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.


The Greatest Blessing Of Marriage

A few weeks ago I was given the courage to write about the hard places of marriage, and the surprises of those first few days and weeks and months of being newly wedded as husband and wife.

The surprises were just a few things I wasn’t prepared for and kind of blind to in the early days of being a wife. And now I also know I was blind to the greatest blessing of marriage. It has taken almost a decade for me to recognize this great blessing as we grow and gray together, raising children up and living this life that God has given us to glorify Him.

Creating a new family heritage is the greatest blessing of marriage. 

new heritage

Yes. My husband is my best friend. Yes. He is my true love. Yes. We have four beautiful and unique children together. These are all wonderful blessings. But for me, the greatest blessing is creating a new heritage with my best friend as we walk in parenting and life together; side by side as we strive towards honoring the Lord. 

A heritage is what a family gives and passes on from generation to generation. When two become one flesh in marriage, God says, ” a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.”

Back in the times of the Bible it was common for women to leave their families. It was radical for a man to leave his family and go be with his wife. Really. Radical.  The whole inspired truth from Genesis when we first see the picture of marriage is radical: that man AND wife would leave their family and their traditions and their heritages and cleave to one another.

Cleave. To cleave to your spouse means to become strongly and emotionally attached to them. To leave your old familial heritage and cleave to, or become strongly established, in making a new heritage with your wife.

The greatest blessing of marriage is found in the first few pages of scripture. 

Leaving all the old heritages and creating new ones. 

You get to do that in marriage. God says it.

This means new traditions for you, your husband and your children based on your uniqueness in Christ and the words from scripture.

This means you and your husband can decide how you want to honor the Lord when you are building your own heritage at Christmas.

This means when it is time to decide what to do about Santa, or advent, or stockings, or presents. God says, you shall leave your past and cling to a new present with your husband.

You get to decide together. You get to choose what you pass on to your children. 

This means, as long as you are honoring your parents, you get to decide where you children will wake up on Christmas morning.

This means, as a married couple you get to choose your heritage. You get to decide the traditions your children will look forward to each Christmas, birthday, Easter and Thanksgiving.

The heritage is yours to pass on.

season of i hate yous

My prayer is that as husbands and as wives we would with courage, be able to leave the old traditions and build new ones; honoring our past heritages and the Lord. I pray our children would grow up to be a great nation, seeing Jesus in their new heritage and as they marry, I pray they would pass on a greater heritage for our grandchildren, honoring the Lord.

Traditions are important. You and your husband get to build and refine your heritage. You get to choose.

This is the greatest blessing in marriage. Build a strong heritage for your children.

A new heritage. Just you together. Pass on the truth of Jesus, make His name great.


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