joy that says things in a way that pulls on your heart strings.
*GULP* I realized I turned into “Bethenezer Scrooge” haha!
I ordered our (cheap and cheerful) Christmas tree online which came with the tree decorations and all. I turned on the Christmas tunes full blast and made the family hot coco and we had snacks as we set up the tree. It wasn’t my ideal first Scottish looking Christmas tree set up, but the awe, wonder, joy and pure happiness on my girls faces as I gave them full reign on decorating was exactly what I needed to stop making this about me and to do this for them. This Christmas ended up being, by far, my most favourite one yet! Yes, it was messy, loud...very loud, there were children arguing and not sharing at times, the tree may have been knocked off the table by a toddler and broke our family monogrammed ornament that my mother made, the tree lights had to be replaced twice, which meant the tree was decorate two more times. There were far too many spills and more ugly photos than to count, however, this was our Christmas. It was full of amazing memories, it was so much fun, it was different, new and I wouldn't want to change any of it.
To start off our new traditions here in the UK, we went to our church’s Christmas Eve service
called Christingle which is a service more geared to the children. Christingle, meaning “Christ’ Light" is a very British tradition that represents who, what and why we celebrate Christmas in a hands on and visually discriptive way. Every child was given an orange with a red ribbon around it, a candle sticking out the top and a few tooth picks with some sweet treats on them. The orange represents the world. The ribbon is Christ’ love and blood around the world. The candle is Jesus, the light of the world bringing hope to everyone and to those who live in darkness. Lastly, the treats are the gifts presented, a symbol of God’s creations and for some represent the four seasons. This was a lovely new tradition for our children and us to help teach them the story of the gospel and why we celebrate. It’s a great visual and interactive learning experience for the whole family.
Later that evening, we had our traditional Christmas Eve spaghetti dinner and finished with opening our stockings and Christmas pjs, drinking hot coco and eating popcorn while watching a Christmas movie. Of course, I tried to get some cute photos of the girls and tried to make the evening perfect haha, which it wasn’t. Both the girls were tired and cranky and would NOT co operate for anything let alone with my incessant photo taking. Why I tried anyway? I don't know. I will be honest though, I think I cried more trying to get them to take a decent photo, than I did over the fact that this was our first Christmas away from home. I DID get some cute photos, but it took me a couple days to like them HAHA Kudos to those photographers who take photos of just children…you must have a LOT of patience! So, to say the least, the girls didn’t stay up much later than their usual bedtime.
Christmas morning was so much fun. Abigail came in and woke us up asking if she could see the tree. We opened presents and ate a huge harty breakfast. There was so much joy filling the house. Later in the evening we had a lovely family that I have been getting to know from our church, invite us to join their family dinner. That was such a blessing! I suddenly didn’t have as much of a worry that my kids, my husband or even myself would be sad that we can’t be with family. That emptiness was filled. But then the Lord reminded me about something I already spoke about, Church is family. We weren't alone. God knew exactly what our family needed in this sensitive time.
It was not easy for me to just let go of trying to make it perfect because in turn it created frustration for everyone. I set my expectations too high, but for what? To show the world watching our journey here that it is all perfect and everything is going just the way we planned it? I never once wanted my Facebook, Instagram or blog posts to ever be false descriptions of what our life is like now. I try my best to always keep it real. Being here can be hard, but it's also all in how we make of it. So fortunately we have much more great moments then we do with the hard.
Lately I am all about seeing how we can grow spiritually when trusting what God has given us and how we use those gifts. SO the more you try to make it about you and caring in an unhealthy way of what people think about you then you end up staying in the negative places. But if you relax and trust God then things might still be bumpy but ends up being more fun and easier to learn from all around. That is called growth.
God was also showing me and reminding me to let kids be kids. Go with their flow, but enjoy it as it happens. Don’t try to make everything picture perfect because that’s just not real or fun for anyone. It always ends up being those silly, messy moments that we remember when we are older and can laugh at. It’s those "OOPS" moments that make Christmas or any holiday with the family more entertaining and fun and make for the greatest memories. Once I actually relaxed a bit and let it be what it was then everything started to be fun and enjoyable, for all of us.
I think lately the last month since my latest blog post was so delayed because I was letting my trust down and allowing depression, anxiety, and sadness to settle in therefore causing me to care what everyone watching was thinking and seeing, in a unhealthy way. I made it about me, not about the care of comfort of my family. So, I had a hard time listening to what God has been trying to teach me and show me the last month and suddenly now that I snapped out of it, those gates have opened up and are flooding with learning again. I have blocked my "self inflicted writer's block" and am listening to what God is saying, at least trying the best I can, any way. It’s much easier to do when the mind is relaxed and cleared.
This Christmas season has really made me realize more than ever to not take advantage of family. It should never matter how frustrated, or hurt, or annoyed or disconnected you may feel from your family, they are still family. They are the ones that God placed you with and them with you for more reasons than you will ever realize.
Christmas is a time to connect, reconnect, love, forgive, be merry, celebrate so much and yet, will still manage to let our pride get in the way of unforgivingness from past hurts and allow it to well up in our hearts, and the stresses to get everything just perfect. We lash out and say words we cannot take back, or worse, ignore and say nothing at all. All for what? To prove a point? What point is that? To change someone? We all have quirky family members, we all have arguments that last for what seems to be forever, we all have problems. No family is perfect. But when Christ came to this world as the Son of God, in flesh, He was GIVING us a fresh start. A new beginning to mend the brokenness, to forgive those who have hurt us, to love one another no matter what because Christ loves us regardless of our unthoughtful words or actions, our quirky personalities, every imperfection. HE LOVES US REGARDLESS! Tell me this. How can we teach our children to love and forgive people when some of us can’t even follow our own advice? If we are to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, our Great forgiver, than why can’t we just do the same?
If you were the one to hurt someone and knows it and possibly feels like it's too late to ask for forgiveness, it is never too late. All it takes to start the healing process is to admit to yourself that you were in the wrong, give it to God and repent, and then go to that person(s) and say I'm Sorry and ask them for forgiveness. Unfortunately, forgiveness is not always freely given out by some people who deeply hold on the the grudge, but free yourself of the infliction. Do your part and break that bondage. Take the first step.
Sometimes getting to the point of letting go of the anger and hate can be agonizing when it is something that has been held on to for a long time. It may take time to heal. It may even, God forbid, hurt your ego, but you need to just let that go. Give it to God. You can’t change someone who maybe doesn’t even know they’ve hurt you, or who doesn’t want or see the need to change. It’s not even about being the bigger or better person. This is not about gaining respect because you think you deserve it. What if we make it to show the actions of Christ through ourselves. What would Jesus do? Remember those colourful bracelets that everyone had back in the 90’s and early 2000’s saying WWJD? What would Jesus do? Well, it’s not a bad question to ponder. Then ask the question, what am I doing that is Christ-like? Would Jesus be okay with this? Would He be disappointed in me that I cannot forgive and love the way He first loved and forgave us? Would he approve of the words and thoughts of my mind?
Luke 17:3-4 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says , ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Forgiveness is not a privilege to offer. It’s a command. I believe it is the root of all healing. Forgiveness is healing and healing is forgiveness.
It takes more effort to hold a grudge than it does to forgive. Holding a grudge can take a life time of effort that is painful and deeply rooted in the darkest places of our hearts but then forgiveness is quick and loving, but still lasts a life time. It brings freedom, breaks down bondage and heals brokenness.
So that person, or that thing you said, or that situation that is on repeat in your mind right now, that is where God wants YOU to start.
Remember when you choose to be bitter towards someone, that Jesus loved you and forgave you before you went on a hurt someone else. Retaliating with hurt (however it's done) is simply the wrong way to handle any situation. I constantly have to keep myself in check of that. It's not easy to change that habit but so liberating and gets easier when Jesus is the focus and point of all your forgiving and healing.
"Remember, feelings are indicators, not dictators. They indicate there is a situation that I need to deal with, but they shouldn't dictate how I react. I have a choice." - Lysa TerKeurst
Ephesians 4:31-32 "Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarrelling (brawling, clamour, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you."
Thanks for reading along. I pray and hope you all had a wonderful, stretching, warming, loving Holiday with family and loved ones.