One of my mom’s wedding gifts to us, in July of 2004, was a big box of handmade ornaments. When December rolled around, I could hardly contain the excitement. I joyfully decorated our first Christmas tree as we celebrated our first Christmas together. Life was great. Christmas was joyful.
That year my parents decorated their house as usual. Decorating was an all-day activity as they transformed their whole house into a winter wonderland. When my brother and I both lived at home, we were in charge of decorating the tree and setting up the special handmade village that went underneath. We blared the Christmas music and laughed as we remembered making each of the hand crafted ornaments. We all loved Christmas so much.
Fast forward two months to February 9, 2005. Around two in the morning, we were awakened to a phone call. My parents were at the hospital and there had been a house fire. Life stopped. Looking back, I can go directly back to that moment and see my joy heaped up in a pile of ash. Tradition. Home. Memories. Everything changed, but I had to go on living.
For five years I despised Christmas. I hated Christmas music and only decorated a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree out of guilt. I suffered through the Christmas hymns at church and avoided Christmas activities as much as possible.
And then came my first son, Carter, in July of 2011. He brought such joy back into my life. His very presence started healing the brokenness in my heart. As Christmas rolled around, I knew we had to put up a tree, if only for him. It was so hard to decorate that tree, but I made myself do it. I am so glad we did, because Carter was absolutely fascinated with the lights and ornaments.
The next year, Carter was walking and able to help with decorating. The following two years got easier and more joyful as Carter looked forward to Christmas just like I had when I was a kid. Then, Daniel was born in August of 2015.
That first Christmas as a family of four was the final turning point as I watched my four year old share the joy of Christmas with his baby brother. We sang and laughed. We picked out new ornaments for each member of the family. And we played Christmas music in the car during most of the holiday season.
This year, as I decorated our home for Christmas with that same box of ornaments I received at our wedding (plus a few), my heart was full. Christmas music is always on the radio in my car, we went Christmas caroling, and I look forward to all of the happenings related to Christmas. It has taken a really long time, but I am so grateful that my kids made me do it.
There are so many things that make holidays hard. Many people are facing their first Christmas after a tragic event. Others are desperately trying to feel their way through the season without a special loved one that they miss so much. During Christmas, I pray that you will find a reason to celebrate. Sadness mixed with joy, hopelessness splashed with hope. Act your way into a feeling. Do it in memory of your loved one. Do it for your family. Do it for your kids. Each year it will get a little bit easier and over time, your joy will return. Merry Christmas