Christmas Ache

Here’s your reminder that we are at it again on Monday, fasting and praying for God to bring marriages, redeemed men, and God-honoring change our way.  We keep asking, and we’ll keep asking…

For the past 20+ years or so, Christmas has been bittersweet for me, some years more bitter than others.  The downward slide got started when my parents divorced, then picked up steam as I spent year after year without kids or a husband, and usually without even a boyfriend to speak of.  It has traditionally been the time of year that has marked the sadness of sameness for me.  I have kept waiting for change. 

Well, last year I got change as I brought my new husband home for Christmas.  And let me be clear, I was very thankful to have him, and he did bring a new comfort to the holidays. But, trying to fit into my growing blended family and missing all that felt familiar from my childhood Christmases made me hit an all-time Christmas low.  Christmas night I crawled into bed crying, longing (again!) for that sweet Christmas bliss with warm fuzzy feelings, complete with a family that is healthy and whole — you know, what’s advertised a million times in 30-second commercials starting in early November.

I was reminded again through my tears that what I really long for is heaven, and I won’t find it here on earth.  There’s no great fix to the pain of life in a fallen world — even though somewhere deep inside I thought marriage would do it!  None of us has all that we want, or totally wants all that we have.  We are made for so much more, and we know it, and so we ache.

What can we do with the ache, especially during this Christmas season that can seem to rub our lack right smack dab in our faces?  As I was pondering what has helped me over the years, and continues to help me now, here’s what I came up with:

1)  Do something for someone else.  My dad seemed to have this lesson wrapped up.  He was always taking a shift ringing the Salvation Army bell, buying gifts for an Angel Tree child, or serving Christmas breakfast to homeless people.  He found joy in turning his attention away from himself and onto someone who was hurting.

Isaiah 58 is a great antidote for pain and lost-ness, particularly verses 10 and 11:

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

2)  Embrace the joy of the season.   Don’t wait for a husband, boyfriend or intact family to come along; get a Christmas tree, have a party, go to the Christmas Eve service, decorate your home — enjoy the benefits of the season now, whatever stage of life you are in.

3)  Make time to spend with God.  Your to-do list may be a mile long, but carve out time to be alone with the Lord.  He longs to refresh and comfort you.  Let him. Christmas is about God being present with us; take the time to embrace his presence.

May all of us find our comfort and joy in Him this season,

Anne

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17 Responses to Christmas Ache

  1. Annette C says:

    Bravo!! You wrote what was on my hear this past Christmas season.

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks, Anne. I’m not sure if you’re trying to lessen the blow for us “still-singles” but I’m not sure that it’s “encouraging” to hear that you have a husband now, yet feel a sadness in missing the familiarity of Christmases past, etc. I’m not looking for a husband to fix the pain/fill the hole that only God can heal/fill — many of us who have read countless singles articles and been given countless pieces of advice know full well it doesn’t work that way. But I feel sad that for all the pain and waiting and struggle you’ve gone through and now, having been blessed with that “one” thing you were waiting for, you are unable to move forward (in that one small aspect) and embrace your new life, newness and all. May you have a more joyful Christmas this year! And more joy in the new year!

  3. I really appreciate the part about how what we really long for is our home in heaven, and in essence there will be some form of dissatisfaction on this earth. Even if we get what we long it will still pale in comparison with the riches of Christ in eternity. It has helped me a lot to pray for others and their needs and take the focus off myself. Thank you, Merry Christmas to you Anne

  4. fast. pray. says:

    Wow–this is a far greater number of responses/comments than we normally get. Anne, I do think you touched a very real place in many of our hearts. Thank you for your honest and Jesus-centric writing!
    connally

  5. T says:

    Thank you for this during a week I feel I’m being kicked while I’m still trying to get back up.

  6. amy says:

    so so needed to hear this, anne!

  7. RLynn says:

    Thanks, as always, for your post. I always decorate, bake cookies and have people over at least once during the Christmas season as a reminder that I don’t need to have a husband to celebrate. In response to last weeks’ post on WAITING, I just wanted add that a dear friend of mine, 51, never married, is newly engaged. I have had a prayer “hit list” for babies (pregnancies/adoptions) and marriages for several years now. Nearly all my friends on the baby list have either had babies or adopted, but NONE of the women on my marriage list had actually gotten married (and these are all women over 35)–although there had been a few new dates and boyfriends. I have recently said to the Lord, “What about these women!? The babies are easy!” My 51-year old friend has spent most of her adult life overseas in para-church ministry and has returned home in the last couple of years and re-connected with a never married colleague. They will be married next year. I praise the Lord and just wanted to add this as an encouragement to all.

  8. Bethany says:

    Thanks for the encouragement to get our eyes off of ourselves at this time of year and put them back on Christ and how He met our greatest need.

    One more idea I would add is something I did a couple of years ago. I had a mental list of all the things I wanted to do at Christmas time with my family once I had one, and as the years have gone by the list has gotten longer and longer. So, 2 years ago I decided to start those traditions now…even if it’s just me. One thing I did was to start my own Jesse tree tradition (and read the stories from a Children’s story Bible occasionally). Most days it’s just me reading the scripture and putting the ornament on the tree, but it helps me to remember that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior…not about whether or not I have anyone to share holiday traditions with.

    Bethany

    • M.S. says:

      Although I agree with Kirsten in that it’s hard, and that the ache IS sometimes always there, and no matter what you DO to try to make it more “jolly” it doesn’t really fix it, i love the reminder that this ache, this longing is really a longing for heaven, it’s something that points us to Jesus. He is our bridegroom, we are citizens of heaven, waiting and longing for His coming!

      Bethany, I also love how you said that you started your own traditions- instead of waiting for when you have a family. Thank you for being courageous and for sharing about this! I’ve been thinking about this too- of all the Christmas traditions that i want to do once I have a boyfriend, a husband, kids, etc.- especially seeing my friends do it with their new families. I want to start them, but have been… afraid? It’s hard to put into words, but reading your post made me excited to actually start my own traditions too, and not just have them down in my head as “things i want to do when i’m married.”

      I praise the Lord for all you ladies. Thank you for walking alongside me- this blog is such a blessing!

  9. Jody Hesler says:

    Dear Anne and all who contribute, thank you so very much for your transparency, your encouragement, your speaking of Truth! Its good to be reminded that we are made for heaven and until then everything will be dissatisfying to one degree or another. Thanks for the reminder that marriage isn’t the answer to all our longings/insufficiency, etc.

    Blessings, Jody

  10. Thank you so much Anne! Awesome!

    Yes will keep focus off myself. Thanks for the reminder.

    Blessings to you.

  11. kirsten says:

    If only it were that easy! Sometimes you just ache, and there is no fix for it. Scolding yourself for the ache is unnecessary and unproductive.

  12. Yes. I ache a lot this time of year. We live in an area where almost everyone has relatives – except us. And I have been struggling w/ a lot of fatigue so have people over is my desire, but probably more than I can handle right now. No plans yet and my heart aches as a result. Thanks for the encouragement.

  13. Heidi says:

    Thank you for this great reminder, Anne.

  14. Emma says:

    Thanks Anne! I needed to hear this today as I feel the lack of a significant other another year running. I felt God remind me to focus on my immediate family this Christmas instead of wishing for what I don’t have- I mean, some don’t even have a close family but I am really blessed with mine.

  15. smvernalis says:

    Thank you, my dear! This Christmas season is full of not only Christmas parties with no dates to take, but also dear friends having babies (and showers) and weddings (and showers) this December as well. I NEED your reminder to take the focus off of myself, and extend myself to someone who’s truly hurting, not just feeling sorry for themselves. Blessings to you!

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