Grief, Recovery, and the Holidays: Christmas and a Recipe Card

Me prepping the chocolate.

For those of us who’ve lost a parent or family member, particularly around the holidays, this time of year can have some rough patches as we remember our loved ones.

In December of 2015, I received the call from my sister that my mom

Mary Anne Thurman had breathed her last breath. As a Jesus Follower, I took comfort in the fact that I believe that when she took her last breath on this Earth, she took her next breath in Heaven.  That being said, her death began a new journey for myself, my siblings, my dad, and my family.

Grief is not a neat, predictable process or orderly thing. It is messy, sometimes unpredictable, and rarely follows the handy, five or six-step path that some folks espouse.

It is also intensely personal and unique for all of us.

And while each of us processes the loss of a loved one is very different and unique ways, I choose to celebrate some of the good memories of mom.

One of the ways that I celebrate her is by preparing one of her favorite Christmas recipes each Christmas.

First, a little bit of a back story, I left at home to go to military school when I was 15, and apart from a few years in the late seventies and early eighties, I have lived away from my family.

Since I was the one who was not home most Christmases of my adult life, mom would always make sure that I received a care package close to Christmas. It usually included fruit cake cookies and Martha Washington Candy. (Here is a great link that gives the story of MWC).

Over the years, I would call mom and ask for some of my favorite recipes, and a few years ago, she sent all of us a box of handwritten recipes. The photo at the bottom is the one for mom’s Martha Washington Candy. (NOTE: Oleo is an old school name for margarine, use butter that is at room temperature instead.)

Every year as I begin to pull our that special recipe box gentle memories of my mom, dad, siblings, and Christmases past slowly trickle through my mind as I remember her.

At the same time, I think about the 47 Christmases with my wife, and thirty-seven years as a parent, and now a grandparent. I am thankful for the life I have.

May your Christmas be filled with joy and precious memories as we celebrate the first coming of Christ the King.

The First Christmas After A Loss

Helpful tips for people facing their first Christmas after a loss.

Are your Christmas lights up? Have you started your Christmas shopping? Have you reached your limit of Hallmark holiday movies?

Today, with the help of my grandson, our kitchen will be filled with the intoxicating aroma of two of the favorite holiday treats, sausage balls, and Martha Washington candy (recipes at the end). These are two of the extraordinary things my momma made for me as a kid, and even as recently as two years ago she made them for me and mailed them to me. While Connor and I prepared these two treats, the memory of my mom and will be very close to me as this will be my first Christmas without both of them this year.

My mom went to be with the Lord on December 2, 2016, and my Dad followed her six weeks later. Dad always told me that his mission was too out live mom so he could take care of her. He completed his task, and even though I miss both of them deeply, I choose to celebrate their lives and their legacy, while feeling the loss.

For many of us, this Christmas will be our first without a loved one, a daunting challenge that, if not monitored, could lead to a miserable holiday season.

As both a professional counselor and fellow struggler, I wanted to share a few things that might help you move through this Christmas season without feeling overwhelmed with the loss/es you may have experienced this past year.

Give yourself some time to feel the loss and grieve over the fact that that they are gone. Grieving takes time, just be careful that you don’t over-isolate.

Intentionally connect with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.

Find a way to help others. The Bible talks about this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us with all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” NLT

Begin some new traditions.

Celebrate some old traditions, like Connor and I are doing today with our baking event.

Finally, let me invite you to read an excellent article by friend Danielle Bernock. Here are a couple of lines from this very insightful and helpful article.

Grieving is hard at any time of the year. But when it’s the season to be jolly, and you’ve suffered a loss the Ho Ho Ho feels like salt in a wound. How do you deal with the holidays when there’s a giant hole in your heart?

Cutting Down Holiday Stress


Well, we are officially off to the retail madness of the Holiday Season with yet another Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday. As I pen this post, I am having a flashback about spending three Christmases managing a Christian Gift Shop in at the Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia. At the time, I was grateful for that chapter in my life, but I am glad is in my past.

For many people, this time of year is about as exciting as being told you need a root canal immediately. There are countless individuals feels an overwhelming sense of dread, worry, anxiety, exhaustion, and isolation. If you feel like this, you could be the victim of the Christmas Blahs, the Hanukkah Malaise, Kwanza Dullness, and for my neo-pagan friends, the Solstice Slump.

If you are someone who struggles with this time of the year, I am going to give you some mood lifting, stress-busting tips which could help bring joy into your life.

Sheila Moss (www.humorcolumnist.com) has a few great lines about Christmas.

Santa is watching; please do not do anything that will embarrass him.
The commercial spirit of Christmas is a mysterious force that causes people to max out their credit cards.
You cannot string more lights than your redneck neighbor.
The harder you try to diet, the higher the likelihood you will get candy for presents.
Famous last words-“I have plenty of time left to shop before Christmas.”

A friend of mine who has been a broadcast journalist was interviewing me a few years ago and asked me to come up with Twelve Stress-Busting Tips for Christmas. The good news, he gave me two hours to come up with them. Thankfully, they were a hit, and over the years I have adjusted them to be current. I hope these thirteen tips will help you enjoy the Advent season, lighten up your stress, and help you catch your breath.

13 Tips for Cutting Down Holiday Stress

1. Shop for the significant people first.

2. Stay active, move around, see the lights, do something to break up your routine.

3. Think before you speak. Consider ruling out all conversations which involve your job, health, marriage, the past, the future, or the present. Keep it “Holiday Light.”

4. Re-read the Christmas story, go to a Christmas musical, or even visit a church. For those of you who have not been to church and feel like the roof might collapse when you walk in-I have great news; churches have particular roofing material can handle the shock of your presence.

5. Stay loose; 21st-century families seem to always shift and change.

6. Look for and pray about creative solutions from problems that might arise during the holiday season.

7. Mom and Dad-let your married kids develop their own holiday traditions.

8. Take your medication, supplements, and vitamins.

9. Limit let eating and drinking be the focus of your Holiday gatherings.

10. Buy an Advent calendar, even if you don’t have kids-it is fun to open the tabs
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11. Watch movies like The Christmas Star, or a Wonderful Life at least one time.

12. Take some time to be alone and reflect. Relax, catch a breath, smell the fragrances of the holidays.

13. Remember the “Reason for the Season.” The Gospel of Luke 2:11, “The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (NLT).

Would love to hear how you manage holiday stress! Please leave a comment.

A Different Kind of Christmas

My First Christmas without my Mama
by John Thurman
This Christmas will mark a first for me. It will be a bittersweet one because my mama went to be with the Lord on December 3, 2016.

Her death was not a shock or a surprise. For the past several years she fought off the effects of COPD until she was no longer able to breathe. That Friday, she took her last breath on Earth and her first breath in the presence of the Lord. She was surrounded by her family and her family doctor.

My mama loved this time of year! As a florist and small business owner, she enjoyed preparing for the Advent Season and was a joy-filled bundle of energy during the Holidays. I have many memories of some of the extraordinary things that she and my dad did for us during Christmas time.

Like many of you who have experienced a loss in the past year or two, I will rejoice at the memories from my childhood and adult years with my mom. I accept the fact we are born, we live a life in between the dash, our start date and out end date and then we pass from this earth. My mama had a great run between her birth and death. She lived a full and meaningful life, her dash between these dates touched many people and she gave my brothers and sisters an example of resilience and a positive attitude.

For those of you on this shared journey, I hope that this Christmas will be a hope-filled, joyful season for you while you both mourn the loss and celebrate the memories of your loved one.

While I love the story of the birth of Jesus and have had the blessing of visiting his birthplace in Bethlehem, I am reminded that his birthplace is only minutes away from where he died and rose from the dead.

While we celebrate the birth of the baby, Jesus let’s remember one of the earliest confessions of the church.

As a reminder, at this time, there was no New Testament, and very few people were literate. This confession was an instructional tool used to help early believers understand some fundamental doctrine about Jesus Christ.

The Apostle’s Creed or Nicene
This creed was first formulated at the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicene, located in what is now Turkey, in 325, as a response to the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.  It was revised at the Second Ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople in 381 as a response to the Macedonian or Pneumatomachian heresy, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.  Through him, all things were made.  For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made a man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day, he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.  With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.  We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

Special Note:  The word “catholic” with a lower-case ‘c’ does not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but the universal Christian Church as a whole.

My hope, as you and I work through the losses that we have experienced, we will have a sense of hope, peace, and comfort
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I love what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3: 3-4
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others”.

Focus on the Family has some wonderful articles on dealing with the Holidays after losing a loved one.

You might also enjoy a post from a couple of years ago. Don’t Let Your Sugar Plumbs Turn to Prunes

Here is a link to a great article on Good Parenting Skills from www.findmykids.org
May you have a Merry and Meaningful Christmas.

Please feel free to make a comment or add your thoughts.