This Christmas

Today I said no to something I desperately wanted to say yes to. I wanted to spend Christmas with my family in Virginia Beach, to give my kids their first ever Christmas at their Grandparents house, to give my parents their first Christmas with all their grandchildren, their first in 9 years with the whole family together. It will have to be next year, though, because it was not the best choice for me, and by extension, us, this year.

How confusing is it that even though I want to go, I just can’t? It’s so incredibly frustrating. At the same time, I know it was the right choice. I know because I feel lighter having made it, and because those who know me best and love me most stand behind me, even those who hoped for a different outcome.

I don’t know when right now, but we will spend some time with my family (likely not all at once, right away) as soon as able, and beautiful memories will be made. I have Christmas gifts for them, and love has gone into each one. I’ve also written them each a letter that I hope they’ll be able to read on Christmas Day, and feel my love for them.

It’s not easy, I don’t like it, but I’m realizing it’s probably good for me, for my growth, to have to say no. See, I live to keep people happy with me. That’s how I assure that I’m loved, at least in my own mind. I do everything I can to keep people from being upset with me-sometimes to my own detriment and to the point of exploding from pain, which doesn’t make me super lovable. This tendency almost cost my life earlier this year. But, through this journey, God is growing me in unexpected ways. He is stripping back the ability to please people, to serve in ministry, to *do* in order to be loved- maybe so that I can see that I already am loved, without all that. Maybe He is giving me the gift of seeing that I can receive love, from others, and even more from Him, without trying to earn it. Wow. And, I mean, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Here’s something I wrote earlier this week while wrestling with this decision.

This is the Joy week of Advent. Trying to focus my mind and find the beauty and throw off the shame of not being able to be all I want to for others.

I am trying to overcome 35 years of self conditioning to just keep and make everyone happy so they will still love me, and truly make a decision that is best for me (and by extension my family, because they need and deserve me at my best-as limited as that best is right now.) and will not leave me a bundle of stress and fear and tears for this week and a puddle of drained, spent, depressed, overdrawn-ness all of next week.

What I want to do and give and be is at odds with what I have available to me as far as emotional and mental resources and I’m, frankly, miserable. I have been going downhill slowly since thanksgiving (with other unrelated factors as well), ashamed, depressed, afraid, and unable to express or explain it, because it’s impossible if you’re not living it.

All of my basic self care has been out the window unless enforced by Scott. Hygiene, nutrition, meditation, supplements, exercise, even staying hydrated have not been happening, as the weight of my perceived failure and shame has been growing. Without the fortifications I’ve been building to help me heal, the day to day of my mental health has declined. (Even as God has continued to work in me and heal me in other ways.) I’ve poured the resources I do have into creating a special season of memories with my babies.

For a girl who has felt unloved and unwanted most of her life, it seems a cruel joke to know I’m wanted and be unable to run into open arms. I want to feel that warmth. I want to celebrate with those I love most, and feel their love. But maybe the way that love has to come this year is through understanding. Through grace.

But this is not forever. This is how it is, where I am, *right now*. I have confidence that healing is happening and will continue. I know that a year from now I’ll be so much further down this road and so much freer. I’ve come a long way already, in so many ways. And, in the spirit of advent, I look forward to that with expectation and hope! And you know what? Even within my limits this can still be a beautiful Christmas. It already has been. I can come up with ways to be part of things even without overextending.

I don’t share this for pity. I share because I can’t be alone in this struggle to want to please others and give of myself but finding my limits don’t reach that far.

If you are struggling too, in similar ways or different, please know you are not a failure. This is not forever. It’s a season.

If you love someone who is struggling to give in the ways they’d like to, please know their limits aren’t a rejection of you. The best way you can love them is two fold:

-let them know it’s ok. You love them where they are and want what’s best for them. (Thanks Mama!)

-ask them how you can help. Sometimes when someone seems to be isolating themselves it can feel like a rejection of you or it can feel like there’s nothing you can do. I understand. But even if there’s nothing practical, just asking will show you care, and that is a gift in itself.

Even though this Christmas will be different from what any of us hoped, I have plans to make it incredibly special for these three precious souls that I get to care for and spend it with. It will be the first Christmas in nineteen as a couple that Scott and I have celebrated on our own in our home. It’ll be the first time my kids have gotten to open presents from under the tree on Christmas morning (we had our first tree of their lives last year but we traveled) and see if Santa enjoyed their milk and cookies. I love spending Christmas with family, but I am open and excited to experience a calm quiet celebration just us, because that is what we have been given this year.

I’m excited to:

-Open our Christmas Eve box and put on our matching family pajamas and read the Christmas story, then enjoy a new tradition of reading new Christmas books together before snuggling with popcorn and cocoa and watching a Christmas movie (Maybe Polar Express).

-Drink egg nog and watch Love Actually with my Sweetie as we wait for Santa

-bake cranberry breakfast cake on Christmas morning while we open presents and stockings with our kids.

-have a special and relaxing day enjoying each other and celebrating all we’ve been given

-have pulled beef burritos and beans and rice with margaritas for Christmas dinner -inspired by Scott accidentally picking up tequila instead of spiced rum at the liquor store. Hahaha!

-roast a brined turkey on Tuesday to last us the rest of the week.

-Enjoy time with my sweet ones and start the new year with so much hope and expectation for what God is going to do.

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