The holidays and family can be either be joyful or depressing.
So I want to share a story with you. It’s about a little girl who thought she was alone, especially during the holidays.
She was transplanted into a strange land where people didn’t speak her language. She barely knew English. And the people didn’t look, act or dress like her. But because her immediate family was with her it wasn’t a big deal. She was always inherently strong and resilient.
Her resilience morphed into doubt. Her confidence wavered and insecurity stood in the foreground. Her father had to play both roles and did his absolute best. However, certain voids were inevitable.
It was certain. Her mother was gone. Her family from far away somehow got farther. And this strange land was now her permanent new home. And it wasn’t as welcoming as one would hope.
It was already difficult having to adjust to her mother’s death. But there were so many other difficulties she would have to face.
She was often ridiculed and bullied because she was different. She was made fun of and picked on because of her accent, odd sense of humor … or even because of her longing to “fit in.”
Time went by and she was able to make some friends. She was invited to their homes for dinners, playdates and sleepovers. Some went better than others.
But one thing is for sure. She was very sad deep inside. She saw this “family unit” that she longed for. She witnessed years of memories, bonds and traditions through their eyes, actions and behavior – something that she knew she would no longer have. She was absolutely envious and wondered why she didn’t have that. Why her chance for family was taken away.
Her mom was gone. Her extended family was far away. And her brother, would eventually be in his own world. It was basically just her and her daddy.
And although she was always “daddy’s girl”, that deep urning for family lived in her soul for years. At the time, she didn’t even really know it …
Then she was displaced yet again. This time in another region of this land.
But this time, it became her permanent home. She adapted. She grew. She flourished. It wasn’t an easy road, but it certainly was one that helped shape her. The journey helped her see life in new ways. It helped give her courage to begin to see the world in ways maybe others wouldn’t.
Throughout the journey, she lifted silent prayers for not only guidance in her life, but for specific voids to be filled.
Then when she was only 21, her father moved back to their original land. The decision was for many reasons, but with one big reason that she would originally follow. But her destiny had other plans.
So father and daughter were separated by great distance, however considering this, they did their absolute best. At the same token, she didn’t really fathom how challenging something like that was at the time. She didn’t realize this would PUSH her to grow up even faster than she already had. She had to become self-reliant, confident (even when she wasn’t), to figure things out on her own, and to become STRONG even when she didn’t want to.
The holidays were always the hardest. Because during this time the distance was truly felt. And she would frequently receive comments like, “oh you’re all alone here?” or “what, you don’t have any family here?” And it was always with a pitied look on their face.
I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm by it because they didn’t know better, however those words echoed in her mind. They traveled with her and created a stigma that would ultimately make her feel a similar isolation she first experienced after her mom passed.
But was she really alone?
No. She just didn’t know how to categorize what blessings she actually had.
You see her silent prayers – even the ones she didn’t realize she was lifting – were being answered one-by-one. And year-by-year.
God’s promise and faithfulness is a blessing. We just have to open our eyes and our hearts.
Over time He filled her void with a growing and healing relationship with her dad, friends who became her family, a reconnection and strong bond with her family of origin (blood family), and her best friend whom she married along with his family and loving parents.
This little girl is me. This is just a small, tiny, little fraction of my story.
And I’m writing this to everyone out there who has ever felt LONELY during the holidays. Everyone does. And some more than others.
Sometimes we feel extremely alone because of the recent loss of someone, a void that’s never been filled, and illness or financial struggles. Ask God for strength and pray through it…
And then other times we can feel lonely — even when we’re surrounded by many, many people. And sometimes the lines can blur and we mistake feeling lonely with being alone. Because maybe we’re not seeing what’s really in front of us. How God can compensate us in different, unique ways for things that are “missing” in our lives. Blessings and gifts come in all different types of packages. We just have to ask. Believe. And be open. See.
And as you can see family was always very important to me … it always will be. And I have felt all sorts of loneliness.
But I’m here to remind you that family comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors. Sometimes it’s blood-relations, sometimes it’s not.
I have been very blessed to have some VERY special people in my life. They have been there for years – and several for decades. Do I have my “Big Fat Greek Wedding” size family? No. But God has placed quality people into my life where we value each other’s relationship and we make an honest effort to grow together. And of course, sprinkle in some differences … because, hey, family does have that also 😉
But overall, family is about acts of love, service and kindness. It is about being loyal, ready to take care of those you love, ready to fight for you when you can’t and even when you can, ready to take on the world if the world were against you. And my family has done exactly that. From the fun times … to the moments where you feel like your life is in the gutter. To knowing you inside and out … and knowing your thoughts without you having to speak. To loving you unconditionally and showing that through the power of action, loyalty and empathy. To lifting you UP when you can’t. And to creating years of memories, bonds and traditions … but now through OUR eyes, actions and behavior.
It took me years to get to a place where I felt confident in knowing who my family was – and who wasn’t – and taking a stand for it being, well … different.
Because everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s experience and journey is unique. And my story is filled with many ups and down, sacrifices, and traumas. It has proven that blood is not necessarily a pre-requisite. Sometimes certain blood relationships can hurt you the most … or be the biggest stranger in your life. You may be connected, but blood doesn’t inspire trust and love and loyalty like family should. It only obligates kin to “give” these things, instead of the real act of giving from the heart.
So, now that we are officially in the week of Christmas, I hope to pass along a gift of empathy … a gift of enlightenment … and a gift of encouragement.
If you come from a traditional family … avoid lessening someone else’s family just because it doesn’t look like yours. Try to approach things with love and empathy. Put on their shoes, wear them and feel them. It may provide a new insight that you will help deepen your love and appreciation for someone.
If your path is untraditional … do not think it’s less important. Your family is just as important as anyone else’s. Embrace it! Cherish it. Appreciate it. If people don’t understand your difference – it’s up to you to share it with them, but it’s it up to them to want to understand. Understanding is obtained where empathy meets and enlightens two people from different circumstances. Just never seek approval. You don’t need it.
If you’re feeling lonely or haven’t yet created your family … do not be in despair. Family is closer than you think. First start with God. Pray. Be humble. Ask. Trust. He will guide you … and your heart will be filled.
Family is something we CHOOSE and is GIVEN: our closest people, our most precious people.
We all need caring, loving thoughts right now because everyone comes from a different perspective and the holidays can create a mix of emotions.
May the JOY of the season fill your hearts giving you hope, strength, love, understanding … and new found perspective of the meaning of family!
Merry Christmas! ✞