Let me start by saying that this post is totally unplanned, and thus a little raw and vulnerable. But as I sit here crying on Christmas Eve, I knew that I needed to get my thoughts – messy as they may be – out of my head, maybe even if only for myself. But the more I dwell on it, the more I believe that I am not the only one who struggles at Christmastime, and even other holidays where family gathers together to celebrate and act on their traditions and generally have a good time... together.
See, I haven't had a "normal" Christmas in almost a decade. When asked about my family's traditions, I get embarrassed when I realize that I cannot remember much, if anything... that I cannot remember how we celebrated holidays or what we typically did as a family. This is partially due to my parents splitting up when I was young, partially because of having blacked out some of my memories as a kid/young teen, and partially because I have spent the last 6 Christmases in different places with different families. And while I am so amazingly grateful to each and every one of those people who have welcomed me into their homes and hearts over the last few years, I would be remiss not to say that I've always felt a little bit like an intruder; like an outsider looking in, even while being physically present. I have always been welcomed in with open arms full of love and compassion, but my heart has often struggled to fully embrace all of it. Even just last year, as I celebrated Christmas with a family back in Tennessee that I love dearly, it was so hard. I was dealing with some very deep and serious loneliness in that season, which only escalated seeing others celebrate together so sweetly.
But here is the thing: Jesus is still so good and so near, and that's what I want anyone reading this short post to hear. Despite my struggles with the holidays, despite my feelings of sadness and loneliness, He has been and continues to be close to me. He is present with me in these struggles, and always comforts me through them (just as He is doing as I type this now). His love is shown to me so tenderly through these families that treat me like their own, even when it's hard for me to understand and/or accept. And He is kind, so kind. He sits with me in my pain but also doesn't allow me to wallow there, which is the sweetest gift. He reminds me that I am never alone, and that my feelings, no matter how valid, should not keep me from seeking His presence. Christmastime may be difficult for me, but the gift of His birth and thus His constant pursuit of my heart is not lost on me. And I can honestly say that if that were to be all I received in this life, it would be enough.
This is not a sob story, so I hope you don't see me sitting here trying to make you feel sorry for me. I do not need nor do I want that; I am just trying to keep it real with you guys. And in that I want to let anyone else out there who may be struggling with the holidays know that I am with you, and that you are not alone. Jesus sees you. He knows you. He weeps with you. And I honestly pray that, no matter how we feel in this season, we would all experience His love and comfort in real and tangible ways as we finish out this year and head into the next, because He is God with us: Emmanuel.