Friday, November 13, 2015

Treasures of Holidays Past

With a broken heart,
    I remember times before
When I was with Your people. Those were better days.
    I used to lead them happily into the True God’s house,
Singing with joy, shouting thanksgivings with abandon,
    joining the congregation in the celebration.
~ Psalm 42:4, VOICE ~

The rosy-cheeked Irishman with a twinkle in his eye has been enjoying the heavenly streets of gold for 4 years now.  Sometimes it's hard to believe my dad has been gone that long.  He was a man who really appreciated good cooking, so he was a delight to have as a guest when I had been slaving in the kitchen.  Not only that, he would gladly join you in the process of planning and buying the food.  

Over my years of hosting our family's Thanksgiving feast, he would get increasingly involved with how we were going to cook the bird and where we were going to buy it.  He would call me, "Honey, I just saw turkeys on sale at Pick-N-Save for .39¢ a pound!  Want me to pick one up?"  When I bought the turkey, I would have to take a picture of it with my cell phone, so I could report the weight.  I think brined turkeys had just hit the market the year of his last Thanksgiving.  Of course, he had to buy one so we could try it out.  It was delicious, but we weren't sure if it was really worth the extra price.

That November holiday hasn't been quite the same since dad's been gone.  It surely doesn't help that both his birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary both fall right around that time on the calendar.  Last year (our third without him) it finally felt like we could smile again, joking, enjoying one another's company, and fondly remembering Thanksgivings past. 

Maybe you can relate to that feeling of things being not-quite-right as the last 2 months of the year loom.  I know many families with a challenged child who are battling intense grief right now.  Whether it be a sudden death in the family, bad news at the doctor's office, or just the dread of the conflict that comes with spending time squeezed in the expectations of extended family over the holidays, people are brokenhearted. 

The sad fact is that we are not promised easy days in this life.  Adam and Eve's bad choice guarantees us trouble.  

Still, we can treasure every blessing we are granted here and now.

What if rather than keeping our focus on sorrows and stressors, we remember the small things that bring a smile?  Or a deep sigh of comfort?  Or a sense of relief?  Or a moment of contentment?  Like the silly, simple story of the turkey I shared?

I'm not suggesting repressive or fake behavior.  There are times to grieve, and times where we can't help that wistful twinge of hurt in our hearts.  I'm encouraging us to relentlessly chase inner joy "in spite of."  I'm suggesting we walk above our woundedness.

The word "remember" is used 210 in the King James Version of the Bible.  God repeats this word so often because He knows there is a deep work in us that only remembering can accomplish.  We need to stop, pause, and recall who God is, what He has done, in order to have adequate strength for today and the days ahead.  The LORD knows how flawed and forgetful we are as humans.  It is by His grace that He lovingly taps on our shoulders, reminding us to reflect on the treasures of His blessings.  He knows that recalling His past faithfulness of simple mercies will fortify and reassure us He will be faithful again.  Every life has these treasures, in spite of the hurts.  We need only to look for and remember them.  As stars light up the blackest sky, so tender memories of days past can be the glimmer of hope that both leave us in awe and equip us to carry on.
Are you stuck in the valleys of grief, or fear, or dread, or weariness? 

Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. 
~ Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV ~

In your trials and tragedies, don't forget God's triumphs!  In your total mess, remember his tender mercies.
What is one small treasure of holidays past that you can cherish to carry you through the rest of this year?

PRAY:  Merciful Father, thank You for your fresh grace for each day.  Wise Spirit, bring to our memories something that draws out a smile.  Strengthen us in our weakness as the demands of the holidays quickly press in.  We trust that You can redeem our toughest times and weave them into a precious part of the fabric of our lives.

~ Barb Dittrich

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