We’ve got a new normal in our household.

On Friday, Steve had hip surgery to repair a wear-and-tear, work related injury. While we knew his hip was in bad shape, it was sobering news when the surgeon came out to the waiting room after surgery and told me that Steve would need to be non-weight bearing (i.e. on crutches) for six weeks. I’m not sure if you’ve got a calendar in front of you, but the next six weeks are pretty much the fullest, busiest weeks of the year.

We have Thanksgiving, Steve’s 40th birthday, my birthday, the twins’ birthday, Christmas, and New Years. Sprinkled in there are five more family birthdays and all the amazing holiday offerings that a city like San Diego provides.

This is all particularly poignant as we are, for the first time in years, in our own home for the holidays.

I was at Home Goods last week, walking the aisles with my mouth wide open, taking in the feast of dazzling Christmas décor. We spent our last two Christmases in the Middle East, which meant that we had a beautiful but artificial tree, a fireplace DVD going on the TV, and we lived among a culture that did not celebrate Christmas. We enjoyed intimate gatherings with other mil families, and we accepted and even enjoyed the smallness of an overseas Christmas.

I know everyone talks about the commercialism and over-zealous hype around the holidays, but this year I was looking forward to all the beautiful ribbon, wrapping paper, wreaths, candles, soaps, coffees . . . I could go on and on. I was looking forward to doing the holidays on a larger scale, I guess you could say. Fires in our new fireplace. Two live Christmas trees. Christmas shopping in a real store, not a virtual one. Driving along Candy Cane Lane and looking at all the lights. Lots and lots of lights on the front of our new house . . .

Feeling particularly excited about this holiday season and all the special touches I wanted to add to our home this year, I am taking in the reality that we will go into these holidays with yet another new normal – Steve on the couch or on crutches, unable to hang Christmas lights, unable to go down to the wood pile and bring up wood for a fire, unable to drive for at least a bit, unable to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving, unable to do many of things I had assumed he’d be able to do by the time the holidays arrived.

All this got me thinking: I bet there are a lot of people out there who are facing a new normal this holiday season.

The first holidays without a spouse. The first holidays with a new baby. The first holidays in a new home. The first holidays away from home. The first holidays without a special friend. The first holidays with unexpected financial strain, illness, or just general blahs. The first holidays on a ship, or in the desert, or on an island far far away. The first holidays without something or someone you had learned to lean on year after year, someone or something that make the holidays feel like home to you. A holiday season that will, for whatever reason, be different than the expectations you had envisioned in your head.

If that’s you, and you are navigating some kind of new normal, I just want you to know I see you.

Yes, Steve will recover, and he will be back on his own two feet soon enough. But some of you are facing irrecoverable loss, and you will not be back on your own two feet anytime soon. So the holidays will be particularly hard because they won’t just be a new normal for this year. They will be a new normal from now on.

I’m sending a prayer out to you on this crisp San Diego morning that Emmanuel would be God-with-you, God-with-me, God-with-us this holiday season. I’m praying we would know what we need to let go of and what we need to hold on to (as this is one of the biggest secrets to life) and we would allow Christ himself to be a home to us this year.

I’ve told people lately that I still feel like I’m living “in relation to” our time in Bahrain. Though it will soon enough be a year that we have been back in San Diego, I still feel like I’m living in relation to that experience. I guess that means there’s a part of me that still feels the profound-ness of that tour and perhaps a part of me that still feels like we’re transitioning. And, of course, now we are living “in relation to” Steve’s surgery and recovery, too.

So many people in this world are living “in relation to” something this holiday season. Let’s be compassionate with each other. Let’s be particularly compassionate with ourselves. And let’s invite Christ to come sit with us in this new normal as we so need his grace.

God before us and God behind us as we enter into the new normal this holiday season. Amen.

Please share a “new normal” that you are living in relation to this holiday season. I will read and pray for all of you!

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