Finding Gratitude When You Can’t Find the Magic

We’re drowning in it now. The colors have turned red and green, the lists are made, and we’ve spent a month learning all everyone has to be thankful for. Holiday cheer is everywhere. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But, while we’re smelling the pumpkin bread bake and hearing the Christmas music play, life is still happening. For us moms, whatever the depth of the reason, it’s impossible to shut it down.

Remember when we were able to just be kids? Remember how alive you felt this time of year — so excited you felt like you could burst? The twinkle of the lights and a trip to visit the man in the red suit were just the prelude to that extraordinary moment of running down the stairs and finding your pile — in your wrapping paper. Do you remember when Christmas truly was magical?

                 Christmas morning in 1980

I don’t know about you, but times have changed. I’m exhausted and behind and overwhelmed and dare I admit it, I’m even a little sad. Hearing the lyrics to, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” can make me want to get on my knees and thank God for EVERYTHING, or make me want to curl up in a ball with my blanket and cry in the corner. The holidays are wonderful, but also seem to highlight the hard stuff. I’m not trying to be a downer. I love Christmas. My family and our setting in this dark world can appear Norman Rockwell at times. I aim to never take that for granted.

When I look around though, it’s crystal clear. There’s pain . . . everywhere. Families are planning their big dinner and there’s someone missing from the table, or someone never grew big enough to make it there. Single-moms are working hard day and night to provide the basic necessities, yet have no idea how they will purchase that one toy that will make their child’s smile shine brighter than the sun. The new mom continues to put on a brave face for everyone around her, but cries in the dark because her anxiety is overwhelming. This doesn’t stop in the month of December. This is reality, and real life is hard.

This is the moment in the post where I’m required to list the ways to, “Get through the holidays.” Not me. Not today. I’m here to tell you, I see you. I’m here to remind you that you’re not alone. I’m here to tell you to be where you’re at because that’s OK. Even in December you’re still a person . . . with a giant heart and ever-changing feelings.

I will say, when you’re ready to look for it, there is always gratitude to be found. In your blackest moments, there is something in your life to be thankful for. When those moments come . . . stop. Look around. Ignore the chaos and the hustle and allow yourself the gift of feeling it. Take it in. Be kind to yourself. Get lost in that delicate stretch of time.

This is my second Christmas without my Dad. This is the second time we are making decisions about Christmas dinner. This is another year he isn’t here in his chair next to my mom. This is the second time he won’t sing Away in a Manger with us. And, this is the second year that before the presents are opened, he’s not here to listen to the next grandchild in line read the beloved Christmas Story from The Bible. This breaks my heart.

But, we will still be together. We still have my mom. The violin will play. The kids will laugh. We will have too much to eat. And most importantly, God is still and will always be good. For this, and so much more, I am thankful.

I hope this holiday season you will somehow find the magic, even if it’s just for a little while. Moms are magicians after all. Look at all you do and who you’ve made. You are amazing, mama. Your world IS tough, there’s no denying it.

Good is mixed in. This, I promise you. Without spoiling it for you, I want to remind you of a few things in case you forget to put them on your list: December snowflakes, hot cocoa, all the hugs, warm fires, the bright lights, LOVE, cozy pajamas, family, a child’s anticipation, all the giggles, cookies, online shopping, HOPE, and even, The Grinch. Really, that’s just the beginning.

If none of that intrigues you, try to remember when someone you love is thinking about what they’re thankful for this holiday season, it’s YOU.

                      My family today

What is holding you back from finding the magic this holiday season? What are you thankful for? 

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