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Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

Hi older ladies…and the rest of you who identify with many of our issues. Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season can be some of the hardest of the year for us. From a Christian perspective, they are full of meaning. But they are also full of memories of family, many of whom are now gone.

Some of the memories are wonderful. But some are very difficult. Despite many of the movies, all those family get-togethers of years gone by weren’t all sweetness and light. Some were hard, some were lonely, some were downright hard. Some of you remember a lot of family drama made worse by extra alcohol. No fun! So our holiday memories are a huge mix.

I remember some hard holiday seasons.

There was the Christmas in 1973. My dad had just died suddenly, shortly after Thanksgiving. We were totally numb. He was the first close relative in my life who had died. We were still in shock. We flew to Florida from Jamaica for the funeral and some time with family. As we returned to Jamaica with our 2 year old and 8 month old, for Christmas, it seemed like it had been a bad dream! But of course, it wasn’t. That Christmas, was a bit of a reprieve before the reality of the loss hit big time that January and the grief journey started.

I remember some delightful Christmases with our kids while they were growing up.

I also remember many happy Christmases with our kids that included Messiah, reading the Christmas story under the tree on Christmas Eve, opening gifts on Christmas Eve one at a time, having pizza on Christmas Eve–and lots of others. I remember the fun Christmas when one of our daughters told us some packages had been delivered to the house. They were really from her. She had labeled them with wrong names. Then on Christmas Eve, when it was time to open our gifts, she handed them out to the right people. I’m not sure she was even in Junior High at the time. Needless to say, this elicited laughs, giggles and delight from all of us. What a creative way to use her money and time. I was proud of her for sure. Each of our girls showed her generosity in different ways. That year, this daughter did it in a way that was extra memorable! We have laughed over it more than once!

But we are barely through Thanksgiving.

So at this time of the year, it is easy to feel sad. We can remember the bad times, the memorable Thanksgivings or Christmases that were hard for different reasons. Often, something triggers our thoughts to go there. But I try not to allow it to stay there too long.

The same goes for our happy memories. They often remind us of happier times. Maybe we were healthier. Or our spouses were. Or we have suffered the loss of our spouses. I’m not suggesting that we shortcut appropriate grieving at all. But there are times when we can get stuck and our grieving has more to do with feeling sorry for ourselves than the actual loss of our loved one. No one else can make this judgement. No one else truly knows. Only you and GOD know what is going on. But it can be something to think about if you are finding yourself totally isolated from people months and months later.

Yes, we grieve loss, but there is also something to be thankful for

There is another side to our losses.These people were a gift to us from GOD for a time. Everything we have is a gift from GOD. It is only temporary. We can make a choice to be thankful that we had the gift at all. This is not a naturally American attitude, is it? The loss we suffered will always live in our hearts for sure. But our lives were enriched by the fact that we had the blessing of enjoying that person for a time, or those life experiences–for a time.

Part of being a joyful old woman, is that we can enjoy the gifts GOD has given us and not get bogged down in spending long periods of time thinking over how hard our lives have been. The more we dwell on the hard chapters, the worse we feel. It helps no one, least of all us! We need to see our whole life in its totality, as if it were a book.

Here are some encouraging reminders from GOD’s Word.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—
practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9 ESV

Choosing to think on the excellent instead of the gloomy and disheartening can be a challenge. But it is one GOD calls us to–particularly if we want to stay sane and joyful. Rehashing the sad and gloomy parts of our lives is part of what is now being called over thinking. No, it isn’t all that refers to, but it plays a role in it. Part of overthinking has to do with trying to please others and keep them happy and figure out what I need to do in order to do that. But another part of it can be pouring over my life and rehashing everything that has happened and figuring out what I should have done or what I could have done better.

It is a complete waste of time. It is done and over with. If you made mistakes or sinned against someone. Ask GOD’s forgiveness. Apologize to the person for real. (Don’t do one of those apologies that end up blaming them.) and move on. No long rehashes.

Action Step:

  • Make a point this Thanksgiving or Christmas season, thank GOD for His many gifts. If it is not easy for you to think of them, make time to sit quietly and make a list of them.
  • Sit down and write a note to at least one person who you consider to have been a gift in your life. It can be an email message. The more specific you are in the ways you express how they were a gift, the more encouraging it will be.