A Bittersweet Christmas

A Bittersweet Christmas December 28, 2017

WhatsApp Image 2017-12-27 at 9.03.40 PMAt the end of this year, I’m in a reflective mood.

I’m spending Christmas break with my family in one of my favorite places in the world: the big, beautiful log cabin my parents built on 13 acres in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. They have lived here full time for twelve years, and have been weekending at the original, smaller log cabin for 23 years. Yet we all know this is probably our last Christmas here.  WhatsApp Image 2017-12-27 at 9.02.11 PM

At Christmas, my family comes up from Atlanta, my brother’s family arrives from Singapore, and we spend a precious week or two together before scattering again. This place is an oasis for not just my parents, but for us. There is plenty of room for the cousins (and the adults!) to hang out, play games, sit and talk with family, take a much-needed nap, go on walks “over the river and through the woods,” or (my personal favorite) simply sit by the fireplace and read.  Even when Jeff and I have a book or curriculum deadline (as we do right now!) this place is so restful.  As you may be able to sense from the pictures, it is truly a blessed retreat, in every sense of those words.

WhatsApp Image 2017-12-27 at 9.06.32 PMYet everything changes. Ever since my dad’s scary stroke two and a half years ago, we’ve all known we were probably living on borrowed time here. It is simply getting harder and harder for Mom and Dad to maintain this place, even with getting local helpers to cut wood or drive the tractor to maintain the property. (When we can convince my little 90-lb mom to NOT haul logs in the tractor, that is!) And my brother and I live way too far away to help regularly – not to mention in an emergency. (I’m a 10 hour drive and he’s a 26-hour flight!) So my parents have put their beautiful home on the market and are planning to move to a retirement community near us in Atlanta.

We’ll be back here this summer helping them pack everything up… but this is the last Christmas.  WhatsApp Image 2017-12-27 at 9.05.00 PM

How does one say goodbye to a way of life? This is the only Christmas my kids have ever known.  My thoughts turn to Ecclesiastes: There is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven.  I suppose one says goodbye by focusing on the hello: welcoming a new stage, a new time, a new season. And by putting things in perspective. I think of those whose transitions to a new life were hard and brutal this Christmas: our dear friends who suddenly lost a wife and mom two weeks ago; those who got a dreaded diagnosis; my husband who for the first time can’t call his sweet elderly father to hear his voice on Christmas. By contrast, my bittersweet sadness is so minor. Especially because it is also filled with joy and memory. And that leads me to thoughts of gratitude: which is the main thing all of us should hold on to this holy season. No matter where we are.

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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average, clueless people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).

Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge demonstrates that kindness is the answer to pretty much every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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  • Andrea Brankin

    Looking forward to the future, being thankful for today. Hard to manage thoughts and keep emotions in check, but you are reminding me that a forward mindset and being thankful for His many benefits is the only way forward through times of transition and sadness. Enjoy every moment of this lovely Christmas cabin and what it has meant for all of you. In heaven there are no goodbyes!

  • Steve Bateman

    Shaunti, having read your books and your blog regularly, you almost seem like a member of our family. Thanks for sharing this story. Sometimes it seems so painful when the issues associated with health and age rob of us of some of our favorite things. Do all you can with pictures and other treasures to allow those memories to live on for you and for your extended family.