Merry Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd.

The night before the night before Christmas. Not the most significant day of the holiday season is it. Maybe you spent it doing some last minute gift shopping or purchasing all the food for your Christmas meal. Perhaps it was spent traveling home or getting the house ready for friends and family to arrive. Or maybe you’ve been alone all day, just like you will be tomorrow, and on Christmas.

It could be a day that’s different each year. Perhaps last year things were going well in your life and you were happy but this year it’s been one problem after another and there just isn’t much to be happy about. The tree is decorated and presents surround it but there’s still an empty feeling. There’s someone you miss or you are concerned about. Or maybe you’re waiting on a lab report to come back after the holidays.

At Christmas we all like to have the holiday spirit but some years it just doesn’t come that easily. We try to be merry, cheerful, and glad but underneath our smiles, we’re hurting. And if we were honest we would say that the Christmas season really isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year.

The past four December 23rds for me have been just about as diverse as they come. A holiday rollercoaster ride if you will with tremendous ups and downs.

Dec. 23, 2015 – it was just 4 months before that my wife Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had undergone surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and had recovered pretty well from that but in early December a follow up MRI indicated another surgery was needed. So the Christmas of 2015 was spent by our family being thankful for the support many were giving us and also preparing for another unknown outcome. We would spend New Year’s Eve in the hospital with Barb celebrating with her as she recovered from what we hoped was her last surgery.

Dec 23, 2016 – the past year had seen Barb not require any further surgery for which we were very thankful. She had completed her radiation treatment and had been receiving chemo treatments for a number of months and was surprisingly strong and doing well. It had been 16 months since her diagnosis. It was our first Christmas with our granddaughter and even in the midst of uncertainty, we celebrated the season and thanked God for His love and gift.

Dec. 23, 2017 – this was our first Christmas without Barb. In January of 2017, the cancer began to grow again and Barb made the decision to not try any other treatments as there were none that were viable and would give her a good quality of life. She declined quickly and went to her heavenly home on March 7. It was the lowest of times for me. I had never felt more lost in my life. But as the year went on, I came to understand that even in the midst of my grieve I could still celebrate the Christmas season and be thankful for all the years I shared with Barb and the way God walked with us through both the good and tough times.

Dec. 23rd, 2018 – today. The present. Another Christmas just two days away. This holiday season I’ve been missing Barb, again. The kids and I are continuing our traditions of putting up the tree, baking sugar cookies, and having our family Christmas eve dinner but each of these still have a feeling of incompleteness. Not really sad but just not the same as before. That will probably always be the case. And that’s okay because our traditions were made with Barb. So I will celebrate and honor those memories as I thank God for where He has brought me and how He continues to love me. And for who He is bringing into my life.

I don’t know where Christmas Eve Eve finds you this year but let me encourage you, if you are down, to not give up but to look up. And if 2018 has been good to you, I encourage you to lift up those around you that are feeling down.

In good times and bad, God’s love for us and His gift to us does not change. He is always there. No matter where we go or what we endure, He is with us. Look for Him. You will find Him. Emmanuel is right beside you this day and every day. And He loves you.

I pray that this Christmas you may experience the glad tidings of the good news that the season is really all about. Look beyond where you are now to where God can take you. Where He will go with you.

Merry Christmas my friends and see you down the road….

Just Another Day….

Remember the song Another Day by Paul McCartney? It’s been going through my head off and on all day. Catchy little tune but the lyrics are rather sad. A woman living each day the same, over and over while waiting on the man of her dreams to come and break the sad spell cast over her life. The song ends the way it began. Without her hero. Just another day.

Today, November 29, has been in many ways just another day for me. I woke up at the usual time which is always 10 minutes before the alarm goes off. I fed and walked the Doodle. Got showered and dressed to go to my retirement job (which honestly is a blast) at my daughter’s play cafe for kids called Hoot Studio. Came home, fed and walked the Doodle again. Paid the end of the month bills and am now settling down to write a little before going to sleep. Just another day.

But also today a number of uncommon things came my way. You see today is the 30th celebration of my 29th birthday and I’ve been blessed by many birthday wishes from some pretty fantastic folks. A group of preschoolers singing happy birthday for me. A good friend taking me to lunch. Facebook comments and birthday well wishes. Happy Birthday texts from family and friends. All wonderful reminders that today was just another day which was made very special by the kindness of others. And there lies the answer for the woman in the song, for me, and for each of you. Just another day of kindness.

There were a couple of moments today between the happy birthday wishes, where I felt sad and even lonely. Sort of like the woman in the song. Remorse crept into my emotions as I thought about another birthday, another day, without the loved ones I’d lost over the past few years. Tears began to swell up in my eyes and I had to find a quiet place to be alone for a few minutes. I had not expected these emotions to come to me today but they did and tonight I’ve been reflecting on them. And with that, another song has started playing in my mind.

Three Dog Night did a song back in the 70s called One. It’s a reflection on missing someone that was in your life but is not there anymore. There are two lines from the song that have been resonating with me tonight; “It’s just no good anymore since you went away, Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday”.

When you miss someone very much, perhaps with all of your heart, it’s easy to spend your time, your thoughts, living in the past. Clinging to the past. Missing what has been.

Memories of those we’ve loved are wonderful things to be cherished but what I have learned is that continuing to focus deeply and entirely each day in those memories keeps us from living the life we have now. A life that has been created from and because of those past loves and experiences. A life that needs to be lived in the now. To its fullest. Not as one just getting through another day but with hope built up from the kindness of others that has been given to us.

So with tomorrow and the beginning of my 31st year of being 29, I am choosing to live each day not as Just Another Day of being One but as a day to be thankful for the lives and loves in my past. Living in the now with the hope, the joy, of the kindness that has been given to me. And choosing to do my best to bring kindness into the days of those around me. How about you join me.

See you down the road….