Reflections of Christmas 2016: A Story of grief, hope and healing

As I reflect on this year's Christmas, I am filled with peace. Christmas 2015 was the most difficult Christmas I've experienced in my whole life. My mother passed away in February 2014. Ironically, that first Christmas season without her wasn't the most difficult. We had just retired from the military and moved into our new home. After countless hours of unpacking boxes and organizing I didn't feel up to pulling out Christmas decorations. It just seemed like too much work, so we kept it simple. I believe we did put up our tree, but that was all. There were no great expectations for the day. We opened presents, had a nice morning together and that was that.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015 and it was a whole other story. I completely decorated the inside of our home while my husband took care of decorating the outside. I planned in my head just how Christmas morning would go. I planned and prepared an elaborate afternoon meal. The plans in my mind, resembled the Christmas's I had as a child. I was determined to give my girls wonderful Christmas memories, even though their grandmother was gone. I wanted them to have the Christmas's I remembered. I jumped right in and played my mother's role. Christmas morning came. Things weren't going as beautifully as I envisioned. It hit me like a ton of bricks my new reality. My mother was gone. Old traditions had faded. Time keeps moving forward and I can't live in the past. I had to face reality head on and I didn't like it, not one bit. I sobbed all day. No one knew. I would retreat to the bedroom and cry my eyes out. Once I felt composed I would rejoin my family with a forced smile. I felt awful inside. I missed my mom's presence immensely.

Following that eventful day, I realized I could no longer hold on to past traditions. I had to create new ones. I could keep my memories and share those with my girls, but I had to embrace the future. Having this firmly planted in my mind for Christmas 2016 made it easier to cope.

God's timing is wonderful and beautiful. My dad remarried in October of this year. Nancy, his wife, is a true gem. I couldn't be more pleased to have her here and to see my dad come alive again after my mom's passing is nothing short of a miracle. This Christmas we created new traditions. I held onto my precious memories while embracing the present. It was a perfect day.

Seasons come and go. Seasons of bliss and seasons of sorrow ebb and flow throughout our lives. Nothing stays the same forever. Learning to embrace the present and face reality is powerful. You can't live in the past, just as you can't fast forward to the future. Whatever season you're in right now, I encourage you to embrace it. Whether it's good or one you'd like to skip over, it's reality. Facing it and embracing it allows for healing and forward movement. And now I'll leave you with this verse of scripture: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.