Christmas time is a time of remembering. And yet, for many, those memories bring deep sorrow. Maybe it’s because the memories themselves are frightening, or heart wrenching – or maybe the memories are good, but there are far too few of them. Thinking of them only makes me want more of what I can no longer have.
Either way, you may be avoiding memories this holiday season, as best you can. I do that sometimes too.
Today, I want to encourage you to stop and remember anyway. Because hidden in the pain, are some precious nuggets of the goodness of God.
Remember the wonder of the new fallen snow the very first time you walked in it as a child? How about the excitement of seeing your first falling star? Or the joy of successfully riding a bike for the first time? Or the thrill (or terror) of riding a roller coaster?
Life is sprinkled with wonderful moments, even if we don’t stop to think about them very often. Today, I’m turning the clock back to my own childhood, just to pause and find some treasures there.
I remember sitting in the middle of our big kitchen table while Mom taught a group of 4H girls how to cook. This is one of my “snapshot” memories – those pictures in my mind that don’t really have much detail. I wonder how I kept from kicking over various ingredients as I wiggled! Since I was so small as a child, it probably wasn’t a big deal, but I still think Mom was brave letting me be in the middle of everything!
My dad loved to push me on the big swing set in the backyard. It was a homemade swing set, welded together with steel pipe. The top bar towered way over my head – and dad’s. It seemed to be 100 feet tall. Dad would run under me, making my swing soar off into the clouds. Honestly, it scared the stuffing out of me every time he did it. I would hold on for dear life.
The sensation of falling was never my favorite thing. I was even afraid of slipper slides. In Kindergarten, I tried so hard to overcome it. When the line formed to race up the steps of the slide, I joined in it. But when I got to the top and looked down, I couldn’t do it. I paused. Then I turned around and made everyone get back off while I descended the stairs. Ugh.
I was brave the first time I rode a roller coaster at Six Flags in Dallas with my big brother. But I can’t say I liked it. LOL.
Cookie baking, playing with the baby kittens, or pretending to be a mom in the little play house in the front yard – those things fit my personality better. Adventure? Not so much.
When Mom and Dad taught me to ride a bike, they took turns running beside me on the dirt road in front of our house. I still remember the panic when I realized Dad had let go, and I had sailed on without him. I turned around in the seat to look at him, and promptly fell off! But at the same time, I realized I had done it by myself – at least for a little while. Before long, I was brave enough to ride all by myself.
I think memories are kind of like learning to ride a bike. It might be too frightening to try it on your own, especially if your life has been full of sorrow. Maybe a friend could run along beside you for awhile and hold you up. And honestly, when I get lost in a memory, I often just want someone to be there so when I tell the story, there’s someone to laugh – or cry – with me. Because let’s be honest, memories sometimes bring deep pain, and it feels like I have fallen off that bicycle and scraped my heart again. But if I let the fear of pain keep me from stopping to remember, then I will also forget the joy of the good times.
So today, I’ll climb on my memory bicycle and ride awhile. Remembering my own childhood will take me down the road to other memories of my own children – swinging in the park, learning to ride a bike, or setting them on the counter to mix up a batch of cookies. And I’ll remember, and smile, and cry. And thank God for the memories of those precious gifts.