It is less than 3 weeks until Christmas. We have been trying to “get to it” and get all the shopping done. I don’t know about other parents but I feel like trying to buy my kids gifts is a losing battle. Last year there were too many gift that the kids barely glanced at. It felt like the limited money we had was wasted on a lot of “stuff” they didn’t even care about. We decided that that was the last time that that was going to happen. We are tired of buying into the myth that stuff = happiness. No more.
Looking around it is easy to see the stress of the season. It is etched on too many faces. All the shopping and the decorating, the Christmas plays, pageants and concerts, the house parties, the work parties, the pressure. It just gets to us. And we let it. We buy into it.
I was shopping yesterday. It is still the “get the perfect gift” stage. There is still time to run to numerous stores looking for that illusive “something”. There is still a little time so the consumers aren’t frenzied yet. They aren’t just grabbing anything yet. But it is busy. Busier than a Monday morning at the mall normally would be.
The roads are busy but they aren’t snow-covered here. Yet. Everyone is starting to get impatient though. They are in a hurry. The to-do list beckons. So much to do in so little time. Another sign of the season.
Then there is the anticipation. We have at least one little person at my house who is getting excited. He is having trouble sleeping. He just wants Christmas to get here. I just want his oldest sister to come home. I pray it still is for her. Home. But there is an exam tomorrow and another after the holidays that demand a longer absence. More study time. And a little time for some fun with friends who are there instead of here. Home, for her, can wait. So I must too.
Emotions run high for me at this time of year. There is so much pressure. So many memories. And so much grief. Yup, it is back. Like clockwork. And with it, the desire to hide. I have been. I have been hiding in my house, watching sappy Christmas movies. And I am so tired. Not ignoring the season but not really embracing it either. Sometimes it is just too hard. Even though this will be the fourth Christmas without Arlynne. Without my daughter. Another year. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has passed when someone we love is gone.
I am not the only one who is mourning. It is a bad time of year for a lot of people. We mark our loss in the seasons passing. The number of occasions she has missed. Whether it is a parent, a child or a grandparent, the void is felt more keenly when everyone is gathering. The loneliness can kick in even when we are surrounded by people.
Last week at church our pastor spoke on stress. There is so much for so many people to deal with at this time of year. Finances. Spending time with people who may have hurt us in the past. Loneliness. All valid reasons for stress. He said that he had “googled” how to deal with stress on the internet with amazing results. Eden’s favourite was “kill all the bad people”. I wonder how many people would be left if we decided to implement that plan. Not too many, I think. It isn’t really a solution though. Our sin-saturated world is often filled with more bad than good. More wrong than right.
Our pastor offered peace as the opposite of stress. Funny how this time of “peace” is often the time of stress. He may be on to something.
Peace is something we want. We crave it. We ache for peace in our homes. Look at the divorce rate. We long for peace in our country, in our world. And it alludes. I don’t hope for world peace. I don’t believe it is for us now. Sin has stolen peace. But we are able to have peace. Inside of us.
After Arlynne died I bought a plaque that hangs in my bathroom. It says “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God”. I have experienced God’s peace. I know that it is true. God has been able to give me peace in the worst circumstances. When it was completely unnatural, unexpected. When I didn’t even ask for it. When Arlynne died. God gave me peace. He didn’t give me Arlynne back. He didn’t smooth everything over. There was still grief. There were still trials. But there was peace. Supernatural peace. I have had it. I still do.
Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6 says “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”(NIV) His name is Jesus. He bought peace for us on the cross when He died for us. He didn’t have to die but because He did, I can have forgiveness, a relationship with God and peace. He didn’t bring peace to the whole world when he came 2000 years ago but He made it possible for me to have peace inside of me. One day, sooner than we think, Jesus will bring peace back when He returns. That will be real peace. No more conflict. The way God intended before we let sin have a foothold.
I have peace that my Father God has my life in the palm of His hand. He can handle anything I throw at Him. He knows the path I am on. My Father God is right beside me. He carries me when I am too tired to stand. And I need Him to. Often.
But peace is not the opposite of grief. Grief is still here. I guess these days I am practising peaceful grieving. That quiet grief that doesn’t ask questions. The quiet grief that is just there. Present. Not all the time. But often at this time of the year. When thoughts turn to family. And part of our family is gone.