The Contractions of Winter

By Dr. Penny Freeman
(Originally published December 2016)

Holiday Expectations

Holidays set the bar high for crashing afterwards. We long for a feast that invites us to feel both full and at home. To enter a house feeling the welcome of belonging. To hope for laughter, warmth, joy and delicious food (that is what commercials are selling during the televised breaks during the parade after all). 

To hold these feelings is to enjoy the glory we were created for in Paradise. But no matter how good your family is, there is no family or food that can live up to the expectations our souls seem to crave.

Challenges and Disappointments

This year's holidays begin on the heals of a presidential campaign that gave a lot of people PTSD symptoms. All one needs to do is turn on the TV, or scroll through Facebook, to discover how fractured we all feel. Our nation is at war with itself, having learned nothing from the history lessons we teach to 5th graders. Not only do we not feel at home with our family; we can't find rest in a nation that isn't unified.

The holidays also come right after the Daylight Savings time change. It is now dark at 4:40 PM and us folks who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) just want to get into our jammies and go to bed. The light of the summer is past, and the color of autumn still may need to be raked up off of our lawns. And I have to tolerate this darkness that descends on my psyche for 3 months. To obey the command to "be thankful always" I choose to sing songs that lift my spirit. These are songs that help me focus on the Creator of the seasons - yet they don't do anything to make the winter shorter.

Finally, for many - I am in this group - the holidays remind me that we are missing loved ones I have seen on to Glory. My husband and I are now patriarch and matriarch, and have been this way for 8 years too many. We have lost precious ones we used to share the holiday with, ones who once gave us a sense of an extended family. Now there are no parental figures above us to buffer us, their grown children, from the reality that time will part one of us from the other.

A Yearning for Something More

Fullness, joy, family, laughter, warmth, peacefulness, and belonging. Aren't these huge expectations to place on a long weekend in November and a few days in December?

Am I just a Scrooge? Am I just depressed? Am I blathering a downer message? Perhaps. My husband is happily listening to Christmas music in the next room. I am snuggled in bed, waiting to sift through the contrasting feelings: although I love my family deeply, and enjoyed the food and festivities (and yes, I will again cook another "mostly brown meal" again next year), I have the courage to admit that I yearn for more.

I yearn for so much more than any holiday can ever deliver. I will enjoy my grandchildren playing with the Christmas ribbons, and the delight of a 2-year-old when he sees the tree lit up will make me shed tears (not sad ones!). But when the holidays are done - something will be missing.

Christmas Hope

And with that admission, a gentle calmness comes to my heart that just might take me through the next few weeks. Like a laboring mother, I will breathe through the contractions of winter and wait for the birth of a Savior - and the coming joy of Spring.

- Dr. Penny Freeman, Copyright 2016