Monday, December 19, 2011

A Different Christmas

This year, I purposely set our Christmas tree up in a different place. I left our Christmas village in the box and created a scene out of choir boys, pine trees, and snow men. Instead of outlining our front window with lights, I set an angel and the three wise men on the sill. I used the same Nativity scene as in past years but changed the arrangement a bit. I bought new stockings, embroidered our names on them for the first time, and hung them somewhere we’ve never hung stockings before. We’ve even altered our Christmas Eve tradition.

I did all this knowing that our Christmas is going to be very different this year. My family has gone through some changes that are making the holidays . . . well . . . hard. Trying to do things as we always have would only make it more obvious that special days like Christmas will never be quite the same again. Instead of allowing difficult change to rob us of our joy, we are using it as an opportunity to weave in some fun change as well—changes that we chose.

The holidays have a way of magnifying our losses, resurrecting the pain and knowledge that, no matter how hard we pray and plan, it won’t be like last year. People are missing. Broken relationships mean sharing loved ones and being more flexible. Some traditions get lost in the rubble; others we need to skip so we won’t add more grief to the day. This is when we must choose whether to wallow in the lost traditions or make new ones and ask God to help us enjoy them just as much.

I’ve found that making up my mind to do Christmas differently has helped in the process of grieving the loss that forced the changes. Are we sad? Yes! Will Christmas morning feel strange? I know it will. But I also know that God has been good to us through these life-altering circumstances, and that Christmas is about His Son, not my traditions. This is our opportunity to focus on His goodness, including the ways that He inspired creativity and allowed us to have fun no matter what.

Are you facing a different kind of Christmas this year? Ask God to help you accept the changes even as you grieve, and show you how to make this season of celebrating Christ’s birth different in a good way.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Princess Thing

I knew that God had me at the retreat for a reason, but I never expected Him to plan my seating assignment.

All of us were placed at tables named after women of the Bible and told to sit there during all the teaching sessions. I was assigned to the Sarah table.

“Please take a few moments to read the bookmark in front of you,” the retreat leader said, “and reflect on why God might have had you placed at that particular table.”

I figured God put me there because He knew I liked the name Sarah.

Then I read my bookmark.

Sarah means princess.

I looked up. Oh no. Please say we aren’t doing the “You’re God’s princess” thing. I am not in the mood for that.

Where did that come from?

I guess I had my answer to “Why did God place you at this table?”

You’re God’s Princess may not have been the theme for the weekend, but God and I were clearly doing the princess thing.

This was the first time that the princess theme triggered such an “I don’t want to go there” response. Before this retreat, I might have said that I found the topic overdone or a little fluffy. If a friend said in an attempt to build me up, “Remember, you’re God’s princess,” I usually nodded politely and moved on. Lately, I’d found the metaphor more and more annoying.


To be gut-level honest, in my mind, God’s princess only applied to other women, not to me. Life had left me feeling like more of a peasant, especially lately.

We all had a chance to share what God had revealed to us about our seating arrangement, so I opened up about what Sarah means princess triggered in me. I detected the edge in my voice and wondered if I sounded like a woman with a giant-sized chip on her shoulder. I didn’t want to be that way.

Slowly, God helped me realize that the only way to not be “that way”—cynical and bitter—was to let Him work, and Step 1 was confessing that I felt like the furthest thing from royalty. Admitting this opened my eyes to the women around me who had once been in my place but now glowed with His beauty. I want to be like them, God.

I spent the weekend being treated like someone special, sensing the whole time that God was the true source of the gifts and pampering and words of truth—His way of saying, “See, You are my princess. It has nothing to do with fluffy themes or even feeling like one all the time. Being My princess goes much deeper than that.”

I won’t say that I went home healed of every wound and lie that had kept me from grasping my true position, but when a woman who heard me share my response to the princess thing and admitted that she struggled too, greeted me with, “Hello, Princess. Are you starting to believe it yet?” I could return her genuine smile and say, “Yes.”

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