As I walked out into the dark evening, I couldn’t help but hear the sound of the little red bell, held by the lady on the corner singing Christmas songs, and collecting donations for the Salvation Army.
All around me, people are sipping warm drinks out of red Starbucks cups, and wearing their cute boots and scarves. Lights strung on trees, garland on houses, and Christmas trees peeking through all of the neighborhood windows.
For Americans, these are the little things that remind us that the holidays are here and that Christmas is coming. For me, these little reminders bring back so many memories of holidays gone by and anticipation of what’s to come.
The holidays can be such a sweet time of cherishing family and finding joy in the small things.
But sometimes, they can be bittersweet- and for many, more bitter than sweet.
Because sometimes, they can be a gnawing reminder of where you don’t want to be and what you don’t have.
Through seasons of heartache, grief, or prolonged singleness– sometimes the holidays can be hard to bear alone.
For those of you who are single and struggling- you learn to sort of brace yourselves for the holidays, don’t you? From the annoying things you hear at get-togethers (why, oh why, does everyone feel the need to comment about your relationship status?), to the constant reminder that you’re walking through the holidays alone- there’s no doubt that this time of year can be really hard.
So to those of you who are single and struggling this year, here are some perspective shifts that might just give you a little boost to get you through this time of year:
1. Don’t look at “who” you don’t have, rather focus on who you do have: Christmas parties, family get-togethers, and church gatherings can be some of the loneliest times during singleness. Because being surrounded by people can actually be the times when we feel most alone. It’s hard not to look around at the relationships that others have fostered, and the little families that have started to emerge and feel the sting of standing as one. One thing I wish someone could have told me during those hard moments in my single life is that the those moments are some of the greatest opportunities to invest in one-on-one interactions and get to know people I may not otherwise have the chance to do.
This may be hard to believe from the outside looking in, but now that John and I are married and have two kids, Christmas parties and family gatherings are spent “wrangling kids” as we call it – taking care of them and keeping them out of trouble. We were just venting the other day about how hard it can be – or should I say, nearly impossible- to really invest and interact with family and friends now that we’re in this new stage of life. We’ve learned that every stage comes with its joys…and its own trials in different ways.
Take advantage of standing alone by being deliberate about starting conversations, meeting new people, and spending quality time with the people you love. It’s such a valuable time to spend with parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, because the reality is there will be a day when your time to invest will be limited due to having a spouse and children. Each stage comes with both its blessings and its limitations. Seek to enjoy the blessings to their full potential while you can.
2. Tap into the community of loved ones: Along those same lines, take initiative to get together with friends and put out the invitations rather than waiting to be invited. There are so many fun ways to connect with people by hosting a party or a get-together of your own. Rather than sitting around feeling isolated and alone, be proactive and make something happen.
Not only is it the perfect opportunity to get together with your community, it’s also a great time to reach out and serve your community! There are so many people out there in great need, longing to experience the love and grace of the holidays. Take some time to step outside yourself and ask God how He can use you during this time of your life. If you want to reach out and lend a helping hand, I’ve put together a list of 25 of my favorite Holiday activities and service projects. So pick a date, send out an invitation, and make it happen! God has surrounded you with a community of people to love and be loved by, but it’s up to you to tap into it and connect.
3. Choose to make the holidays about what really matters: It’s easy to get caught up in the superficial joys of the holidays. While I believe it’s important to enjoy the fun, it’s also important to remember what the celebrating is really all about. More than giving gifts, socializing, baking goodies, and getting all dressed up for parties, the Christmas season is about the welcoming of a Savior who chose to reach into our broken lives with His healing, love, and grace.
It would be such a shame for this season to go by without really taking the time to connect with God by making time for His presence to invade our lives just like He did 2,000 years ago. What a precious opportunity to get alone and get with God in the quietest of moments, allowing Him to remind us of the true meaning of “God with us”. Merry Christmas. May God give you the grace, the courage, and the strength to make the most of this season that lies before you. Such a precious reminder for us all.
“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.”