The Holidays and Memories

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHolidays are times when families get together and celebrate and enjoy the traditions that have been formed over the years. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the blessings God has given your family and to reflect on memories of the past.

The holidays can also be overwhelming for the person who has had struggles in the past – perhaps they were abused as a child or their childhood was just not good. Perhaps their family environment was that of chaos or turmoil and that turmoil escalated during the holidays. Perhaps the holidays are overwhelming because you are divorced or because you have lost someone you dearly loved. What is your story?

I was recently asked to share a holiday tradition. My emotions immediately went all over the scale. The question in my mind was whether I should share a tradition from before divorce, after divorce, before losing a child, or after losing a child. Neither one of those life changing events happened in my life this year or last year but nonetheless, they happened in the last five years and tradition in my life at this season is very different from years past. My emotions and thoughts caught me off guard. My response to the question was that I was simply redefining traditions in our lives. It was wonderful hearing about the traditions of others but I knew I had to immediately guard myself against comparing my life to the life of others. My life doesn’t look like the lives of others and my story isn’t the same as theirs. Your life doesn’t look like someone else’s life. We must remember that we are all unique and our situations are all unique. The amazing thing about our God is that he knows the most intimate detail of each of our lives and He knows just what season we are in and He is always the same-yesterday, today and forever.

The night that I was asked the question about tradition, I laid in bed through the night thinking about traditions. I even texted my kids in the middle of the night and asked them what traditions they remembered. Of course, they thought mom a bit silly asking them such a question…. Especially in the middle of the night! Moms can be a bit odd at times!  God began to show me that traditions are every changing as the seasons change in our lives. The only thing that stays the same is the Word of God and it is an everlasting Word. There are things in our lives that we have no control over. However, how definitely have control over how we respond to those things in our lives.

My thoughts go back to the first of the years of first after my son passed away. He passed away in October so Thanksgiving was the “first” holiday. I dreaded that holiday so much. God did something very special for me that Thanksgiving. I don’t know why but it was very hard at that season in my life for me to go grocery shopping. Even more than regular shopping, the very thought of shopping for Thanksgiving that year just made me sick. One day I got a call from a friend of mine that I used to go to church with. She said that God had put it on her heart to do my grocery shopping for me for that Thanksgiving. She asked me what I typically prepared for our meal. God was the only person that knew how I dreaded shopping for that holiday so He made a way for me in my wilderness moment. All I could do was blubber and cry! I told her how much I had dreaded going shopping and how overwhelmed I was that God cared about that thing in my life that no one else knew about. I gave her my shopping list and she and her daughter went to the store for me and did all my shopping. Not only did she shop for me but it was paid for and delivered to my home without charge to me. To this day, I think about that moment every Thanksgiving season. That Thanksgiving wasn’t like other Thanksgiving because my son wasn’t there with us, but I am so thankful for the memories of the past Thanksgiving we had together and I am reminded every Thanksgiving of the amazing love my Heavenly Father had for me because He knew my thoughts and loved me enough to make my difficult moment easier.

My next “first” came at Christmas. Of course, memories flooded me again. I didn’t want to put up the Christmas tree. I didn’t want to shop. I just wanted Christmas over. I did put up the Christmas tree because it was a tradition in our home and although the traditions of the past wouldn’t be the same, I knew God was faithful and He would give us new traditions. Out of nowhere, God gave me special moments that Christmas season. A friend of mine gave me a gift. It an odd gift to most but to me, it meant so much. The gift she gave me was a Christmas ornament of a fish. As I said, it wasn’t your normal gift. You see, my son, Justin, that passed away, loved to fish and we had fishing emblems at his funeral. Time stood still at that moment as memories flooded me – in a good way- as she gave me that Christmas gift. The next year came around and the next year came, and that friend gave me a Christmas ornament or decoration that had to do with fish. Those moments will be forever cherished by me. I smile every time I get these out to decorate at Christmas because God put it in her heart to be a blessing to me.

I had many “firsts” over the next year to go through. The first Mother’s Day, birthdays, and all the other holidays. The “firsts” are always the hardest. God taught me to take my “firsts” one at a time.  Once that “first” was behind me, He prepared me for the next “first.” You see, they were my first but not a first to God because He had already seen each one of my “firsts”. So guess what? I did come through each “first” and my memories were blessed. Yes, they were hard and I still have my moments. Like the night this week that I was asked about traditions.

Maybe you haven’t lost someone by death, but you are divorced. Divorce is tragic. Divorce is difficult even if you have remarried. The original family unit is severed in divorce. Things are never the same. Family traditions are broken and the holidays are difficult for divorcees. Memories of the past can be overwhelming for everyone – the parents and the children. Just the very logistics of getting everyone together can be overwhelming. If you are remarried, there is the awkwardness of blending.

You may wonder why I am sharing this today. As I prepare for Thanksgiving dinner today, my thoughts and prayers are with those that may be struggling today. I remember what it is like to struggle during the holidays. Memories are powerful. Memories can be overwhelming. I want to encourage you today that whatever season you are in, God wants to give you new traditions. It won’t look like it did before but that’s okay. Isaiah 43:19 says ““For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Sometimes we wonder how God can ever bring beauty from the ashes of our lives. We can’t be concerned with the “how” but we must rest in the promise to do a new thing.

God showed me something about our memories from Proverbs 10:7 after the passing (or “graduation” as his 5 year old little girl says) of my son. It is found in Proverbs 10:7 “The memory of the just [is] blessed….” Our memories can bring us freedom or hold us captive.  This scripture in Proverbs has ministered mightily to me. You see, God’s Word brings life. When most people read that scripture, they relate it to the memory of those that have passed away…. And how the memory of the righteous are blessed after their death or the just opposite (if you read the rest of that scripture). I remember reading this scripture and The Lord spoke a word to me that changed the entire meaning of that scripture for me.  It was revelation and became personal and gave me peace. It was a NOW Word I so desperately  needed.  So many times, when those things happen in our lives (emotional hurts, death, broken relationships, etc.) we relive those moments over and over and over and over in our minds…. Every single detail.  Our mind is like a VCR and the enemy puts the  VCR  on repeat and it doesn’t shut off.  The smallest thing triggers the memory – even being asked about something as innocent as traditions. We can be tormented by those memories. The Lord revealed to me that IF I will surrender those hurts to Him and allow Him (which is an ongoing process), He will heal those hurts and wounds and will bless my memory. However, the choice is mine as the enemy tries to torture our mind with the hurt and pain until it steals our future.  I must run to HIM and not away from The Healer. In other words, as I meditate on God’s Word and take every thought captive that does not line up with the Word of God and saturate myself daily in His Presence, I will come to the place that my memories will no longer torment me. He will bring me to the place that I don’t remember the torment of the pain, but I will remember so I can minister to someone else. The memory will be that of the hope and peace that God gave me though my circumstances.  Yes, it is a process and it takes time but God is so very faithful to His promise. I am so thankful for the revelation of the Holy Spirit that made His Word so real to me.

I don’t know what your story is but God knows your story and He knows just where you are in this season of your life. Trust Him with this season of your life. God is faithful. He is ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS causes you to triumph. He will never ever ever leave you in your circumstances. You are not alone in this holiday season. Maybe your traditions will never look the same, but God wants to redefine tradition and give you new traditions and new memories.

I am so thankful for the memories and traditions of my past.  I cherish those memories.  I also look forward to the new memories and new traditions God has for my life because God has great things in store for me and my family, just as He does you and your family.

I am praying for your holiday season to be blessed, that your memory will be blessed and that you will know the peace of God in whatever “season” you are in during the holidays.

seasonsEcclesiastes 3:1-4 “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”