Christmastime is my favorite. The music, decorations, ugly sweater parties, cookies and candy canes – all of it ignites child-like excitement within me.My most favorite Christmas tradition though revolves around Christmas trees. I think the Christmas tree is the most grand and the most beautiful of all the symbols of the season. I enjoy taking pictures of them everywhere I go during the holidays; all different styles, shapes, sizes and color schemes. I have my own growing collection of Christmas tree keepsakes and I purpose to find special and one-of-a-kind ornaments for our tree that tell a story and express bits and pieces of who we are. Our family tree is covered with superheroes and Star Wars characters, hunting ducks and shotgun shells, sparkly shoes and music notes, all celebrating what makes each of us unique.
But more than the ornaments on the tree, every Christmas I am captivated by it’s light. I put twinkle lights up around the house on shelves and inside of greenery and I love to turn off all other lights in the house except for the twinkle lights and soft candlelight. There is no other feeling like it. That special Christmas light is one that fills me with something more than just a cozy feeling.
In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”
I believe in Jesus. He is my Savior and my God and my friend. But, sometimes, I still choose to abide in darkness. I began to wonder about the parts of my life that I’ve been hiding away in darkness that are in need of His light.
With the difficult year I had that was nearly half-full of a major illness, recovery, surgery and recovery again, I found myself in a surprising place of dependence on pain medications. Being on them for so long, my body became used to having those drugs, so that when I didn’t anymore, I experienced severe withdrawal symptoms. When I realized what was happening to me – sweats, shaking, wringing hands, extremely restless legs, and insomnia, I was flooded with shame. On top of my sickness, now I had become a “junkie” too, I thought. In my desperation to sleep I turned to drinking alcohol so I could calm the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing. And it helped – after a couple of drinks, I was able to finally rest and go to sleep. The habit continued into the months well after my recovery and I realized that I had been medicating with alcohol and drinking frequently, in attempts to push down the traumatic memories surrounding my illness, and the blanket of loss and loneliness that has seemed to cover this year. I haven’t really been present, because it’s been too painful to be.
In September, I recognized that I had a problem and began meeting with a friend to process what I went through and why I was wanting to drink. Knowing that my mother was a prescription drug addict and an alcoholic, I knew I was walking a dangerous line. I didn’t want to hide this in the dark anymore.
I’ve learned over the years, that when we expose our sin and struggles to the light, they lose power over us. Hope enters in and Jesus begins to transform us.
My friend has offered me her eyes, her tears and words of truth and grace, shedding the light of Jesus on what could have been a dark and shameful place for me. I am ever grateful to experience the hands and face of Jesus through a friend who can sit with me in a complete muck of a mess and love on me right there in it.
The light of Jesus is like that. He enters the most difficult, the most tragic and wretched places of our lives. If we let Him in, He will go to the darkest places of our hearts, the places we try our hardest to hide away and He is faithful to shine His light so that we may see and be set free.
As the year comes to a close and we sit in this sacred season of advent, I knew I needed to quiet my heart, and make some space for Jesus to walk hand in hand with me. I prayed about how I could approach advent differently especially considering my recent struggles. Much like one might do for the Lenten season, I’ve decided to fast from sugar, bread, and alcohol. During the time of year when all three seem to abound, how many times might I get to lean into Jesus when I am offered one of those things or craving them? With the absence of the things that I often enjoy and choose to numb out with, I am hoping to be more present in mind, body and spirit this season.
This advent, I’ve come with my bottle of vodka, my favorite chocolates and a basket of bread and laid them by the cradle and the cross as an offering and a sacrifice. This Christmas I will be enjoying the twinkle lights of my tree, reminded of the places that Jesus doesn’t leave me in the dark and thankful that I’ve accepted His invitation to abide in the light and life He brings.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.