Have you ever cried while doing the dishes when “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” started playing in the background?
I will never admit or deny that this happened to me (okay, fine, it did. Jeeze, twist my arm, will ya?).
Being halfway across the world when the holiday season rolls around has always held a twinge of poignancy interlaced with the Christmas carols, scents of cinnamon and balsam, parties, and gift giving. But this year is different (hence, the tears provoked by Judy Garland’s voice). This Christmas, that somberness feels a little heavier, a little more palpable. It’s the hard-to-ignore reality that, very literally, half my family is on one side of the world while the other half is on the other. And due to administrations and borders and erratic policy changes, the idea of all of us being together, in one spot, always seems just a little out of reach.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on your troubles will be out of sight
Track with me here for a second: think of a beautiful room.
Big windows. Tons of light. A soft, plush rug. Plants adorning every corner. An inviting, comfy couch that beckons you to put up your feet, sip some tea, and maybe page through a book. A roaring fire and a warm, fuzzy blanket.
Just as you let out a long sigh, someone alerts you that the door to this beautiful room is actually locked from the outside.
Suddenly you’re not so relaxed anymore. Nothing in the room has changed; the fire is still crackling and tea still steaming. But now your mind is laser focused on the very real fact that you are trapped inside the room. You don’t have the key. You cannot get out.
The room that was once so beautiful has now turned to chaos, panic. The book is cast aside, the tea left untouched. The elements that once brought so much peace to the room are completely forgotten as you focus only on trying to escape.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on your troubles will be miles away
Are you catching the analogy here? God has blessed my husband and I so much while we wait here in Turkey. We have a cupboard bursting with food, fresh produce weekly, a great community of believers, an almost-too-warm apartment, many opportunities to operate in ministry. The list goes on.
But it’s easy to lose sight of all the ways God is taking care of us when the choice for us to be here was not ours to make. In so many ways Turkey is beautiful and special to us. But in so many ways, Turkey can feel like a prison, its walls closing in on us inch by inch.
It is not our choice to be here in Turkey, at least not this long. We cannot choose to be with our family in America. We cannot choose to start building up our lives. Suddenly all the blessings God has given us turn into waves crashing all around us. The freedom we felt being in God’s hands starts to feel pretty similar to claustrophobia.
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
To gather near to us once more
Life right now is shaky and unstable and unpredictable. With new travel bans announced in one country and the tightening of granting visas in the other, we are very tangibly caught in the middle, and life seems to be throwing us forwards and backwards and upside down.
Oftentimes, I’m guilty of praying to God about our situation and then, in the same breath, taking a giant peek at my circumstances and all the waves crashing around me. Anxiety rises up inside my chest and the hopelessness and disappointment set in. Thank you, Jesus, for He always gently beckons me back to Him.
Want to know something good? Yeah, we are in a locked room. And yeah, we don’t have the choice to unlock the door. The most beautiful thing though, is that Jesus is in this room with us. He sits with us and cries with us. He also laughs with us and teaches and grows us. Right here in this room. When His timing is right and perfect, the door will be unlocked, and, oh, how we will rejoice.
Until then, I will continue to string up orange garlands above my window, light candles, and delight in the fact that this is my husband’s and my first Christmas together where we can begin any holiday traditions we want. We’ll make gingerbread cookies and listen to old carols (and maybe skip past a few).
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
We were talking the other day, my husband and I, about our situation, our locked door, and the crazy waves. We decided that it is so much better to be in Turkey and be totally in God’s will than it is to be in the United States and have God’s hand removed from us.
So until that day comes when the door is unlocked, we will have ourselves a merry little Christmas right here.