The holidays often bring with them this expectation of sparkle. The tables are beautifully set, the food is perfectly delicious, the relationships with family and friends are glowing.
But just looking around my church this weekend, I saw face after face that told me that it wasn’t that way for everyone. Most homes are fortunate to get 1 or 2 out of 3, but the person who has all three- is probably not reading my website.
For many, the holidays only accentuate the awareness that things are not right, relationships are broken, money is tight. Life is not what you hoped it would be. Instead of the feelings of joy and delight, we feel fear and disappointment. The greater the expectation of sparkle, the deeper the funk we get in when it is not.
Instead of smiles and bright eyes, we often have furrowed brow and hands made into fists.
So how can we expect to find hope and healing in these holidays?
In my last post, (You can read it here) we talked about how our defining moments do not have to be those situations or losses in our life that we have no control over.
But we can do something about how we respond to those moments– how we behave when something out of our control happens to us.
The Psalms are full of places where the psalmists write with a very real- truly raw honesty about life and loss, about their choices and their responses – right or wrong- to the hard things.
One of my favorite Psalms- maybe my most favorite Psalm for that very reason is Psalm 77. I encourage you to read through it several times- maybe even out of several different translations. My favorites are:
- the NIV (New Internations Version),
- the NLT (New Living Translation)
- and the MSG (The Message).
Or choose your favorite. Biblegateway.com has a lot of options to read or listen to the audio.
I didn’t see it at the time- but as I looked back on my grief journey, I realized God used Psalm 77 to teach me how to respond.
In the past, my journals are full of occasions when God told me to OPEN MY HANDS; to let go of worry and allow him to work.
But not this time. This time it seemed like God knew I really would struggle with letting go of- in some ways, my daughter who died. So God didn’t ask me to do it. If fact, he invited me instead to respond backward.
Psalm 77 taught me to NEPO – which is OPEN backwards. This was a way I could respond not with fists, but with open hands.To FIND HOPE AND HEALING in the HOLIDAYS - we might need to NEPO. Click To Tweet
Take a look at Psalm 77: 1-6 in whatever translation you choose, but I’m using the NLT. Over time, this lesson came with a visual. Make a fist with your hand.
Now open your pinky finger and…
Notice your Need like the psalmist.
I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude
4 You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days, long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
I know this is a season to be thankful . But often gratitude is not foremost on our mind in the hard times. We do have needs in our grief- our hearts are broken. Much like the Psalmist NOTICED HIS NEED, We NEED…
- For God to listen
- For God to show up
- For comfort
- For relief from the overwhelming longing for help
- For sleep
- For ‘the good ole days”
During the holidays we may also need
- smaller groups during the holiday
- not to have to fix meals – it’s hard to get it all together
- not to host it
- not to go to someone else’s party
Some people may not understand. But there is a difference between being self-centered vs. self- focused. During grief you may have to focus on your needs before you can respond to others.
What happens when we try to reach out and touch people with fists- POW!
That’s not the way we want to respond. Ok, sometimes it might feel good for a moment, but deep down we don’t want to be the cause of other people’s hurt.
So our pinky finger reminds us that one way we can respond is to NOTICE OUR NEEDS.
What are your NEEDs?
Set aside some time today to ask yourself what you need this holiday season. Be honest.
If you need someone to tell, leave a comment, our email me at Kathy@greenhopecoaching.com.
But that is just the N of N.E.P.O. We’ll look at the other letters in the next post.
In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you.