I’ve invited my friend Janet Hines to join us for the #BeBoldGirl series this week. I met Janet when we were on the Holy Land Experience trip with Proverbs 31 Ministries. During this Christmas season, Janet reminds us that sometimes we have to let go of old ways for God to build a new life. Welcome, Janet!
Change definitely owns its reputation for being difficult. The change that comes unexpectedly from nowhere. The kind we aren’t prepared for.
Loss through death, divorce, and even addiction bring such change.
As holidays approach, the loss grows bolder, reminding us of what no longer is.
This time for me it was divorce.
After more than 36 years of marriage, my perception and fondness of holidays changed dramatically.
Long time family traditions – gone.
So as Christmas approached those first few years, I could feel myself shutting down.
I was aware of the family traditions continuing – just without me: the wife, mom and nana.
Each year the “shutting down” came earlier.
Moving into my heart, its voice becoming strong and loud the day after Thanksgiving, I knew something had to change.
I was going under for the third time.
God has always been a strong presence in my life, but I had saved Him for the big things. I always felt like a prayer hog if I “bothered” Him too much.
This felt big.
Grabbing onto the lifeline God threw to me in response to my grieving prayers, prayers begging for hope, pleading for relief – I literally held on for dear life.
It was time for me to develop my own traditions. For many years we had several Christmas trees and the outside of the house decorated too. Dozens of presents under the tree. You get the idea.
Living alone changed that.
I bought a (fake) lighted, brown-branched tree and filled it with ornaments made by local artists. It is up all year. Manger scenes I’ve collected from around the world are up all year.
I removed myself from gift giving. I recreated it by giving the older grandchildren a promise. Any time throughout the year if there is a new pair of soccer cleats or new art supplies – they can ask. They love it. I go to dinner with my children when life isn’t crazy hectic. The littles get special treats throughout the year.
I have requested no gifts from any of them, only their time. Last year, when my twelve-year-old granddaughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her to come over and we could have lunch. She looked at me and said “no, I need to buy you a present.” It made for a good conversation about what really matters to me – the greatest gift of all – time.
It took a lot of courage to step out of the long-time traditions for me but by creating my own new ones, I have been able to put to rest the haunting memories of the loss of the season. Gratefully, it has become a new season for me and for my family. It has been hard. Really hard.
God gave me courage to become bold and brave.
Only when I boldly turned to Him and reached for that lifeline He had waiting with my name on it, was I able to move into my new season. One filled with Him. One where I see Him clearer than I ever have in my life. Ever.
It is with great gratitude for His love and sacrifice for me that I can honestly say I am excited about the upcoming season. The journey has been long. This will be my seventh Christmas alone. Yet, I am anything but alone.
One of these years, I might even put up a Christmas tree, filling it with new ornaments – or I might never again. But what I do know: I will be ok with however that works out.
For any of you who have suffered loss from death, divorce, or addiction, it is my prayer that you may seek and find the hope and peace of our Savior. Even if your loss isn’t attached to the exact holiday, you still face many of these challenges of maneuvering through old traditions and learning boldly to create the new.
My life has never been fuller, my walk, never closer to God. And isn’t that the best gift of all? Jesus filling our lives, taking our pain, and loving us.
Janet Hines is a long time resident of Southern Louisiana. She is the co-founder of Mi Esperanza – The Women Of My Hope founded 2002, offering women of poverty life changing opportunities through free education. She travels the world and preserves her adventures on her blog through photography and writing. Janet loves to share life and listen to stories, passionately believing in the power of voice and sight. Connect with her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.