Wendy: The holidays can be such an emotional time. We can have expectations of the perfect holiday and when those expectations are not met we are disappointed.
We served on the mission field in developing nations for seven years. Christmas time far from family, in a place where there is little recognition of the holiday, held the potential for great disappointment for our young family. We realized that we would have to change our expectations to make Christmas a happy time.
Our first Christmas on the mission field was in Guatemala. No snow, no Christmas lights, no family to visit. The sights, the smells, the sounds were all foreign to our experience. It was the perfect set up to be depressed. Our ministry leader employed Jesus’ admonition that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:30) He knew that focusing us on the needs of others would help get us through the holidays. He called all the missionaries together, gave each of us some money, and gave us an assignment. He told us to go out on the streets and find someone to bless.
My husband and I joined with another missionary couple, added our own money, and headed out to the market. Praying for the right opportunity, we were drawn to a little boy with dirty, tattered clothing. We engaged him in conversation, bought him shoes, and asked him to lead us to his house. We followed him to a meager one-room shack where his family lived. I remember giving food to his family and praying for their needs. We left that place with a different perspective. For the rest of our holiday season we had a quiet thankfulness for our blessings. Focusing on others changed us that Christmas.
Rebekah: We’ve mentioned this before but we’d like to remind you again that the worst thing you can do if you want to recover from a loss is focus on you.
Elisabeth: If you are struggling with finding the “joy” of the holiday season don’t hold back from giving. Ask Jesus to enable you to be a blessing to someone else, just like in my mom’s story.
Wendy: Serve others by volunteering at a food pantry or at your church. You can babysit for young parents so they can Christmas shop. We’ve made a tradition of taking little friends shopping for a gift for their parents. These are ways our family actually got outside of ourselves during our first holiday season without my husband.
Elisabeth: Spending our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and entire holiday season this way…the giving way…helped keep our minds and hearts off of the empty seat and our loss. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, seek to focus on what you do have and what you can do for someone else. We promise you, from our own experience, it will make this holiday much easier to not only endure but also to enjoy.