Finding Shelley At Christmastime

For years I have struggled to find her. For seventeen Christmases I have looked for her but I have been so overcome with grief that my eyes couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Christmas is a hard time of year for anyone who has lost a family member.

As a fourteen year old girl I lost my mother and it has taken me almost two decades to recover.

For as long as I could remember I was waiting for others to bring her back. I put the expectations on others to do Christmas like she did and each year Christmas passed and my expectations were not met. I felt disappointment and loss in the belly of my soul and this made the cycle of grief start all over again.

Finally, this Christmas I have found hope. I have found the hope in honoring her, after sixteen other Christmases have passed. Sheesh, it feels like it took a lifetime. But today it was worth the wait. 

Today, I found my mom in the simple words of a recipe for Christmas cookies. Just one taste of the uncooked batter brought me back to childhood in her kitchen years ago. I baked Christmas cookies with my kids today and I told stories about my mom at Christmas.


I found her in the handwriting of her recipe book. The large loops in her cursive and the perfection and consistency of each stroke.

While I iced the Christmas Tree shapes and added the red hots I told my sons this was something I looked forward to every Christmas as a child. I told them I would even sneak bites of the refrigerated batter and how my mom would catch me anyway.


There have been plenty of opportunities for me to choose bitterness and loss and grief at Christmastime. There are plenty of opportunities for me to stick in the cycle of grief and let the bitterness take root and grow.

If she was here it would be different. It would be better. I do miss her. My kids and my husband have never experienced her laughter. My kids have not been able to experience the blessing of involved maternal grandparents.


I could choose to celebrate Christmastime with emptiness each year.

But instead, I choose HOPE in the midst of loss and unmet expectations.

Hope falters the growth of bitterness. Choosing hope at Christmas is a choice.

I choose to find my mom in the traditions and the stories. This has not happened overnight. It has taken sixteen years of sadness and choosing grief and the plauging seed of bitterness over the fruitful seed of hope.

Hope is what would be honoring to my mom at Christmas anyway. She wouldn’t want it any other way. If she was here she would tell me to dry my tears and teach my children to find her at Christmas. Grandma Shelley is not here physically but she lives her in our traditions.


Finding Shelley in the traditions is a choice.

Finding hope in loss is a choice.

Finding Shelley at Christmas has taken me almost two decades but I am thankful I found her today. In the cookies. The simple cookies with the red hots.

And I hope to pass her on to my children. I hope to give them hope. And stories. I hope to teach them that God’s story is full of people who lost but these same people had their eyes fixed on something Greater.


2 thoughts on “Finding Shelley At Christmastime

  1. Kathy Toth says:

    So thankful for the healing and hope you have found – thank you so much for sharing your heart with us. As someone whose children only have one grandmother left and had to go through the grief of losing a grandfather during the Christmas holiday – we can understand just a bit of what you have shared – and your words give us hope and encouragement. Merry Christmas Rachel – your mom would be so proud of what a caring and fun mom you are with your children and how you are honoring her memory.


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