In the past, this season has marked extra efforts on our part to make a difference in other people's lives. We have done Operation Christmas Child; I have baked cookies for groups that distributed them to the homeless on Christmas Eve; we have prepared and delivered Christmas hampers; I have bought mitts and scarves and balaclavas for the men who sit on the street hoping for a little Christmas cheer; we have contributed goats and sheep and business loans for families in countries where these things provide a means of existence; we have donated money and attended fund-raising banquets to help provide for others; we have designated money for our church's work in the community; and on and on.
I am more than a little ashamed that I have planned nothing like that this year, for the first time our almost-eighteen years of married life.
Even as we continue to move forward into this season of festivities, I know that there are families amongst our friends and community for whom this is not an easy year in which to celebrate Christmas. Families we know have suffered loss and pain in these very days and they're hurting. In addition, my head tells me that there are a lot of people out there who cannot afford this time of year, who have no home in which to celebrate Christmas, who have suffered more than I ever have; but my heart is not fully engaged. I am stuck in a state of self-centeredness.
Even armed with the knowledge that there is great need beyond my walls, I have been so/too focused on the relief and sense of thanksgiving for being where we're at. In the years of trying to build our family, times such as Christmas were entered with such mixed feelings; I haven't always looked forward to Christmas with anywhere close to the enthusiasm that I bring to this year's Christmas season. When Matthew was born, we began to build traditions and to celebrate a little more consciously, and found ways in which to give within our community, but all of this was with the knowledge that our long-time desire and efforts to complete our family were hanging over us.
Infertility, the not-knowing, the endless waiting, the never-ending roller coaster of circumstance and emotion...these things take a toll on one's heart over time. Even last year, with our kids home and family complete, I wasn't ready for the joy of Christmas. I was struggling with moving on from the previous decade of waiting and hoping and being disappointed; I was working to understand my own depression following the coming home of our younger children; it was just plain hard.
This year feels a bit like the emotional shackles have finally dropped off. The weight of life is so much less. So it's interesting to me that this is the year that I have all but ignored the fortunes of others in favour of concentrating on my own.
In celebrating our reasons for thanksgiving this year, I am determined yet to find a way in which we can participate in something bigger than ourselves in the coming weeks. Maybe that will be the way in which to truly express our own gratitude.