Pessimism does not come naturally to me. Positivity is in my top eight strengths according to Gallup, so when I say I don’t like something, I tend to cringe a little bit. There’s got to be a silver lining somewhere, right? But holidays are hard. Growing up, holidays were anything but joyous. Filled with the day to day chaos in our home, coupled with the stress of entertaining or going somewhere to celebrate, our family was typically on edge and not incredibly kind or celebratory during the holidays. Conflicts generally arose and the meaning of what we were supposed to be celebrating got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way.
Fast forward to my adult life with my husband and kids and things are a lot more celebratory. We truly enjoy being together; spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and our church family. However, there is always that longing, as I have found to be true for most of my sisters and brothers with childhood trauma, for what might or could have been. A “normal” childhood if there ever was the hope of one. And this is why I don’t like holidays and I know that is true for some of you, which is why I felt compelled to write this today.
Even though holidays are hard for me, I still get excited about them. I live for the energy of the week, especially when it comes to serving my kids and our church community. We have an incredible village and they are the very best to celebrate with. Easter week happens to be my favorite because I love reflecting on what the cross means for all of us. How our God would hang there on a cross, all day, for us. When he could have easily come down and chose another way, he didn’t so we could live with him forever. Good Friday and Easter Sunday illustrate life so beautifully to me; especially within the context of my faith. We cannot have the celebration of Resurrection Sunday without the mourning we experience on Good Friday. We cannot have joy without pain, greenery without a storm, life without the prospect of death. This is a sobering reality and makes sense within my own life. The first eighteen years were mostly tumultuous and now there is joy. I could not have gotten here to this jubilant state of being without suffering and, in a strange way, I am grateful for all I’ve been through–the good, the bad, the ugly.
Which brings us to this week. It was a rough one for us. We found out something about each of our kids–one needs tubes in her ears, one has special needs, and one has a sinus infection, high fever, and heart murmur, which gave us quite a scare with a trip to the ER last night/early this morning. This led to my being the only one in our family attending Easter Sunday services today at our church and Easter getting “cancelled” for our large family celebration. Normally I would not be fazed and perhaps even welcome a calmer holiday, but with all that was going on, I wanted a reason to celebrate. I said yesterday after our first trip to the doctor that I don’t think I can handle anything else. And then more happened and I felt the cracks start to form in my heart and mind.
When I came to church this morning, I was met with love, prayer, and a worshipful service that I will not soon forget. I have said to several of my mentors that the case for the church is so strong. This community of people who bear one another’s burdens like our Savior did our burdens are living proof that we are meant to exist in right relationship with one another in order that we might have a joy-filled life in the midst of turmoil. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this week without the church. How do I handle being a mom to a child with special needs? What do I do when my daughter’s temperature is climbing so high and I feel helpless because nothing I do seems to help her? Who can I run to when I’m so exhausted because my baby won’t sleep since her ears just aren’t right and we cannot get into ENT until a week from now–and that’s only for the consultation?
I run to my people. To the people that love God so much that they cannot help but bestow that love upon other people. I know that some of you have had difficulties with the church. Trust me, I have been burned before, too. There are certain communities that are toxic. Life is messy and people are complex, but if there is one thing I learned it’s this: it is possible to find your people. I have finally found mine and I cannot tell you how freeing it is to exist in a community that will wrap its arms around you no matter where you are at in your life.
Finding this community has not come without a lot of effort and trial on our part. And here’s the thing about people–eventually we will get hurt by them or extend hurt unto them. The church is full of people and is not immune to this happening. But I have found that it is so worth the mess to have a community of people that love you because of who you are and Whose you are. You know, if I’m being honest, I still don’t like holidays. But I really do like my people and my God. And that has made a significant difference in my life. I hope you might find that hope, peace, and joy someday, too, wherever you’re at.