Christmas is full of remembered trauma for our family. For many kids who come from hard places, not every memory is explicit, but there are triggers that push them into places that their conscious minds don’t understand. We've learned to deal with triggers and trauma over the years, and I tend to push off my own complicity onto those external factors.
It seems easy to blame the hard times of the holidays solely on our kids who have experienced trauma, but after eleven years, it turns out that the holidays trigger all of us, and I am not excluded. December is now full of stress and sadness, grief and pain for our family. For someone who has always loved this season above all other as a magical, loving, nostalgic memory, this has been a hard thing for me to come to terms with. The loss of expectations of what I hoped the season might be like for myself as an adult and for my family has been a grief-filled journey for me.
There was a day this week that was no exception to our family's holiday norm. All of our windows of tolerance were low, and yelling and fighting and exhaustion and big internal feelings all met up in a complicated and hard day. We could've pressed on with our to-do lists and big ideas. We would've accomplished some things that desperately needed accomplishing, but instead we chose love.
We chose love by apologizing.
We chose love by asking our kids what they wanted and needed.
We chose love by not doing the project we intended to complete.
Sometimes love looks like 45 minutes of TikTok on the couch and frozen chimichangas for lunch. Sometimes love looks like dancing in the kitchen and singing at the top of our lungs.
It looks like special trips to pick up Christmas gifts and milkshakes on a winter night and God, do I pray my kids remember those parts and not the ugly.
I wish I had better words. More eloquent phrasing. A touching, well-written story that tugged at your hearts so that you, too, could see where you needed to choose love. This grief-filled week, though, I feel like I have nothing of real value to share. Choosing love is hard for me this year, and I imagine it's probably hard for you too. This year has sucked the emotional capacity to choose straight out of us.
So I'm left with these questions and a certain place where I know I can often find answers.
What does it mean to choose love in a season where pain seems like it's winning?
How can I continue to choose love in a world that makes it so hard for us to remember our humanity?
What does it look like to choose love when we feel like we can't do one more thing?
Well, it looks a lot like this:
Love is large and incredibly patient.
Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.
It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.
Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance.
Love does not traffic in shame or disrespect nor selfishly seek its own honor.
Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.
Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what’s wrong.
Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.
Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving.
Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love - yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.
1 Corinthians 13 (from The Passion Translation)
Friends, I want to run after that beautiful prize with everything within me, no matter how small that "everything" feels like right now. We can choose love even in a world that feels like that it's on fire. We can do it together.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another...
God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:7-11, 16-19
What is a small way you have felt love this past year?
On Thanksgiving Day, before I even had time to check my phone, three friends texted me with Happy Thanksgiving wishes and memes, with words of gratefulness for our friendships. It was a small, yet intensely meaningful act of love on each of their parts.
What is a small way you have shown love this past year?
Yes, I know this seems slightly self-congratulatory. But I want to encourage you to celebrate your own accomplishments, even if it's in private. For me, my small acts of love often look like personal notes on facebook. Private texts. Watching a show alone with one of my kids. Smallest of small things. It all counts.
Is there an extravagant way you have shown love this past year? Or received it?
We have both sent and received large sums of money this year - sent to those who need it and received from those who knew we needed it. I know it seems like a material way to measure love, but in this year, in the middle of a pandemic economic crisis, it has become a way to tangibly demonstrate love for others. Don't be afraid to give or receive.
How can you choose love this week, whether it be small or extravagant?
God of Love,
You came to earth in love and for love, and may we live our lives the same. The Love that came down at Christmas is ours to share with those around us.
In a world that too often demands the worst of us, may we be compelled by and for Love.
*I’ll be showing up here on the next few Sundays before Christmas talking about what we can do and how we can show up in the middle of a pandemic to prepare for a God who showed up for us in the flesh, here, in a broken world. Don’t want to miss a post? Sign up at the link below to get it straight into your inbox. You’re not into it? Just skip the Sunday posts. Or maybe? Read it? Consider that it’s all a little easier and more grace-full than what you think.