November is a tough month for our family.
On November 1st, my husband landed in our hospital’s emergency room with a large hernia. Test results showed he also had an infection and, after a week of tests and an ineffective antibiotic, doctors determined he couldn’t have surgery to repair the hernia until the infection cleared. While we wait for surgery to be scheduled, we’re in the final stretch of wedding plans for our oldest daughter.
As I told that daughter about our day in the E.R., she laughed. “I’m not surprised,” she said. “It’s November.”
Every family has their month of memories – the month we wish we could forget.
While March and April seem to be the months for the most deaths in our family, November is the Wingate month of mileposts.
- We moved to Kansas in 1992.
- We moved to North Carolina in 1999.
- Our family got sick at Thanksgiving time every year from 2004-2007. Our doctor threatened to give us standing appointments the Monday after Thanksgiving.
- A church voted to have my husband leave as their minister in 2010.
- My husband had hip surgery with complications in 2011.
- My daughter graduated from optometry school and was commissioned in the Army in 2014.
- Jack’s mom was in and out of the hospital in November 2016. She transitioned to Heaven on December 2nd.
The holidays are a stressful time. After the adrenaline of the season, we wonder how we are able to accomplish so much more in November and December than during other months. It’s all well and good if nothing out of the ordinary happens. Throw in a crisis or five and stress levels skyrocket.
By the way, according to Snopes, the theory that there are more suicides in the month of December is false. Reason? While people are more stressed, spending too much, aren’t eating right, and not getting enough sleep, they are also getting more family support and more social interaction.
How do I cope when it feels like a 15 pound turkey has landed on my holiday to-do list?
I threaten to cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the enemy of my Christian faith wants me to do.
Perhaps extra stressful things happen as a way of distracting us from the real meaning of the holidays. More problems tempt me to be less thankful. Overwhelming details of plans and projects strangle the reason for the season.
It doesn’t have to.
The extra burdens of illness, tragedy, and even death can draw me closer to the Lord. As I trudge through the day-to-day weariness, blocking the uncertainty of the future, I find God meeting me in the intersections, reminding me He is there, and giving me my daily bread. He shows me He is faithful even when I have forgotten Him. It’s in the trial and tragedy that I learn to be most thankful and cling to the hope that Christmas represents.
In a crazy, counter-intuitive way, the harsh times prepare me even more for the holiday season. They call me to come toward the presence of the Lord, to worship him with deepened and sincere gratitude for what He has done and is going to do.
Maybe that’s what triggered the Pilgrim’s celebration and thanksgiving in the first place. They had spent several years living the personal relationship with a God who had been in the boat and along the difficult path with them. Like them, my eventful Novembers have become a time to remind myself that God’s faithfulness is new every morning and it is possible to thank Him in all circumstances.