The end-of-the-year holiday season is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love hot cocoa and Christmas decorations, Christmas music, snuggling under a blanket & watching Christmas movies with my kids, egg nog, parties, and all the traditions that Christmas brings.
But this holiday season has been different for me, as it has for many who will read this. Louisiana was hit with a historic flood the week of August 13, 2016 that left 100,000 residents of the capital city of Baton Rouge and many surrounding areas displaced. I was one of those homeless flood victims. There has been heaviness on my heart as I’ve rummaged through my flooded home, trying to salvage some of my things, knowing there would be very little to save. I’m struggling to rebuild my life, my home, just like so many others in this area. I’ve cried. I’ve screamed. I’ve been angry. And this difficult holiday season has reminded me so much of my first holiday season as a single mom.
My first Christmas as a single mom my infant son and I spent the entire day alone. I was struggling as a brand new single mom, because I never expected to be there. I always thought my life would be different – that my kids would have their dad around and we’d all cozy up around the Christmas tree and celebrate together. And like many of you, that didn’t happen. I had to move into the projects and live on food stamps. I had no money and few friends. It was a dark time. I was humiliated in every way.
When Christmas morning rolled around that year, I slept in as late as I possibly could. You see, the later I slept, the less hours there were in that horrible, lonely Christmas day. I wasn’t invited anywhere for that morning or that lunchtime or that evening. I stared at my baby boy most of the day, as I laid in my bed and cried. The phone did not ring. No one knocked at my door. I couldn’t bear to cook a Christmas meal for just the two of us. Depression doesn’t even seem to be an adequate enough word to describe how sad I was that day. I gave my little boy used Christmas toys that had been cleaned and wiped down the night before and wrapped for him. Many of those holidays as a single mom left me eating meals alone or suffering in silence, convinced nobody cared.
But you know what, friends?! The Lord began to deal with me recently as I’ve reflected on my past holidays as a single mom and the recent tragedy of suffering through the Louisiana flood of 2016.
The Lord gave me a simple truth: How we live this holiday season is our choice.
No, being a single mom wasn’t my choice way back then, and it likely isn’t your choice either. Maybe it wasn’t your choice this year to be single or to have a poor health diagnosis or to have some money problems. But…it is your choice how you handle this holiday season and each day of the year, for that matter. See, it’s our choice to choose joy every day. It’s our choice to embrace the peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s our choice to rest in knowing that this season, although difficult, is merely a season that will pass, bringing in a new season.
I want to challenge you today to make some different choices this year. And those choices start today:
- Choose to focus on what God has given you. Maybe things didn’t turn out like you planned. Whose life ever does? But stop and think about what God has given you. None of you have to celebrate the holidays alone. Choose to invite a friend over. Choose to take your kids out to go look for Christmas lights or pop popcorn and watch movies. Choose to make a list of things you are thankful for. There’s just so much more that we can choose to do, rather than sit home alone, depressed, and feeling sorry for ourselves.
- Choose to rejoice in the real reason for the season. Focus on Christ’s birth. Do you know that most people I talk to during the holidays who are struggling with the holiday blues haven’t even thought of Christ’s birth, the very reason we celebrate at this time of year? Sure, we may know what the holiday season is, but do we really consider the cross. Think about how much you love your children. Think about how you would do anything for them. Now, think about sacrificing the life of one of your children for somebody else. That’s was God has done for us. He has looked down from his throne on High and said, “My daughter, I love you. I see you. You will never have to live separate from me. I’m going to set you free from your past.” That’s the real reason we celebrate. Who cares if we don’t have money this season? Or the kids didn’t get what they wanted? Or our house isn’t rebuilt yet? Or we aren’t living in that home we had hoped to buy?! The Creator of heaven and earth sees us and loves us and wants to walk daily with us.
- Choose to focus on new traditions this year. Maybe Christmases of the past included an ex-husband that is no longer around. Maybe your former traditions no longer hold true this year, for one reason or another. Create new ones! There are hundreds of things you can do this Christmas season that cost no money and can be beautiful, new, traditions that last a lifetime. e.g. Read the Christmas story with your kids this season – no matter how old or young they are. Get the Bible out and read it to them. Put on some Christmas music and make cookies with the kids. Make ornaments for the tree. Have a karaoke night. Write cards for the elderly. Visit a nursing home to sit and talk with folks who may not get visited. Serve at a homeless shelter.
Single moms, sometimes we choose to walk in our feelings. We focus on what we don’t have or what they did to us or how hard this time of year is. Sometimes in our walk with God, we navigate our faith, based on our feelings. Let’s choose different this year. Let’s choose joy, peace, patience, rest, celebration, and excitement this year.
We have one week until Christmas. Let’s choose today to make it the best one ever!
Jennifer Maggio is an author of four single parenting books, CEO of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, and national speaker. She is a mother to three beautiful children. She has a passion for single mothers to live a life of freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.