Years ago, we were headed into our very first Christmas with our new title of “the family that has cancer.” I entered the season utterly exhausted. Six months of the stress of treatment and worry led to very little sleep or mental rest and it was taking its toll.
I entered the Christmas season burdened with worry and sadness that I would fail to give our kids a “magical” Christmas. During the day, I couldn’t catch my breath because cancer, chemo, and the normal chaos of having 3 small boys occupied every corner of my brain. At night, I couldn’t sleep because the quiet house and sleeping kids gave my mind permission to run the tape of all the things I feared tomorrow would bring. Bottom line: I felt like a hot mess.
The physical exhaustion was apparent but the emotional and mental fatigue were draining the life from me in private. While I was physically in the room with my family, emotionally and mentally I was on a runaway train of fear and making every attempt to control things completely outside my control. When I look back on that Christmas, the hard reality is—I missed it. While I was busy worrying, one of my biggest fears came true—I had let cancer become the focus of my Christmas. However, my little one who actually HAD cancer spent his first Christmas soaking up all the good things Christmas had to offer. And there is the grace that abounds when we are at the end of our rope.
Looking back now, I wish I could sit down with first-Christmas me and whisper truth over her heart and soul. I would tell her that it is okay that you are tired and burned out. It is okay that you feel like you have nothing left to give and you are terrified of this cancer journey. It’s even ok to slip away and cry your eyes out when no one is looking. However, you are not meant to carry this burden alone. We have at standing invitation to lay it all at the feet of Jesus, lean into Him when you can’t sleep at night and let His presence give you rest. I would tell her to take a moment to just sit herself down and watch her boys still find magic in Christmas.
I would tell her to not be afraid to feel joy in the season.
If this is your first Christmas, I don’t have a perfect way to make it easier or feel lighter or magical. I simply have an invitation that I wish I had accepted years ago.
I invite you to rest.
Start small and grab a coffee (or your favorite cozy drink). Call a friend and connect. Or take 10 minutes by yourself in a quiet place that calms you. My place is any room in the house that has a lit Christmas tree, and my beverage is anything that is hot and has peppermint but, you do you. No one is going to give you permission for this time and, honestly, you don’t need permission. Taking five minutes today to lay down your burdens for a bit could make room in your busy brain for some good memories and time with your people. Rest doesn’t need to look like a 2-hour nap or a good night’s sleep. It can look like 5 minutes to catch your breath, weep, and remember you are carried and loved (even when you don’t feel it).