America’s cowgirl sweetheart, Dale Evans, once said, “Christmas, my child, is love in action.” Many of us have a tendency to get all tied up with carrying on traditions and creating a perfect looking Hallmark Christmas that we can find ourselves disappointed when life doesn't go as planned.  Life is not perfect because no human is perfect. No not one. We all have good and not so good holiday memories. When the dog pees on the presents, the kids accidentally push over the tree or that perfect gift did not come in time, we have to stop and know that total disastrous moments will be forgotten, laughed at or looked back on with tears of thanksgiving.  Can you tell me what gift you received from your parents when you were 10 or 12? How about at the age of 23?  Probably not. Christmas, after all, is a time we celebrate, remember and recognize God’s greatest gift TO US, ALL of US. It is a time of year that the spirit of LOVE pierces most everyone’s heart, both believers as well as deniers. It is a time of year that we do unto others as God did unto us FIRST. We love each other, because HE first loved us and LOVE IS FREE!

Sadly though, many will find themselves experiencing the after-effects of a 3-D Christmas; Desertion, Divorce or Death. It can be a very lonely and painful time for many. Don’t feel like you are the only one. It is only a matter of time when there will come a time, in all of our lives, where the holidays will take on changes and challenges. Grandma’s, Grandpa’s, a parent’s, a spouse or a child’s chair will remain empty. You may find yourself alone or in charge of pioneering new territory. It can be so overwhelming that it paralyzes you. I know, I've been there. After you have taken the time to be still and feel God’s intimate presence, there comes a time when you have to pick yourself up, or help someone else up and start new traditions. Stop with the “It will never be the same…” attitude and embrace the new chapter in your life. This can be easier said than done. But do it! Book a Christmas cruise or a room at a resort. Decorate your tree in a new style, start a secret Santa chain, drive around your neighborhood with hot coco and look at the Christmas lights, or volunteer at a shelter on Christmas Eve. Do something different, at least at the beginning of this transition, but do something.  Don’t let yourself not celebrate this precious holiday. Who knows, you may find you like it or it may be the sabbatical you need for a while.

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43: 18-19

God feels your pain. He counts your tears. But also know, God has a purpose for all things. He is NOT taken by surprise by your circumstance nor has HE abandoned you or is punishing you.

I have always loved Christmas. I have collected Christmas ornaments from my travels since I was a teenager. I have such a diverse collection from all over the World. I even had an ornament made on my honeymoon to look like my husband and I, complete with the date and year. For a couple of decades, I made a big deal about it being the first ornament placed on the tree, just under the angel of course, and the first one taken off the tree, wrapped up and safely placed away. It was one of many traditions. So you can image that first Christmas while we were going through a divorce.  I didn't feel like doing anything. I didn't even feel like celebrating much less putting up a tree. I was depressed and gutted. However, my son was 11 years old and he too was suffering from the changes. So, I bought a small tree and cheap, uniformed ornaments. I couldn't even get myself to pull out ONE of my many boxes of holiday memories. Thank God for a few close friends who dropped in or insisted that we come over to their house or the Grinch truly would have ruled. My son and I volunteered that year to help spread Christmas cheer for a group of widows, though we had not much to smile about ourselves. However, before that evening ended, we had forgotten about our problems. Seeing the smiles on the ladies' faces brightened up ours.  Santa did show up after all at our house that night, but with a much smaller bag and yet we were happy and survived. The next year, though the divorce proceedings were still going on, we had a year under our belt and so we had adjusted. I kicked myself in the butt and was determined to move forward. We were going to once again enjoy this holiday season.  I forced myself to try new things, start new traditions, go to new places to view decorations, accepted invitations. These new experiences gave my son and I the time and distance to heal while turning the page to a new chapter in our lives. 

It's been three years now as a single parent. My son and I are able to pull out those boxes of memories and enjoy remembering moments about each one while we place them on our tree.  I bought an ornament to represent the reason for the season, Jesus' birth.  It now takes it's rightful place at the top of the tree, first one on and first one off. Some of those new things we had tried out we still do and others things we have ditched. Some of our old traditions have returned and some are a part of our past. We have a more mature look and appreciation for Christmas and for each other. 

Look around. Do you know of someone else who has lost a spouse or a child this year? Be a Wiseman or a Shepherd boy to them. Give them a gift which can ONLY BE OPENED ON CHRISTMAS MORNING or invite them into your home.

For those of you who have children experiencing a new change this Christmas season, know this, a stable home is a consistent home which is filled with love and security. It is the greatest gift you can give them. Love and laughter are FREE! Get in your PJs, turn off the lights, place blankets and pillows in front of your tree, light a candle, and read the Bible story of the first Christmas. It will be a Christmas they will never forget.

Remember the reason for the season. It is not about us. It is about HIM!

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all those on whom HIS favor rests.” - Luke 2:14