hope you find your way

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December descended today, bringing with it cold air and the promise of Christmas. In years past, I would begin listening to nothing but Christmas music and excitedly decorating. During college, my roommate and I allowed Christmas to take over our apartment, and the decorations we purchased from Hobby Lobby sit in the hall closet. Last year, the decorations remained in the closet, and they will likely remain there this year as well.

I'm not sure what to think of Christmas or the holidays now. To a large extent, they are something for me to get through rather than enjoy. I spent two holiday seasons as a social worker, playing Santa Clause and delivering presents, and also two holiday seasons holding my breath that I would not receive any emergency phone calls over the four-day weekend for Thanksgiving and three-day weekend for Christmas.

This year I still plan on playing Santa Clause. We (my husband and I) decided to purchase presents for children in foster care rather than purchase gifts for one another. There's a part of me that would rather purchase gifts for the children in foster care rather than purchase gifts for anyone, but I'm not sure if we've decided to do that. I just feel burdened by the task of shopping and then wrapping gifts. Not because I don't love my family or have ideas (because I do...) but because I feel like so much of Christmas is lost when the buying and gifting of things becomes the primary focus rather than the primary focus being what Christmas truly means.

I know people are good at heart. I firmly believe that, but I also think the holidays can so easily bring out the worst in people - myself included. So many years were spent counting the gifts under the tree, comparing the number of gifts for myself versus the number of gifts for everyone else. I would strategically plan who would open what, trying my hand at opening the last gift. And most of the gifts I no longer recall. There are a few that stick out, but many have blended together and disappeared from my memory.

It's not just the gifts, though, but the blending of my life with my husband's. Marriage is a tricky thing as it is, but the descending of the holidays seems to make it trickier as our previous traditions crash together. This will be the third year we spend Christmas in Oklahoma. It is also our third year as a married couple on Christmas. And while I do get to see my family for part of the holiday season, it still hurts to know I won't be decorating the tree, attending church on Christmas Eve, or opening presents from Santa Clause with them and then eating eggs benedict the morning of Christmas Day. I also won't be there to witness my father passing out Christmas presents with his Santa Clause hat that reads "ho ho ho."

There are new traditions now in Oklahoma. Traditions of Christmas Eve at his grandmother's house and playing Dirty Santa. Though last year we never made it to Christmas Eve due to the blizzard. There are two playful puppies to buy presents for and Christmas movies to watch on Netflix. But I still can't seem to find the joy that once accompanied the holidays.

I talked some about my near dread of the holidays last night at Community Group, and my husband has heard more than enough about my lack of festive cheer. I'm hoping that I can soon find joy in the season, that I can rediscover some of the magic Christmas once held - like the Christmas Eves spent searching the sky Rudolph pulling the sleigh.

A large piece of me desperately wants to believe in Santa Clause and Christmas miracles. It's the piece of me that is waiting, with bated breath and hope, for good things to crash down and for our luck to be changed. I realize there is so much to be thankful for, that there are so many struggles we are not facing right now, but I still struggle with this nagging feeling that things just are not good, that we are not where we should be.

We've been in this holding pattern for months now, and it's wearing on me and on us. While it was easier to hope and pray and remind each other that something would happen in August, we are now at a point where we are tired of hoping for something better and tired of the disappointment. Maybe, just maybe, Christmas will provide us with a reason to not be tired. Maybe my bah humbug attitude will be met with ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future that sing of joy.


(title from "these friends of mine" by rosie thomas)

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