When You Can’t Be with Those You Want for the Holidays

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That Thanksgiving looked and tasted different, its colors muted and holiday food a bit bland. I still cooked cornbread dressing and apple brown sugar sweet potatoes because if my husband couldn’t be home with us, the “right” food dang well would be. The kids and I ate turkey with friends and I told the kids we wouldn’t let our hearts slam shut to new good memories, even if they didn’t look exactly like we would have picked.

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Somewhere between the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie, I asked my friend’s husband Mark if he would mind helping me pull down the heavier Christmas decorations, and of course he said he didn’t mind at all. So on the following weekend he did exactly that and the kids and I decorated our hearts out while singing the familiar Christmas tunes of Harry Connick, Jr. and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Because when you’re missing the one you love for the holidays, it helps to fill the empty places with familiar sights and sounds.

Unlike a lot of military folks, my husband has been home for more holidays than gone. But we have spent too many to count away from extended family. Memories of our first Thanksgiving together are a mixed bag of hankerings for home and A+ efforts for a party of two. I was the brand new wife who could barely boil water, and I was bent on cooking one grand Thanksgiving meal that would reverse all my previous cooking failures. So with one hand on Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and the other holding the phone to ask my mama another question, I managed to make one halfway decent meal, even if it wasn’t ready ’til 9pm Thanksgiving night.

Because when you’re missing the ones you love for the holidays, the hunger for their closeness eases when you fill up on familiar tastes and treats.

And then there are those holidays piled-high like mashed potatoes in the wide brimmed bowl, those spent with family away from family–friends who couldn’t go home, either. The plane fare was too expensive, the weather too tricky, and the work schedules too demanding. So we circled our wagons and brought whatever said “home” for us to our community table.

Because when you’re missing the ones you love for the holidays, it helps to blend your own favorites and their favorites into new favorites.

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If this holiday season finds you wishing you could look across the table and see those who aren’t there, know that it’s okay to lament their absence. Know it’s okay to long for them more than your grandma’s homemade pecan pie. But also know that while your loved ones may be away, the goodness of God is not. Keep your heart open for His miraculous gifts, His just-try-it recipes for different but good tasting memories. Give Him a thanks offering for who and what is at the table–even if it’s a small table holding you and a turkey dinner for one. Your celebration may not look exactly like you hoped or planned, but it may have a glorious beauty all its own.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. May it be full of all kinds of lovin’ and good things from the oven. I am thankful for you!

This post is an updated repost.

In Which I Find Some Courage and Talk to You About My Book

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Right off the bat, friends, I need to tell you how much I’ve written, deleted, and rewritten this post, all while chewing the heck out of my nails.

I am the world’s biggest dork, just so you know.

It all started last Sunday when I stood next to our Sunday school’s coffee and tea table, my hand loosely holding a plastic spoon that swirled a peppermint teabag inside my styrofoam cup. As I added a spoonful of sugar to the amber liquid, another member of the class came over and asked how my book was going. With kind eyes and an interested expression, she followed up that question with now what is it about again? I stared at her for a few seconds, feeling like she’d asked me to explain quantum physics rather than my own book. I became overly-invested in my cup of tea as I both stammered out a bit of words on the subject and paused to gather my thoughts. Understanding once again that multitasking is not my friend, I sat the cup down and then managed a coherent (albeit awkward) verbal summary. When I finished, she warmly replied, “Hmmm, sounds like a book I need to read.”

I left that conversation shaking my head at myself, knowing I needed to lose the marbles-in-my-mouth feeling I get everytime I talk about my book. (And I hear the smart marketing folks from my publisher Revell saying ummm, yes.) Why does it make me feel awkward to talk about it? Because this book is rather personal as parts of my story dot the pages from beginning to end. Talking about it is a bit like showing you my journal, even handing it over to you so you can flip its pages. There is a risk you might roll your eyes at what’s inside. But there’s also the risk you might look at it and say, “Great day, this sounds like it might be right up my alley.”

What I’m saying is it feels scary to share.

But I need to get un-scared and share anyway, and that’s where y’all come in.

If I need to get more comfortable talking about my book, I feel there’s no better place to do that than here with you friends. After all, you are kind and warm people who love me well, even on the days I’m chock-full of crazy.

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So in a nutshell, friends, here’s what my book is about:

Change.

(Phew! That wasn’t so hard!)

Specifically, it’s about how to see change that isn’t our idea as a good thing and not the mean girl who aims to spread her ugly all over us.

It’s about how to see change that isn’t our idea (because who minds change that is our idea?) as a tool God uses for us, not against us. And it’s written for folks (like me) who have lived life seeing change as more foe than friend. It’s written for those who resent change and just plain don’t like it. It includes my own story of change as well as stories of other people who have lived difficult change in all its big, small, and in-between sizes yet are thriving because of it, not in spite of it.

It is a hope-filled book, and I’m very happy with how it’s shaping up.

I know I haven’t really said much here, but you know…baby steps and all. There’s also the fact the book doesn’t release ’til next fall, and that’s quite a while from now. Plus I’m a bit worried I’ve already come across as presumptuous here, arrogantly assuming you’re all interested in this project at this stage as much as I. Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. But the truth is this book is an important part of my life right now, and it feels good (even if a bit scary) to share this part with you, too.

Thanks for giving me the courage to do so–and for smiling back at me rather than rolling your eyes. Y’all are the best.

That’s one thing I’m thankful doesn’t change.

XO

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