When Christmas is Different


We’re having a bit of a different Christmas around here. It’s for a good reason…my middle daughter is having a baby soon and our oldest daughter is flying out to see her and this new little one while said oldest daughter is on break from teaching. So that means two of the five kiddos (and their spouses) will not be around for the holidays. That’s 40%. Almost half of us aren’t here.

We’ve been watching old VHS tapes of when all the older ones were littles with much of the tapings being around Christmas. The memories are beautiful but it’s also a reminder of just how different things are now.

Not all bad mind you. Just different.

The kids were all under one roof. Now three of the five are married blending traditions of both families as their own. Todd’s parents and sister and my grandparents were all alive and well. Those are treasured  times and moments that pass too quickly.

This year finds me feeling funky. What do you do when Christmas is different?

I woke up in the wee hours one morning with an acronym of GRACE on my mind and in my heart. Maybe you could use it this year too.

G is for give.

As in give YOURSELF some grace this year. Sometimes it’s easier to give to others than receive from yourself. We can certainly say to a friend, Of course you are sad (or bummed or blue or sick or whatever). It’s hard when things change (or you lose someone or your health is bad or it’s different).

 It’s okay to tell yourself that too. Cut yourself some slack, do what you can then gift yourself with grace.

R is for rest.

With all the hustle-bustle and added details…shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, parties, programs etc…of the season we forget or don’t allow for a time to rest.

Keep your quiet time appointment with the Lord. Allow yourself 15 minutes to simply be still or catch a quick nap. Spend a few minutes in the twinkle of the tree lights thinking through all you have to be thankful for. Don’t have a tree? That’s okay. Light a candle, grab a book or magazine and allow yourself some down time.

Self-care is important especially during busy (different) seasons.

A is for acknowledge.

Acknowledge your true feelings. Talk to someone…a counselor, pastor or friend about what you’re feeling…really feeling. Shoving emotions down because you shouldn’t feel this way or you feel like a Scrooge isn’t healthy and will come out somewhere else…hello cookies!

Stop telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do or feel a certain way and be honest with your emotions.

C is for cherish and change.

You get a two for one special here. Cherish those memories! When I look back at the Christmases gone by I LOVE seeing everyone together. The traditions, the food, the gatherings, the gifts. But life is about change. Some things need to go. Others need to be changed up a bit.

Do I miss some of those earlier years when my kids were all little and under my roof? I’d be lying if I said no. But I am learning to enjoy the rhythm of a new norm with a balance of old and new traditions.

Remember: just because you always have doesn’t mean you always have to.

E is for engage.

When your holidays are different, either from loss or even good things, it’s easy to withdraw from the world. It’s easy to assume everybody else is singing about the most wonderful time of the year and not struggling at all.

Don’t buy into that lie. Don’t withdraw. Please don’t.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing…coffee with a friend, serve in a shelter, go for a walk with a buddy, volunteer at church, visit people in a nursing home, deliver cookies to the hospital or abuse shelter….but do something. Serving, engaging gets us thinking outside of ourselves.

God sees us, you and me. He knows our struggle. He feels our pain. He knows when our Merry Christmas! is more like “Many Grievings.” It’s why he sent Hope in the form of a newborn babe, a Son, his One and Only…to help us through when things are different.

And that is GRACE.

Fiercely for YOU!







You Don’t Always Get What You Want

christmas gift

We stood in the living room and watched our pre-K daughter stomp down the hallway in her Christmas jammies shouting, I didn’t want stupid baby dolls. I told Santa I wanted a bike!

Nat King Cole was crooning in the background about roasted chestnuts on an open fire. The smell of monkey bread with a waft of evergreen was in the air but the excitement had sizzled somehow.

Well alrighty then. That was a special kind of something. The little brat. Did she not realize the sacrifice we made to buy Christmas at all? Does she not understand that her Dad and I love her even when we didn’t give her everything she asked for or wanted?

Ever been there?

While this memory is one we can look back on and laugh, it is a reminder that I have been that little girl in her Christmas jammies, stomping down the hallway and shouting that I didn’t get what I wanted. Only I wasn’t a little girl. I was an adult woman who had prayed and prayed, asking her Father for one thing and getting something else. Something very different than what was on my list.

Ever been THERE?

I realize we are several months post-Christmas, a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is described as the indescribable gift from God. (2Corinthians 9:15NIV) Opening this Gift, discovering all the parts and pieces it involves, reading the directions and learning how best to put this Gift in action has been (and will continue to be) a lifelong process.

The instruction manual that comes with this Gift is both fascinating and frustrating. It soothes the soul one minute and makes me want to toss it across the room the next. It challenges me like no other book I’ve ever read.

Anybody else?

So what does one do when you receive this Gift and it’s not what you thought?

Maybe it’s harder than you imagined and there actually isn’t a BMW in your driveway and you still have more month than money. That tel-evangelist was smokin’ something when he painted a picture of roses!

Or maybe you’ve been praying hard…for healing, for your prodigal child, for your marriage that’s falling apart, for a different job or any job for that matter…whatever it may be, you’ve been faithful but the only sound on the other end is crickets.

Maybe you prayed for one thing and got something that was just the opposite or totally different.

What then?

Do we stomp down the hallway screaming that we didn’t want stupid baby dolls? Possibly. On occasion this still may be my reaction but I am maturing (?). I may only stomp my feet but not scream. (Imperfect progress is still progress.)

There are a couple things I’ve learned through the years:

The goodness of God does not change even when he doesn’t give me what I asked for. In fact, my Father is the giver of good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and he knows just what I need. His goodness is so great that he gave the best gift of all…His one and only Son. (John 3:16) If he never granted me another request that should be enough. My Father knows the sacrifice Christmas holds because Easter is right around the corner. Yet he gave.

I have a Father that knows the only way for me to grow is to NOT give me everything my heart desires. The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and can trick me into throwing an all-out fit if its demands aren’t met. God knows this and gives according to my best interest, not because of some tantrum thrown in the middle of my family room floor.

I have a Father who is trustworthy. There have been many times when an answer to prayer was “delayed” (from my perspective) or seemingly not being answered at all. I’ve learned to ask what it was he was trying to teach me in the delayed response. And you know what? There was something. Every. Single. Time. So now I pick up a conductor’s wand and teach those crickets to play a song of praise in the wait….Tune My Heart to Sing His Grace.

When we begin to understand the sacrifice of the Gift, we tend to be grateful for what is given…whether or not it’s what we asked for, whether or not it comes in our timing, whether or not it was harder than we thought. It’s an attitude of gratitude that will forever need to be kept in check. Be thankful for the baby doll!

We don’t always get what we want but we will always get what we need. Our Father will make sure of that. Lean in, stay in his word and know that he loves you beyond your comprehension!

Fiercely for YOU!


All I Want for Christmas

The anticipation was high and no matter how hard I closed my eyes, I could not get to sleep. I just knew when I woke up the next morning she would be in one of those packages under the tree. So I laid there, willing my five year old self to go to sleep.

The next morning, I ran out to the smell of breakfast baking, Dolly Partons Christmas album spinning on the record player and the Christmas tree lights twinkling and reflecting off the tinsel strewn on the tree by my brother and me.

Wrapping paper was ripped through and tossed aside. Present after present was torn open until finally, there she was…


I had waited for her all year! (In five year old time that equals two lifetimes…) I adored that Mrs. Beasley doll. I watched my beloved Buffy playing with her doll on Family Affair and then act out the scenes with my very own Mrs. Beasley. We spent countless hours playing and pretending.

What I hadn’t realized until many years later is the sacrifice and length my grandparents went to get this doll for me. We lived in the country and got to go to town (Lancaster) for groceries/shopping and on a rare occasion to eat out. We NEVER went to the city (Columbus) because in the words of my Grandfather, All they do is kill each other up there. While this may not be entirely true, it was his perception and avoided going anywhere near there. Until now…

My grandparents had looked in every store in town. There was not a Mrs. Beasley doll to be found. Anywhere. They only had one option…to shop at Children’s Palace. You may be guessing by now where this mega toy store was located….in the heart of shoot-out central…the big city…Columbus.

Off they went, leaving all the comforts of the country, risking life and limb, traveling to a place they had never gone before, on freeways they had rarely driven on in search of a Mrs. Beasley doll so their five year old granddaughter would wake up on Christmas morning and be able to open the one gift she wanted more than anything.

For as much as I treasured my beloved Mrs. Beasley then, I now cherish the sacrifice of my grandparents even more. What they wouldn’t do for this little girl.

There is another who also saw a little girl in need of a gift at Christmas. I have a Father who saw just what I needed and so He gave His One and Only Son… (John 3:16). He, too, left the comforts of His familiar to travel to a place that was foreign, a place where it sure seems all they do is kill each other. He, too, sacrificed life and limb by the literal giving of His life.

This gift isn’t found under a tree but on a tree. Willingly. Sacrificially.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

(2Corinthians 9:15)

Jesus. It’s the best present we could ever give or receive. Even better than a Mrs. Beasley doll.

Fiercely for you!


When Norman Rockwell Ain’t Your Daddy

My grandsons. 🙂

There we stood in my mother’s kitchen, exchanging looks instead of gifts as we heard growls coming from the family room. I asked Mom what in the world was going on in there. He always has a hard time around the holidays, came her reply. We just need to stay in here. He’s been drinking. Whiskey drunk means he’s a mean drunk.

You see this step-dad was a Vietnam vet. And an alcoholic. The memories of war were exacerbated by the holidays. So he drank whiskey, not his normal beer, to try and drown the thoughts of buddies long gone, scenes of destruction and families whose lives are forever changed. I didn’t realize that then. I just knew he “ruined”our Christmas.

So we kept ourselves within the confines of the kitchen. Presents would be opened another day. At least we could eat together.

Then there was a different time, house and husband when we all gathered at Mom’s once again and the stove stopped working mid-morning which meant mid turkey basting. Fortunately (?) Mom had lots of frozen hotdogs that could be nuked in the microwave. Nothing says Merry Christmas like biting into a hotdog that has cheese in the middle. That cheese wiener holiday dinner is stilled talked about today.

Why am I sharing a couple not so pleasant memories from Christmas? I have lots of good ones, I promise, so why these?

Because we’ve all been there. We want everything to go perfect and smooth. Especially during the holidays. But almost always, something happens. We want a Norman Rockwell portrait…



But Norman Rockwell ain’t your daddy.

Instead we have weird relatives and kids who cry. Burnt cookies and cheese wieners. Who hasn’t stayed up until midnight on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts?? There’s so much pressure to perform perfection. It’s insanity. (On a side note: if you do not have a Christmas horror story, you are dead to me. I jest…mostly.)

Before you point your finger and cry, Scrooge!  let me explain. Somewhere in the middle of all that wrapping paper and all those bows, twinkling lights and mistletoe, cookie baking and eggnog making, stockings hung with care and tinsel flare is a manger. And a reminder. Of the very first Christmas. It was messy and less than ideal.

Think about it. Mary was a pregnant teenage virgin (the smell of scandal still wafts in the air!) traveling many miles because the government said they had to (nobody likes the government, right?), on a donkey no less, with her soon to be husband who chooses to stay with her because an angel tells him to. Let the messiness of that sink in anew.

They get to their destination and there is not one hotel room available anywhere. (Hello! Trivago) Nary a bed could be found. A farmer was kind enough to let them stay in his barn, that was probably more like a cave, where she gave birth. Just her, a 14 (ish) year old who had never been with a man, and her betrothed. Having a baby. All by themselves. Let the messiness of that sink in afresh….though there’s nothing afresh about the smells in a barn.

Oh wait, the cattle were lowing so they weren’t by themselves.

Right there in the middle of that messiness…Perfection. For unto us a child is born…and it changed everything.

No. Norman Rockwell ain’t my daddy. Instead I have a Father who loves me enough to send His One and Only. This Babe born in Bethlehem becomes Christ crucified on the cross. He is…

Wonderful Counselor when I don’t know what to do.

Mighty God when I feel weak and need muscle.

Everlasting Father when I feel abandoned and unloved.

Prince of Peace in the middle of mayhem. (Isaiah 9:6)


That’s what Christmas is all about.

We saw my step-dad a few years later, after the divorce and before his passing. Oddly enough it was at a Christmas candlelight service at our old church. He looked awful. All the drinking had caught up with him. He now had a trach, his face was mutilated and swollen from the surgery, chemo and radiation for head and neck cancer. But there was something about him.  A peace. I believe he got it. He got the true meaning of Christmas. And his soul felt its worth.

Jesus sees us my sweet friend. Right here. In all our imperfections.

It’s why He came.


Bruises and Wounds


Making apple butter is a yearly family tradition of ours. We have a very large copper kettle that houses up to 6 bushels of apples we position over an open fire outside. It takes most of a day, starting in the pre-dawn hours, to cook apple chunks down to the spreadable, edible, delicious consistency needed to eat.

We needed to chop some bigger pieces of wood down to size so as not to scorch the apple butter with fire that was too hot. The girls got a lesson in using the axe (safety first) and then it was my turn to try my hand at chopping. The first few pieces went relatively smoothly…I was sort of really proud of myself as I had never swung an axe before, very homestead-y of me… until I hit a quartered piece at the wrong angle and sent it flying into my shin. Just above my boot and right below my knee. Of course the edge of the wood is what hit.

It was one of those hits that makes things go immediately numb but you can still feel the throbbing. And of course brings tears to your eyes. I sat down to look at it and it really didn’t look like much. A little red line where the edge hit but otherwise not too bad….at least as far as the eye could see.

But it hurt.

I couldn’t sleep that night because of it. Every time I rolled over or bumped it (even with the sheets) the throbbing would wake me up. The next day I looked at it again thinking half my lower leg would be black and blue, bruised and swollen but you could still only see that small red line.

I felt like a wimp and told my man I knew it didn’t look like much but boy did it hurt. He assured me he believed me and wondered if I had bruised the bone. I really am surprised at just how bad it hurts but you could never tell if you were to see my leg. (Did I mention this already??)

Then it dawned on me yesterday that that is how many of us walk around. Hurting so badly on the inside with wounds so deep but on the outside you could never tell anything was wrong.

Today is day four and my shin is doing a little better. Or so I thought. Until I made beds this morning and put my knee up on the soft mattress which put pressure on the bruise you cannot see of which is not quite as healed as I thought it was. I didn’t put my knee on the bed gently due to a momentary lapse of remembering just how sore my leg still was. Let’s just say I laid back on the bed in the fetal position for a few minutes while the throbbing stopped.

That’s what the holidays do to those with deep bruises no one can see. We forget just how tender we still are and this time of year puts us lying on the bed in a fetal position wanting the throbbing to stop.

When I looked up bone bruises on WebMD (I love to self-diagnose) here is what it said under treatments:

Avoid placing more stress on the bruised bone area to allow adequate healing. A bone bruise heals more slowly than a soft tissue damage.

So to you who have deep bruises no one can see and wounds that are still healing this holiday season:

  1. Cut yourself some slack. Avoid placing more stress on the bruise by expecting perfection or by berating yourself with shoulds and should nots. It’s ok to not do every single thing you normally do.
  2. If old traditions hurt too much, try some new things. There is no rule in the rule book that says you have to do any one thing. And then maybe next year you can re-incorporate some old traditions.
  3. Sometimes the best medicine is in helping others. Take cookies to a nursing home or fire department. Work a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Carole with friends. Be creative!
  4. Avoid Pintrest for pity’s sake! Good night, nobody needs that pressure! And social media? I’m not saying never here but minimize social media time. (I took Facebook off my phone last week… can you say FREEDOM!!) But seriously, sometimes social media does nothing but gouge a wound.

Put this one as number one top priority: reflect on the true meaning of the season. Forget tinsel town. Read about the little town of Bethlehem. Forget glitz and glamour. Remember the humble beginnings of a babe in a manger. The very reason Jesus was born is for those of us with deep bruises and wounds no one can see.

Psalm 147 3.jpg

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

He sees you my fellow wounded warrior.

It’s why He came.

Love you something fierce!