One of the reasons I’m drawn to windows is that no two are alike. Each has a story- where it came from, glass clarity, layers upon layers of paint, chipped wood, unique hardware- they are a hidden secret, these windows. From one side the glass appears unscratched, the wood clean and solid, but turn it around to see the bottom left pane loose, paint worn, wood shabbied, a chunk missing from the side.
The same window, but different in appearance depending on what side you view it from.
I’m finding the holidays to be like windowpanes.
The lights, sparkle, and cheer showcase the “good” side, the presentable windowpanes. There are Christmas parties, family traditions, childhood wonder, and the celebration of a Savior. Eggnog sips, peppermint licks, and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” playing over chatter and laughter and toasts.
These are the beautiful, peace-on-earth moments we hope to capture.
Little fingers open Advent Calendars, decorate holiday cookies, and practice songs for Christmas plays.
“O Come Let Us Adore Him” we sing.
See how the holiday panes reflect so brightly on this side of the window?
Now, lend me your hand. Together we turn the window around.
Do you see the drab paint? Peely wood and scratches on the glass? Permanent dirt stains stubbornly stick between pane and wood frame. This, unfortunately is the “other” side of Christmas.
Where people are experiencing loneliness, sadness, financial heartache, and fear.
Weeks ago I sat across a friend, our hands cupping over-sized mugs of spicy chai, and her eyes brimmed with sadness at entering another Christmas alone.
“I want someone to bring to my family’s on Christmas Day. And snuggle with on the couch. And ask about my day. I want someone to do life with.”
Another friend lands on my heart. Her son’s ornament hangs from the tree, but she feels the sharp pang of what could have been, had he made it full term. She is choosing joy this Christmas, but inside, the undercurrent of sadness and pain exist. It’s letting go of dreams for a son, and in his place trusting God for His healing mercy.
After several miscarriages and physical complications, a college friend has a hysterectomy. She grieves the loss on a hundred levels.
Sitting on my bedroom floor, I read an email from a couple in our life group who feel called to sponsor their neighbors. Tears come as I read about this family with three children. “Her oldest son was diagnosed in 2009 with ALD (adrenaleoukodestrophy) a disease that breaks down the myelin on your neurons and becomes fatal in 1-10 years of diagnosis. Within a year of diagnosis, he lost all bodily functions and can’t even speak.” The mom, a nurses assistant had to quit her job in order to care for her son. Reality weighs that this could possibly be his last Christmas. Finances are slim and there is nothing extra to buy the kids presents. Will you help give them Christmas, she asks?
A widow enters her first Christmas without her husband. She’s unsure of how it will be to sit in their church pew on Christmas Eve without him singing by her side.
Broken pieces of glass everywhere. So much heartache- financial, emotional, physical. Almost more than one can bear.
Bryan brings home an envelope from work. Inside, a list of twenty four children, their clothes sizes, wish list, and Target gift cards with specific dollar amounts. It’s our third year participating in ROCKHARBOR’S Giving Tree, where our church sponsors local families in need. Gift card donations are given, collected, and we are one of the blessed families that take those cards and wish lists, and together with our sons, buy specific gifts and clothes for each child to open come Christmas Day. It’s a humble reminder of how much we have to be thankful for, and that giving truly is better than receiving.
And so we see Christmas from the other side.
For every person who sees lovers holding hands and snuggling close and feels loneliness.
For couples noticing parents buying oodles of presents for sons and daughters and grieve the reality of a lost baby.
For a family clinging to a child who is slipping from their fingertips; barely making ends meet, bills piling high, the stress of managing a home with two healthy kids and one terminally ill. Heartache heaps.
For most of us who can afford to buy our kids gifts, there are children whose eyes will light up at the sight of one gift this Christmas, unaware of their parent’s humble acceptance. What does the New Year hold for these families in need?
It’s the same window; only different sides, a change of perspective.
Can I encourage you with this?
If you are on the celebratory, merriment side of the window pane this Christmas, please share it with someone who is wanting to be where you are, but for whatever circumstance isn’t. Embrace the tinsel and lights, sing carols and spread cheer, because they will greatly benefit from your joy. Don’t feel guilty for your situation, but do be aware. Surprise them with their favorite coffee or tea. Pen them a handwritten note and drop it in the mail. Hang verbal, out-loud words in the air, telling them that you are thinking of them in this season and that you care. Stating the obvious pain and wrapping it in compassion could be the most healing gift they receive this Christmas.
Be willing to see things from the other side.
Where there is love, there is also loneliness.
Where there is jubilee, there is also sadness.
Where there is an abundance, there is also financial heartache.
Where there is peace, there is also fear.
And we need both sides of the window pane to appreciate and extend compassion during Christmas, and every day after.