Joyfully Bittersweet ~

I can have joy in spite of circumstance, I can have joy in spite of people . . . through Christ who strengthens me.  Life lesson I learned through study of Philippians in 1978.

How was your Christmas?  Were there moments that you would like to hold onto as we enter the New Year?  Personally, I do not enjoy the pressure of the “must-do” list that can take over Christmas (whose idea was that?!!)  but I have learned to slow the pace down a bit so that I enjoy Christmas more than I used to.   In fact, I am actually looking forward to putting together our annual Christmas/New Years letter.  It has become a way to personally assess our year while keeping in touch with family and friends we wish we lived closer to.

To be honest, I would assess our Christmas and this past year as being joyfully bittersweet.  The joyful part was centered on the constancy of Christ who never changes and can never be taken away.  The bittersweet?  Well, the bittersweet part has to do with the ever-changing life circumstances over which we have no control.    How can bitter and sweet have any part of the other?   Over the past 30+ years I have discovered that when joy (the constancy of Christ) enters into the mix of life experience, the bitter becomes more palitable with the sweetness of Christ in the mix.   To be sure, it is a mystery, because it is not something we humans can just conjure up in ourselves at will.  No, I believe that the miraculous working out of bittersweet joy in the human heart when it has been broken or suffers disappointment has everything to do with how we relate to God.  Are we willing to trust Him in our ever-changing life circumstance?  Speaking very personally, I have found that the more I am willing to say, “Yes Lord, I will trust you in this,” the sweeter even the hard things have become.

While wonderfully grateful for the family that is near; thousands of miles separated us from the rest of our family.   I have snapshots in my mind and heart from this Christmas that I will hold onto as long as I can:

  • Looking forward each day to reading Christmas letters and seeing pictures from friends and family we miss the rest of the year . . .
  • Finally getting the lights right on our Christmas tree.  (We changed to LED lights that were too bright on their own {we joked about wearing sunglasses Christmas morning to retrieve the presents under the tree!} but were finally able to moderate them with some softer lights.  You may wonder, “MORE lights?”  All I can say is we were grateful it finally worked!)
  • The candles lit in Church for the Christmas Eve service and the crowd of people there to sing praises to God . . .  Glory to God in the highest!
  • The excitement on the faces of our three grandboys just before they started to hand out gifts from under our Christmas tree . . .
  • Talking to my parents who live 3,000 miles away from us about their gifts . . .
  • Catching up with our son and daughter-in-law half a world away on Skype . . .
  • Hearing the stories about the rest of our grandchildren from our other daughter hundreds of miles away . . .
  • Singing “Happy Birthday dear Jesus” with family around the beautiful cake my daughter made complete with 21 red candles and a little creche between the candle light . . .

Joyfully bittersweet?  Yep, that about sums it up!

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:8,9

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