I’m a holiday girl. You know what I mean? I LOVE holidays. All of them. I love the family time and the traditions and the food. Oooh… and the decorations. Let us not forget the decorations. I may or may not have three storage containers of pumpkins. It’s a problem.
While all those things are great, I especially love the spiritual side of holidays. I see most holidays through the lens of my faith and what Christ has done for me and in me. I will tear up at the mere mention of freedom in a patriotic song on the 4th of July because it reminds me of the freedom I’ve found in Christ.
Even though I love all holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always held a special place in my heart. I just love everything about this time of year—the music, the lights, the cheesy Christmas movies. I really love the “cooler” weather. (I live in south Georgia, y’all. I’m pretty sure I wore a t-shirt and flip flops last Christmas.)
But mostly? Mostly I just love how the season of thankfulness paves the way to rejoice in the birth of a Savior who came to live on the earth as a sacrificial lamb to die for my sins.
Even though I love the holidays and easily connect them to my faith, I sometimes get a little down. The holiday season is arguably one of the hardest times of year for singles. It may just be me, but it seems to be even worse at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by family and friends yet feel completely and utterly alone.
Everything is a constant reminder that you’re alone: sitting at the kids’ table at your family’s Thanksgiving feast, crawling in bed alone on Christmas Eve, watching your nieces and nephews open presents with awe in their eyes, seeing family pictures pop up on your social media feed. Believe me, I know. Nothing will make you more aware of your singleness than when your family got brand new matching stockings for Christmas and said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there” when you asked if someone thought to buy an extra one for your future husband.
I recently asked a couple of my single friends why they thought the holidays were so hard for us, and they all responded with some variation of the same answer—the focus on family makes you more aware of your singleness. In the same breath, they all said they did everything in their power to take their mind off their loneliness. They surround themselves with family and friends. They find joy in giving to others. They focus on the things they are thankful for. They remember the real reason for the season and observe Advent. They start their own traditions.
My friend Stephen and I were talking and he said some things that really put this season in perspective for me:
Being single during crucial celebratory times can get us all ‘in the feels’ because we’re alone. Selfishness can come in many forms and flavors and sometimes even disguises itself in the troubled heart and clouds our capacity to give thanks.
He told me to think of selfishness and self-centeredness as the Dead Sea in our lives. Everything in it is dead and stagnant. Nothing comes in and nothing leaves. Nothing grows and nothing thrives. On the opposite end of the spectrum, selflessness is a river. Everything is living and moving. Everything that gets caught up in this river is swept down the stream on the ride of its life.
He reminded me that thanksgiving in the believer is found flowing from the selfless heart. It allows us to position ourselves in any situation to look for ways to be thankful and rejoice—even when facing a financial hurdle or a broken heart or a holiday spent alone. When we give thanks, we make way for our Hope to invade the things we are thankful for. Giving thanks isn’t solely about being thankful for what is. Being thankful is also about being thankful for what could be—planting a seed of hope in a barren land, stirring the waters of a dead sea.
That same list of things that make us feel more alone during the holidays? What if instead of feeling sorry for ourselves in those stagnant places of selfishness, we turn them around and remind ourselves of how much we have to be thankful for?
- The kids’ table at Thanksgiving? It makes me thankful I have food to fill my belly and kids to love on.
- The bed that I hate to crawl into alone on Christmas Eve? It makes me thankful I have a home and a bed to call my own.
- The small children in my life opening presents with wonder and excitement? They make me thankful I get to witness the joy of Christmas through a child’s eyes.
- The sweet family pictures that inundate my news feed every holiday? They make me thankful I have friends who welcome me in to every aspect of their lives.
When we shift our focus from selfishness to thankfulness, our entire perspective will change. Let’s focus on thanksgiving this year. Not just the day we eat turkey but the very act of giving thanks to the One who gives us so many good gifts.
Let’s let this holiday season be one of holy thanksgiving.