These Days {the holidays} : Full of Aches & Pains.

Oh these days.These days hurt, they're filled with a lot of pain, deep aches, and the looming question, "will this ache and almost-dred of the holidays ever dissipate?" I know for a fact that I am not the only one who tends to have a bitter-sweet taste towards this time of year. Frankly, it saddens me that I am completely human and cannot push away these pains & be 100% happy. But life is not about my happiness. What I mean though, is sometimes I get down on myself, hard on myself, for feeling sad during these months. I too quickly diagnose it as selfish pride, which it very well may be. But diagnosing & labeling myself that way only makes it worse and creates more bitterness. All of today I was stuck inside my head mulling over conversations: words I should have/shouldn't have said, facial expressions I wish I did or did not make, you know, internally processing the first part of the first holiday. Then I would tell myself to quit thinking about it & move on; forget it. And then I thought, "Natalie, if you don't allow yourself to feel the pain, to process the aches, to be REAL now, then in about 20 years it will barf itself out all over the ones you love most. Your husband & children. Feel the pain & realize you're human." So together, let's be real. Let's not be constantly talking about ourselves & our situations, but in the moments of silence, let's be real with Jesus, get on our face, and cry out to Him. Let Him heal you before you make your heart messier than it needs to be.

About 35% of children are in a single-parent home = broken family. I didn't look up the stat for deaths in families, but I know that's also an aspect of depression during these days. I see that culture itself attempts to make divorce "normal." I now understand that growing up, when I "just wished my parents would divorce like Heather W's parents, because life would be so much easier" that I was believing a lie that culture has so creatively formed. No matter who you are or what age, or even the situation, there will always be a disconnect when your parents are not together. EVEN IF it is way better they are not together, say due to abuse, there will always be that brokenness. That dysfunction will remain. It will remain simply because God created it differently; and for some reason, if it's not "working" the way it was created to work, it is broken and not as good. It is not whole. So when culture tells you that your pain is invalid and that you are a puny whimp for craving what was meant to be, ignore it. Ignore that lie. It's like telling someone their toilet is normal, even when it clearly does not flush & is overflowing; bad analogy, but you get the point: if it's not working the way it was created to, it's broken & almost useless. It hurts & that is okay, because broken families equals broken hearts. And broken hearts ache. Now. Broken hearted I sit in Starbucks drinking a peppermint hot chocolate. As I prepped dinner yesterday, I was struggling all day. It was weird. Really weird. I had been having these "growing pains" days before Thursday arrived and I know Jesus was growing & molding my heart; He was definitely stretching me & I would love to tell you why someday. Face to face. BUT, as I sit here, I want to make a bigger point than the brokenness that surrounds us. We are engulfed in it! It would be so easy to allow the sadness of my broken family, and those broken around me, to become my focus. It would be so easy to shut off, shut down, and become a face in the crowd without a smile. But where in the Bible does it say life will be easy or simple? Where does it say we get to slack on self discipline, and choose the easy way, the wide road? Oh wait, it doesn't. I want to challenge you and myself to do two things: 1. in the silence, in the intimate moments with Jesus, FEEL YOUR PAIN & CRY OUT FOR HEALING, for joy; 2. in the busy, in the celebration moments, in the bulk of life, focus on Jesus and gratitude for your Savior. As a response to that gratitude of His unending & undeserving grace, look outward and pour your life out as an offering. Stop focusing on ourselves & our pains, and look outward serving this city and this world in the name of Jesus. Loving the other broken hearted people. Don't succumb to talking depressive talks with other depressed people...how is that edifying anyone? It just brings on more bitterness & who really wants to be around that? Stand tall, for the glory of God and be an encouragement. Heck, do you know what a smile can do for someone's day? Just smile & be intentional about it. Be ever grateful for the red, green, & gold everywhere; the warmth of this season. The music and lights! The joy and the coffee! I am sure we can all find something to gloom and ache for, but I am positive we can all find something to be thankful for. One thing, is the hope for salvation! Hello! We have true hope, people which brings true joy.

20131129-201423.jpg In honor of this season, I thought I would post a photo of my LOVELY inaccurate nativity scene :)

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