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The Light of Gratitude: A Christmas Card

We acknowledge the painful holiday reality at least in passing. People make it their Facebook status for an hour. Churches open the doors for “longest night”  or “Blue Christmas” services. Yoga studios hold winter solstice asana practices that honor the darkness and welcome the emerging light.

The reality is THIS: Not everyone experiences this holiday season as bright and cheery. I would go as far as saying that nearly everyone, except for perhaps the very young, have some feelings of loss and loneliness that cast shadows over the sparkly lights and the brightly colored presents.

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Bright holiday lights cast shadows. Photo taken by Nicole Havelka at Bronson Park, Kalamazoo, MI.

Almost all of us miss important people who have transitioned from this earth — parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, friends. Some may have left us a long time ago. Others may have left within the past year, months or weeks. In either case, the gaping hole of their loss is painfully present.

This “joyous” holiday season — filled with screaming consumerist messages about what we should want — can give way to self-judgement about the other things that can’t be easily purchased on sale at the mall. We might yearn for a new, fulfilling job, a faithful partner, children to nurture, a loving family and more true friends. Most of all, we yearn for the tide of loneliness and loss to ebb.

This year, I found myself occasionally slipping into this “not enough” mentality. At times, I allowed my mind to think too much about the lost home, friends and job I left in Iowa. I became angry and sad that I wouldn’t be able to go home to see my family or watch my nephew open presents on Christmas morning.

Despite my skepticism about consumerism and my sometimes grumpy attitude, I LOVE preparing Christmas gifts. This year, I turned the packing and wrapping of boxes, the baking of cookies and the signing of Christmas cards into a ritual of gratitude. In blissful exhaustion, I readied all the boxes and cards for the last trip to the post office. An ocean of gratitude flooded my heart. These boxes were being sent to beloved friends and family who had loved and supported me this year and for many years. No matter how high the stack was, it was just the tip of the iceberg of the people in my life who love me not in spite of, but because of, my many foibles and failures. 

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The stack of packages waiting to go to the post office. Photo by Nicole Havelka.

If I were to write one thing in my Christmas card to you all this year it would be this — you HAVE enough already; YOU are enough already. No matter how bleak the circumstances or tremendous the loss, God is there to light the path, to walk alongside you on the journey. Exercise gratitude as a remedy for loneliness and loss. The small lights burn even brighter because of the darkness.

Have a happy and joy-filled Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years!

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