Dear Friends,

By now you have probably already had more than one grief burst triggered by the holidays. The sights, sounds, smells can set off a memory in an instant when you least expect it. You made it through Thanksgiving (Congratulations) and Christmas is everywhere! A Christmas song played innocently in a grocery store can take you to your knees. The sight of Christmas lights may make you pull over til you can safely drive again. The thought of putting up a tree or shopping may even make you sick at your stomach. Who knew the joy-filled holidays could hurt so much?

It can be incredibly painful to see everyone else look so happy when you’re world has been torn apart. Can’t they see you do not want to celebrate having Christmas without your loved one? Doesn’t anyone realize how immensely lonely you are—sometimes even in a large crowded room or even when you are gathered with dear friends and family. You’re loved one is not with you and the vacancy is so empty. It may be your first time to go through the holidays without them or your third. There’s just so much about Christmas that makes you miss them even more. Even twenty years later, you will find your heart filled with precious holiday memories from the past.

There’s a lot you can do to prepare for facing the holidays when you are still grieving so actively.

  1. Make a list of how you usually celebrate (Decorate, bake, shop, parties, dinner, etc)
  2. Decide what you can pare down to make it manageable in your vulnerable state.
  3. Ask others to help you if it is important to keep up a tradition
  4. Start a new tradition that honors your loved one (an ornament with their photo, candle…)
  5. Accept invitations, but let it be known you have no idea how you will feel that day.
  6. Leave yourself room to leave a party if you need to
  7. Talk about your loved one. Others are often afraid to cause you pain (You just want to hear their name again)
  8. Get a gift for your loved one and give it to someone who it will mean a lot to
  9. GO EASY on yourself. Don’t try to do everything you did before
  10. Celebrate JESUS who was born to bring true hope and eternal life to the broken-hearted. He will never ever leave you or forsake you. His presence will begin to heal and bring joy again.

 

***I’m hosting one more SURVIVING GRIEF THROUGH THE HOLIDAY sessions on Wednesday, Dec 12 from 1-2PM at North Side Christian Church, 2526 NW 122, Oklahoma City, OK (It goes far more in-depth than the above helps.)

 

***Give yourself or someone you know who is grieving a true gift that will help them write down their story, memories and find true hope in the adult or children’s versions of MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU. If you see me, you can get one from me. It will help them work through grief long after the holidays are over.

Love and prayers,

Eva

 

“He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”  Isaiah 61:1

 

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10 (This news of Jesus is especially good for the brokenhearted.)

Heavenly Father,

We made a surprisingly close connection with a very interesting older man from church. We just knew Ken two short years, but he became like family. He was known by another name at church, the “Cookie Man.” That’s because he almost always brought some of his famous homemade cookies to share with everyone. He even had a label for his delicious cookies: “Sarasota Ken’s best soft ginger cookies in the world.” I believe they were. Even during the times he was without a job, he still somehow brought cookies to share. I think any profit from the few he sold went to bake more to share! I will miss those cookies—even more, I will miss his big smile!

We know he has brothers, sisters, sons and grandsons he dearly loves, because he told treasured stories of them all. We have only got to meet one son—the one who stepped way out of his comfort zone to care for his dad as long as he possibly could. Even in the last few weeks, when he was in a facility on hospice care, you could always see Mark’s mark that showed he had been there to care for his dad (clean clothes, his favorite Steelers shirts, TV turned to his favorite football game, OU Blanket, notes to the staff, drinks…) The father and son might have butted heads in their time, but there was overwhelming evidence of true love there. I’m praying for Mark as he feels the loss of his dad’s presence and the loss of taking care of him.  I pray for the rest of Ken’s dear family who I may never meet before heaven. It’s amazing how Jesus bonds us all in Your family, Father.

Lord, it seems my cheering section in heaven is growing as more friends and family have a glorious get together in Your very presence. I know I will join them any time between now and if I reach 115 years old. Once Ken feasts on Your glory and all the wonders he sees, I have no doubt that he will enjoy the feast at Your table because that thin man sure did love to eat! We will miss sharing meals (and his  ginger cookies) with Ken…until we meet again, dear friend! I know he is enjoying the full glory of You, our Heavenly Father, and You have another one of Your loved ones home with You!

*****

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 

 “…for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”      2 Corinthians 5:7-9

*****

 

Prayer Prompt-

Father, am I living prepared to die?

Gracious Heavenly Father,

I often think of Ola when I start to feel sorry for myself. She taught us how to truly count our blessings. She was a very frail little old lady, confined to a wheelchair and oxygen. That didn’t keep her from coming to the grief support group I attended after my first husband died twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t necessarily a Christian grief group so the mood could often be bitter and depressing. Then Ms. Ola was wheeled into light up the room. She had so many tragedies in her life- her husband was alcoholic most of his life, then was severely injured in an explosion, then died years later. She had a little daughter die at an early age. Two of her sons had recently died. She also had terminal cancer and heart problems. As we all were feeling sorry for ourselves, Ola would say, “There’s always something to be thankful for. Just count your blessings and name them. It completely changes how you see life!” I took her advice when it seemed I had lost so much—I was amazed to discover how blessed I began to feel as I listed what I was thankful for.

So here is my very tiny short list of just a few things I am incredibly grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day: Father, first of all, I can never thank You enough for creating me, giving me life, loving me when I did not deserve it, for forgiving me, for sending Jesus to take the death penalty for my sins so I can live with You for all eternity, for never ever leaving me alone, for sending the Holy Spirit to live with me and in me, for Your guidance, protection, wisdom and all the delightful ways You give me abundant life when I stop and count my blessings. There are so many that the more I list them, the more I feel I might burst from gratitude. I am fully aware that every single blessing in my life flows from You to me. I need to stop and say thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

So here are a few more: Relationships have to be at the top of the list. You have surrounded me with the most incredible people to love. It seems the more I think about how thankful for them I am, the more I love them—my husband (my best friend), each of my precious grown children (by birth and otherwise) and their dear spouses, my grandchildren (each with their unique personality and gifts that are so fun to watch unfold), my cherished brothers and sisters-in-Christ around the world (how I love seeing Jesus in them!),  our parents who mean so much to us, our neighbors and friends, my leaders (at work, in government, and in the church who You have placed for such a time as this for Your good purposes), for the precious children and families I work with…even for those who might hurt me or persecute me (it gives me a chance to love like You!)

Lord, there is so much more to be thankful for! I have just begun to list my blessings. Ola was so right. When we thank You for our blessings, we discover we have so many more than we could ever dream of. I will be thanking You for all eternity and it still will not be enough time!

 

*****

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”   Colossians 2:6-7

 

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever, to Him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.”        Psalm 136:3-4

 

******

Heavenly Father,

It is the first snow fall of the year. Yes, it is beautiful, but as an early childhood teacher, it may mean a really wild day at school today! There is nothing like a class full of little kids who are seeing or perhaps playing in the snow for the first time! If we don’t take the kids outside, they will be super-hyped-up, looking at the snow through the window. If we make snow ice cream, they will be super excited about their first real “snow cones!” If we take them out, there will be 12 sets of wet shoes or boots to take off, a dozen freezing noses and sets of red hands, wet clothes and coats everywhere! Snow is exciting in our warm climate state. It is lovely and pure to look at when it is outside; yet it sure can bring a mess inside!

Hopefully, it will also provide good sleeping weather at naptime! How many minutes til naptime? Give me strength, Lord to make it until naptime and please let them sleep today! I need some You time, Father. I need some quiet alone time with You! Even if there is a room full of babies or preschool kids—if they are sleeping, I can get a moment of sweet alone time with You. I can handle the afternoon with a room filled with rambunctious little ones, if I can get a few refreshing moments with You.

You are the one who gives me Your peace, refreshment, strength, eyes to see and enjoy the beauty of snow out the window and even tracked all over the room. You are the One who lets me enjoy such crazy chaos and love each of these spectacular kids with all their unique idiosyncrasies. You are the One that gives me the supernatural strength and patience to care for each one of these precious children…but please let me have a few moments of quiet prayer time with You!

****

“Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”  Psalm 51:7b

“’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow…’”  Isaiah 1:18

“I pray that out of His riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Ephesians 3:16-17

*****

Prayer Prompt-

Father, help me take some quiet moments with You today…

Heavenly Father,

I know elections can bring out the passion in people on all sides—no matter how they vote. Here it is the day after the elections and You are still God! You still reign. You have your eternal plans which last long after any man-made promises or schemes are forgotten. It is good for people to listen to candidates and make their choices for who they believe will make the best leader. It is wise to study questions on the ballot and make choices. With all the ugly fighting and hurtful words that fly around in the heat of an election, it is wise to be humble as both the winner and the loser. The vote is counted. The results are in. Now we need to live in peace with the choices which have been made.

My four and five year old grandkids play on a soccer team. They know how to have fun playing, enjoy one another and the game, and relish in the cheering on the sidelines. They also know how to show respect while winning and losing. The parents from both teams make a human tunnel for both teams to go through while giving high fives for a great game. The day is not ended upon whether or not they win or lose. How nice it would be if there was no name calling, ugly rumors spread, hatred for those on the opposing team… how much more respect could we have for one another if candidates and their supporters kept their passion for their beliefs, and not let that passion turn ugly and personal toward their opponents. What if we had respect for those who believe another way would work better? What if we loved those who disagree with us and us with them?

Father, our enemy is not flesh and blood (Whether it is family, a spouse, ex-spouse, co-workers, neighbors, political parties, or anyone else with skin on.) Our enemy is the one who likes to stir up hatred, division, disagreements. It is good to have passion for what we believe. It is better to have love for those who do not believe as we do. Lord, I love You passionately. Yet that passion means nothing if I don’t love others. And You tell me to love others—especially those who appear to be my enemies. Yes, it is the day after another election—and You still call on us to love others.

 

*******

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:10-13

 

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as Your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:44-48

 

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see  and disapprove and turn His wrath away from him.” Proverbs 24:17-18

*****

Prayer Prompt-

Father, show me how I can love and pray for those who disagree with me…

Heavenly Father,

I am getting ready to go vote for the offices and questions on my ballot. I know my little vote counts. I realize that there have been many deaths and other sacrifices throughout our country’s history to guarantee that I continue having the right to go fill in those blank spaces on a ballot. Yet, my one single vote goes much further than I can imagine. It is important that I study and vote to keep that right and others safe for my grandchildren and generations to come.

It is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric, arguments, power struggles over these elections which culminate today. The choices I make are important—so important that I dare not make them without bowing before You, the highest authority. You get my vote first of all. I come to acknowledge that You created all that there is. There is no other higher power or authority on earth or in the heavenly realm. No one voted You into Your position. You are the Great I AM! Nothing can change that. You always have been and always will be. Nothing that was made was made without You, Your Son and The Holy Spirit. You could be a tyrant and wield Your almighty power without giving us a say. Yet, in Your perfect plan, You created us with a free will—with the freedom to choose You or not. Each of us has rebelled against You and sinned against You, yet You still sent Your own Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and raised Him victorious over death and sin so we could freely choose You or not choose You. His blood was shed so I could choose.

I want You to know that I choose You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit. You are my King above all earthly kings, presidents, judges, legislators, commissioners, governors. Whoever I vote for today (and I ask Your wisdom in selecting who I vote for) will be here today and gone tomorrow. But You, O God, reign forever and ever. Thank You for the incredible sacrifice You gave so I could freely choose. I choose You for my God, my King, My everything—and I pray that my choice has an eternal impact on everyone around me for generations to come.

*****

“They lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.’”   Revelation 4:11

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  John 3:16-18

 

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20

*****

Prayer Prompt-

Heavenly Father, let me choose You and Your Son Jesus Christ on this day…