Friday, December 2, 2016

It's The Holiday Season

The Christmas season has often been called the "most wonderful time of the year!"   And it often is for many people.   I have been a big fan of Christmas since I was a little kid.  I probably should confess that I still "believe" in Santa.  I love what Christmas represents for the most part.  Of course, the main thing is the birth of Jesus, the greatest gift ever given!  Then there is the fun holiday movies, music, parties, the spirit of the season and the happiness of children on Christmas morning!!

But the holiday season can also shine a bright glaring light on the "holes" in our lives.  The mistakes, the sadness, the struggles.    It is common knowledge that depression is strongest around the holidays.  That addicts struggle the most with their addictions.  That people over spend, over stretch themselves and forget to do what really matters ....find the real meaning behind the season and the simple happiness in being around those that they love the most. 

I consider myself to be a reasonably wise person.  I know that God created me for a purpose and I do my best each day to work to achieve that purpose.  But even I admit that sometimes I struggle this time of year with finding the "significance" in my singleness at this stage of life.  I deal with the financial pressures I face as a single mom of a college student in a heighten way and I tend to beat myself up with the would of, should of, could of's at this time of year.

But I am taken back to the simple message in one of the Christmas cartoons I use to watch as a child.  Charlie Brown struggled with feeling alone and left out.  He couldn't seem to do anything right! (anyone identify?)   He constantly seemed to fail and his friends didn't let him forget that he did.  But in the midst of all of the chaos, no one seemed to point out to Charlie Brown the most important lesson of all...he always tried.  No matter how many times he messed up, let others down, did things the wrong could always count on good ole Charlie Brown to pitch in when needed.  

I love the scene in the movie when Charlie Brown is grumbling about not having friends or getting any Christmas cards.  He says in his own unique way "I know I don't have any friends! I don't see why we have to have a holiday to emphasize it!"   We laugh at Charlie Brown but in reality, many of us have been guilty of secretly feeling that way.    Someone didn't invite us to a party, others get big gifts and we get none, couples get engaged and we wallow in the fact we are alone.

Fighting to find the joy can be a daunting task at the holidays.   Comparing yourself to others and what they have is a killer.    Letting the little irritations of life get to you and grow larger than life is a joy stealer.   Isolating yourself from others is a sure fire path to a disastrous and miserable holiday.

In the chaos that was Charlie Brown's attempt to direct a simple Christmas play with a pitiful little tree, it took a thumb sucking, blanket dragging little boy to walk to the middle of the stage and gently remind everyone what Christmas was all about!!

So to my friends who are like me and struggle during the holiday season...may we learn a lesson from a little boy named Linus who didn't try to give the best gift, earn the top spot in the play or write the most eloquent speech.  Instead, he went to the tried and true and quoted words from the most prolific writer of all times and put into a short span of time the true meaning of Christmas.....

Happiest of Holidays to all of my wonderful friends and may the God we serve and love bless you all this Christmas with His most wonderful grace and love!!
Your Friend - April Phipps

Saturday, January 30, 2016

And So It Goes

Have you ever had an awesome and horrible day at the same time?   It's what I like to call my most horribly awesome day ever :)    Horrible because of the pain, but awesome because of the healing.   Bad because your mind and heart goes places that you don't want to go!  But by going there, it allows your heart time to process and continue to mend where it has been broken.  I experienced a moment of unexpected grief today out of the blue when I happened to hear a song that I had not heard in years.   If you know me, this just got my mind to going and thinking and I felt like I should share in case it would help someone else :)

Grief is a strange thing.  We often associate it only with physical death.  But grief is so much more than that.   It is the thing we struggle with on a continual basis when we lose something that was dear to us.   When a relationship is ended, a friendship is loss, a situation happens out of our control that takes us to places we never intended to go.   Grief is defined as keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.   And grief never seems to manifest itself the same way or at convenient times.   It can come upon you when you least expect it, triggered by the small and most seemingly insignificant things.

Grieving is always given a negative connotation but the truth is that only by allowing ourselves to work the grieving process are we capable of moving on from what was to what is waiting for us.   Allowing ourselves to hurt and to feel is the only thing that will break down the barriers that we put up so quickly around our hearts.  Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves.    We have all heard "fool me once, shame on you.  fool me twice, shame on me".   We pride ourselves on become "hard" or what we like to call "smart".   We make blanket statements like I will never allow that to happen to me again.   I will never trust anyone again, etc.

When we suffer the physical loss of someone, we grieve and struggle with feelings of permanent loss.  The loved one that was taken is gone never to return.   We have to find the sense and the peace in the loss.  But we have our memories to heal us.  Physical death touches each of us at different times and there is something in us that makes us sympathize with other people because we feel a kinship because of our losses.

Losing something relationally brings grief in such a different way.   Our grief often takes us to places of isolation.  Leaves us feeling that there is no one who understands what we are feeling, or that no one has experienced the kind of hurt that we have felt.   Because of how broken our hearts are, we tend to try to bypass the grieving process altogether and pour ourselves into other areas of our lives, hoping that by staying busy and preoccupied, the hurt will just turn numb or go away altogether.

But grieving will happen one way or another.  It will happen by choice or by force.  You can allow yourself to feel the pain, the hurt, the rejection or you can stuff it all until you no longer have room to contain anymore.  Grieving will always bring a degree of pain, but it also brings cleansing and healing if you allow it to.  

God gave us grieving as our way of working through our struggles.   Grieving reminds us that we can still feel, that we are not emotionally dead.   By trusting in our heavenly Father and turning loose of the controls that we have around our heart, we begin to slowly allow the grieving to turn to realization and that realization then to healing.    The realization step is so important because in early stages of grief, we go through anger and denial.  Hurt is so raw that we are in danger of either becoming consumed by it or of shutting down altogether by refusing to deal with it.    When we get to the place that we are ready to accept the reality of our situation, then we are ready to take a step in a new direction.

That direction is then determined by the choice we make and that is to become bitter or to become whole again.   Neither happens to us overnight and honestly we all probably wrestle back and forth between the two.   But whatever we commit ourselves to is what will win out.   The enemy would love for us to succumb to the anger we feel when we face our reality.  He wants us to see only the unfairness of the situation or better yet, drown us in guilt that we caused the situation and we are to blame!

Our heavenly Father wants us to allow ourselves the freedom to grieve, experience the hurt, release the anger and allow Him to help us to move into healing.    He is faithful, patient and kind with us.  We are His children and His heart grieves for us and with us.     Grieving isn't pleasant but it is necessary!  

What situation or situations in your life have you failed to grieve over?   What is the condition of your heart?  Have you allowed yourself to truly face the reality of your situation?   Going through these steps will not break us like we fear, it will actually give us the freedom to walk into a new situation without bringing the baggage of the past with us!

Allow the Lord to minister to your heart and bring you to a place where He can help you let the healing begin :)

In this thing called life with you my friends-
April Phipps

P.S.  I have attached the song that started my journey today :)  It is one of the saddest, yet most beautiful songs I have ever heard!