I love this time of year.  As soon as I toss the last smooshy jack-o-lantern into the garden, I’m ready for Christmas.  Now, before you judge—I don’t put up a single twinkle light until the day after Thanksgiving, but believe you me—after Thanksgiving, I am full-blown Buddy the Elf.  Let’s pause for a moment, though, to give Thanksgiving the respect that it’s due.  I’ve never been a huge fan of turkey, and between you and me, I am all-out TERRIFIED that I am responsible for making said turkey this year (No one should ever have to do something that requires them to salt the inside of a body cavity.  It’s just not okay.). However, I can’t wait to be surrounded by family and friends, marveling at all for which I have to be thankful.  There’s just something about the sacredness of a day of remembrance and reflection on all of the good things in your life that makes you feel warm and makes you forget that you just pulled something’s neck out of its butt.  So, yes.  Thanksgiving is great.  BUT—Christmas.  Christmas is my jam.

I have been known to take an entire day off, just to Clark Griswold my house, inside and out, while I listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies (in a very specific sequential order that only makes sense to me). I buy wrapping paper that matches my Christmas tree; I dress my dogs in little Christmas sweaters–I will even drink disgusting, digestively-dangerous eggnog one time per holiday season (I think it’s written in the Constitution that you have to, right?). I love it.  All of it.

This year, though, something is different.  I’m still as excited for the traditions, the lights, the gift-giving…but it’s all tempered by some feelings I would rather not feel. Four months ago, our family lost the greatest, kindest man I’ve ever known.  Thanksgiving will be our first holiday without him.  My cruel subconscious forgets for a split second now and then that Dad is gone. I’ll see something that would make the perfect gift for him and have a moment of excitement before I remember and my heart feels the familiar twinge of grief.  I’ve started to text or pick up the phone to tell him something about a hundred times since he has been gone, and then I remember, and the sadness makes me catch my breath.

The holidays can hurt.

I hurt for my mother, who has spent every holiday for nearly 50 years with my dad.  I hurt, knowing that if I have 36 years of memories that are equal parts treasure and torture, then how much more must it grieve her?

So many of my friends and family have lost someone they love this year.  Whether it be a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a friend, or a baby they hadn’t yet met, but fiercely loved, the loss is real.  It was abundant this year.  More than I can ever remember.  Other friends are coping with painful divorces, crushing disappointments and broken dreams.  Loss takes many forms, but they all hurt.

For those of you who are like me, trying to balance the happiness of the season with the hurt in your heart, I want to encourage you that it’s okay to belt out Christmas carols one minute and melt into tears the next.  Even though I wish I could turn my heartache off like a faucet, I’m grateful for it.  Grief, as cruel as it is, reminds us that we had something worth grieving for.  It softens us and proves the value of what’s right in front of us.  Let yourselves hurt, friends, but then make new traditions and memories.  Don’t curl up in the past and stay there.

Whether you have lost a loved one or lost a dream, you don’t have to grieve without hope.  I know that I will see my dad again someday, and there is nothing more comforting or priceless than that.  Pain is temporary in this life, and we have a loving God who wants nothing more than to see us through the hard seasons if we’ll only let Him.  If that sounds nice, but like it’s out of reach for you, I promise you it isn’t.  It’s for everyone.  I would love to talk to you about it if you’d like to know more, or if you just need a listening ear.  There is no better time than now to get to know the Healer of Hurts. He has saved me from myself and my despair time and time again, and He’ll do it for you too.

Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those who have died. We don’t want you to be sad like other people—those who have no hope.–I Thessalonians 4:13

I wish you all the happiest of “Oh-My-Word-What-Do-I-Even-Do-With-These-Giblets?” Days.  (Seriously—why do they leave the giblets in?  I know it’s allegedly for gravy, but no.  Just no.  Giblets, you guys.  No.)

I wish you an even merrier Christmas (I am totally throwing snow up in the air in my imagination right now), and a Happy New Year (can I get an “amen” that 2016 is almost over??? Bye, Felicia!)

‘Tis the season to be emotional pogo sticks…and that’s okay.