“You haven’t finished all the shopping yet?” my son asked. It was December 23rd and my stomach tightened at his question. He’d just gotten home from college and had no idea all that our December had held.
I was two and a half years into this single parenting thing. It was our third Christmas without Dan and while I thought I should be able to manage everything, I still had not transitioned into any kind of “new normal.” As much as I tried to make life for my kids look like it always had and as much as I did not want them to feel the hovering loss in our everyday routine, there was no masking the huge gap in our life without him.
One of my sons had asked for a shotgun that Christmas. Which sounds easy enough if you know all about shotguns, but that had been Dan’s area. I knew nothing about guns.
I resolved to make it happen and give this boy I loved a Christmas to remember. I swallowed my pride and called a couple of men for the basics of shotgun buying.
Then on Black Friday, armed with what I had learned, I opened the Dick’s Sporting Goods flyer and spotted a gun on sale in my price range. Perfect. We were traveling back from Thanksgiving but we stopped at Dick’s late Friday afternoon as soon as we got into town.
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I showed the picture of the shotgun to the salesman, only to learn it had sold out. He showed me other guns that may have been just as good, but I was lost. I’d have to go back and consult and figure out which one to get now.
As I kept researching, my son – knowing nothing about his mom’s predicament — changed his mind. Figuring he wouldn’t have much chance to use a new shotgun, he asked for a fishing pole instead. Which sounds easy enough if you know all about fishing poles, but that was Dan’s area. I knew nothing about fishing poles.
So there I was on December 23rd — shopping unfinished, struggling to pull off The Best Christmas Ever for my kids and falling so far short.
I should have stopped right then and let myself – and everyone else in my family – off the hook. The hook of my expectations and what I thought they were expecting in an awesome Christmas.
But I kept trying to push through and make it happen. I worked harder and stayed up later. It might even have worked, but one of my children didn’t realize my expectations and didn’t meet the part in pulling off The Perfect Christmas.
So by December 24th, two of us were in tears, both feeling miserably misunderstood. I scrubbed at the Christmas Eve dishes, my tears falling hot. Didn’t my kids see how hard I’d worked to make Christmas special? Didn’t they know how I’d spun every plate I could with musicals, performances, parties, school work, decorating, baking and a season of basketball in full swing?
Now on the other side of that Sadly Imperfect Christmas Eve, I’ve hashed over where I went wrong. Mostly because I never want a repeat. I probably should have started prepping earlier. Perhaps I could have said no to more things or simplified a bit more.
All three would have helped, but when I really untangle it, I realize something was missing that Christmas – grace for our Christmas.
I needed grace for myself and I absolutely needed grace for the faces around my dinner table.
I had tried to soldier through. With good motives but flawed thinking.
Life will not look the same as it did. I cannot re-create the childhood that my kids had when Dan was alive. Life will look different — but it can still be good.
I may wring my hands over the challenges of raising kids, the emotional issues I’d love to talk out (or hand over altogether), the things left undone that I cannot get to. I often feel so inadequate for all of it.
But God knew that I’d be parenting these kids alone. This season doesn’t surprise Him. He’s not having to pull out Plan B for me or our family.
Maybe your Christmas looks different this year. Maybe you’re dealing with huge challenges or changes and you’re trying your best to soldier through.
Give yourself and those around your table a gift — grace for your Christmas.
Life may look different for you now but it hasn’t taken God by surprise. This isn’t Plan B for Him. God knew all about these days just as He knew all of the days that came before them. And He has allowed them.
Let’s let ourselves and those we love off the hook this Christmas. Let’s hang up our expectations altogether. And let’s trust that God who knew about this season in our life, will equip us for it.
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