The anticipation for The Hallmark Countdown to Christmas® has been building for weeks. Everyone seems to love the endless stream of happily-ever-after Christmas love stories.
How could you not?
The cynics may think they're sappy. But I am a fan - I have to admit it. I am either wearing a smile or find tears streaming down my face at the end when love is revived, rekindled, or realized.
Some stories involve the young - sometimes the young at heart. Restored relationships, broken homes mended, prodigal children returning home, hardened hearts softened by the kindness of strangers - each story brings a unique kind of joy. I have enjoyed every one I've watched. And I wouldn't hesitate to enjoy watching any one of them again.
I secretly envision living my Hallmark Christmas® - the Christmas when Larry is home. When he will be here to help bring out all the decorations. It would be the one when my heart does not break as I, alone, hang all the memories on the tree.
Maybe in 2020, my Hallmark Christmas® will be "Hanging the Memories Together Again." Larry and I will turn on the Christmas music and be magically taken back in time as we relive the Humemory that each ornament carries. The homemade picture ornaments, and the special ones purchased each year to preserve happy memories of vacations or special holiday outings. The blown-glass church from our Oglebay excursion when Austin was little, and 'Fishin with Daddy.' And all the other sentimental ornaments from all our years together, starting with the very first one - the wooden pipe Larry whittled while at work. It's no finial d'arbre - not a beautiful topper for the tree, not a gift of love. He was killing time, not creating an heirloom. All it needed was a simple strand of red and green ribbon and taadaa, I transformed it into a keepsake. As I search for just the right branch for its display, I'm transported back to 1989.
In my 'Hallmark' Christmas story, this lonely house would be filled with friends and loved ones joining us in our holiday homecoming Christmas celebration. It would be the party we were never able to have because work schedules never permitted it. Larry would be in his element in the kitchen cooking and baking for days preparing for guests. A celebration where he would share his new-found faith without inhibition.
I can only hope - and pray that this will be the last Christmas I have to spend apart from Larry. Though movies, songs, and even our hearts, tell us Christmas is about family - and it is, the real hallmark of Christmas - is the birth of Christ, our Savior.
God's love delivered from heaven.
Matthew 1:21-23 NCV
20) While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21) She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22) All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23) “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
Lost friends and loved ones returning home to Jesus and accepting His Christmas Gift of Love, now that is a beautiful hallmark story worth hearing again and again.
- With a happily-ever-eternal story, without end.
I begin this entry an early December morning after reading my Reflections devotional for today. "Sorrow and Rejoicing" is the title. God's timing always amazes me. I strayed from my customary ritual of reading my two devotionals then journaling in what has become my prayer room. It's a leisurely Saturday. Prompted to write, I got my coffee, sat in my recliner, and noticed the church devotion on the lamp table.
As I flipped to December 7th and saw the title, my first thought was, 'Well, He's got something specific for me to hear.' After, what is now, too close to ten years, God knows my conflict of these two emotions. He also knows the reasons for the conflict.
The story of the Baby Jesus' birth is a beautiful and joyous one. Still, the shadow of His purpose follows. He was born to die a brutal and sacrificial death for the sins of the world. Even still, rejoicing comes at His Resurrection.
Sorrow is generally the result of the loss of something loved and cherished, regret for things said or done, for unfulfilled hopes and dreams, or for things that can never be. Sorrow comes after experiencing the joy of loving, hoping - living, and then losing cherished relationships, losing loved ones, and losing hope.
However, when we place our hope is in Jesus Christ, we can rest in His promises. Even though our sorrow at the losses in this life can prompt the sting of tears - even years later, when Jesus is the source of our joy, we can live joyously amid sorrow.
The conflict comes in response to my ability to do this very thing. I feel like no one truly understands the depth of my sorrow at being forced to live separately from my husband for many more years than is justifiable; or, of greater importance - more than is lawful. No one truly understands the anger I live with about the doubt and patronization dealt to me from a perverse and abusive judicial system, nor the feeling of being powerless against it.
Few ever see my sorrow, anger, helplessness, and pain - but it's there. It's always there. The pain resides deep within, beneath the joy I live out confident that God is in control. The event that delivered such sorrow has brought with it, faith in Jesus to those I love. A faith that might have never been realized absent the pain. My faith deepened as a result of my suffering, to a level I would never have experienced without it.
Still, no explanation nor any description of the pain or joys we experience does anything to change reality.
Rejoicing and sorrow - these highs and lows, are all part of the same mountain I climb in this life, while I await the ultimate joy promised when I meet my Savior Jesus.
Melinda started her fifth year of her devotions reading Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest. In 2015 she has made the commitment to share what this year's journey. Taking a detour, she began living Every Day With Jesus