Christmas Tears and Blessings

dsc02450As we go about our week before Christmas, I have to admit that I am an emotional mess.  Partly, these pregnancy hormones are quite the ride!  Tears in abundance all over the place.  About ridiculously silly things.  Oi vey.

But mostly, this is our first Christmas since CL was born (nearly 5 years ago!) that we will not be around family.  For the last few years, my folks would come down and go to our church’s Christmas Eve service (if we remembered the right time…) and spend a quiet, relaxed Christmas together.  Or we would go up to the Farm for Christmas.  My dad outdid himself with Christmas lights last year.  He and my mom made it a magical Christmas for their enchanted, grateful grandchildren.  Of course, then there was all the time spent with extended family, enjoying old stories and making new ones together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the military child.  This is our first duty station that I truly feel like a military family, with actual military family concerns.  Is that silly?  Probably so.  Shore duty has a way of making you feel almost civilian again.

I could talk about how hard it is to talk with family back home lately, because we miss them so much it physically hurts.  I could talk about how we put on those practiced smiles and assure our family that we miss them and love them, all the while clamping down our own sobs at the separation. Or about the unique heartbreak of holding your crying child, assuring them that we will see their friends and family again (and you hope it’s true). I could talk about being so angry at “Uncle Sam”, our service member, the system…the world.  Any military spouse could talk about how unfair the life is sometimes.

Beyond the heartache of missing family, the homesickness, the longing for the familiar, we know we are so very blessed.  And this is what I want my children to know.  I want for my children to find the blessings through their tears.  To find the joy through the dissatisfaction.

Isn’t this a theme of Christmas?  It was a dark and lonely night, the night that Jesus was born.  Not to mention, Mary and Joseph were rather far from their families and all that was familiar.  And their accommodations were not comfortable base housing.  Yet, in the stable, the Savior of the world was born.  A Light in the darkness, the Prince of Peace, and the Hope of the nations.

So, as I struggle to make Christmas merry for my little ones far from all they love, I hope I can help them know that Christmas is more than Santa and presents.  It’s more than the traditions of being with family and friends.  It’s about choosing to celebrate the Joy of world, Jesus.

How do you teach children the joy of Jesus?

  1. Give

This year, Don and I have been intentional about having the children participate in giving to other children in need.  Either through food drives, blanket drives, or toy drives, there have been so many opportunities to bless children who have nothing this Christmas.  The result in our children?  Joy.  They have actual, real joy from giving to others.

  1. Remember

It’s important to talk about memories.  There’s a healing in remembering the wonderful times that made us so happy, when we’re far away from the familiar.  Our kids are so young yet, but as we keep talking about things we’ve done together, people we love, and pouring through the pictures, the children have those concepts of home and love reinforced.  The result in our children? Peace.  It calms their hurting hearts to remember how loved they are from across the distances.

  1. Count

I do believe that it’s ok to sit and have a good cry.  It’s healing.  However, I don’t believe in sitting and crying indefinitely. It gives you a headache and a stuffy nose, for one. What I strive for personally, and try to teach my children, is that we cry, we acknowledge that it’s hard and that it’s unfair.  But then we wipe our tears and count.  We count the many, many ways we are blessed.

  1. We have a phone and internet to be able to talk regularly with our families and friends. There have been generations of military families who never had that luxury.  I refuse to take it for granted.
  2. We are together. I’ll just say that one again: we are together.  Don isn’t on a deployment.  We may be far from both our families, but we are together as a family.  This is huge.  We are so blessed.
  3. We have shelter.
  4. We have plenty of food.
  5. We are making new friends to cherish.
  6. Despite a virus here and there, we are healthy…our children have no health concerns. What a blessing!!

… the list goes on and on.

The result in our children?  Gratitude.  They are truly thankful.  I’ll just add that to my list of blessings, too.

So, a few tissues later, I’ve dried my tears and am ready to give, remember, and count my blessings this Christmas.  No, it’s not my favorite to be so far from our families during the holidays.  But, we are blessed to have such wonderful families that we miss them so.

As I write this, my children are dancing around, playing recorders and drums, happily making their own joyful music.  Their exuberance is proof that emotions are momentary and that we must find the joy in each day.  This is our conscious response to the gift of Jesus, that we celebrate at Christmas: Choosing joy.

I’m not sure my neighbors agree with the children’s choice of joyful expression at the moment. In fact, Don just came home from work and said he could hear their music all the way the way down the three stories of our building. Sorry neighbors, we’ll try to practice joy a bit more quietly!

From our family to yours, we wish you peace and joy this Christmas, and throughout the year, no matter where you are.


Unfortunately, this was the most clear, sane picture of all three kids I captured all season!


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