Why does it seem like the holidays come so fast every year?  If you’re anything like me, in the middle of holiday craziness, you tell yourself that next season, you’ll be better prepared. Maybe that means you’ll start your Christmas shopping in October—since now the big stores start carrying Christmas items in August. Or, maybe you’ll start working on your Christmas cards December 1st instead of staying up late on December 22nd to make sure your family and friends receive your greetings somewhere close to Christmas Day.

Most of us have a plan for the holidays. I usually do because I’m a planner and I think I’m pretty good at it, but this year is different. My focus isn’t as much on the anticipated gifts, the intense baking, or the fun decorations as it is on coming up with a plan for celebrating without my husband. And I’m not exactly feeling up to the challenge.

Home Alone

In many ways, we are the all American family despite having more than the average 2.06 children per household. We don’t have the white picket fence or extravagant home with all the latest and greatest appliances (we still have a VCR); however, in spite of our ancient technology choices, we are fortunate to have a nice home on five acres in Montana and a great public school. Plus, I am more than grateful to be a stay-at-home mom. Our family is full of love and laughter along with the normal stress and discord. God has surrounded us with many of His provisions through our friends and family at church in our community. Noah and I just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, and now, Noah, who is a Captain and an Army Aviator, is currently deployed far away from home in Kuwait.

Noah has served in the military since college, but this is our family’s first year-long separation. Thus far, the year apart has been filled with lots of activities to keep us busy and numb the pain of his absence. But the small, everyday memories are what we miss the most: the sticky syrup kisses from the kids, first trips to the beach, three kids’ birthdays, and the “I miss my daddy” cries tear at my heart with the desire for his presence.

While I’ve been here missing him and desiring that he come home sooner rather than later, I know that Noah has it much harder than me. I grit my teeth when I have to set up a mouse trap or clean up the fifth spilled glass of milk for the day while my older kids fight and my younger two have total melt downs, but I remember that Noah is having to miss out on a year of his kids’ lives. It keeps me from having too many pity parties. Twice a month is ok, right?

The Most Essential Ingredient

The U.S. Army has done a truly spectacular job preparing, equipping, and supporting me and my family throughout this deployment. We have had multiple yellow ribbon events that have given us many great resources to help us be successful in this challenging time. I find solace and camaraderie in the other spouses’ understanding.

But for all that, nothing compares to the steadfast grace, extraordinary strength, and eternal perspective my personal relationship with Jesus offers. He is by far the most essential ingredient for my daily victories and now for my holiday survival. He is my comfort when I’m sad, my secret weapon of hope when I’m completely frustrated with my kids, and my promise that Noah is where he is supposed to be and God has it all in control.

Key to Survival: A Hope-Filled Plan

It sends shivers down my spine to think how I would be as a mom and military wife if I hadn’t allowed Jesus to change my life eleven years ago. Having a relationship with Jesus has been my survival through some incredibly difficult times. As a newlywed and first-time mom separated by distance from all my friends and family, I struggled with postpartum depression, and incredible loneliness as Noah was in intensive flight school. Those early marriage and parenting years could have ended tragically had it not been for Jesus. Even today, in my efforts to be supermom and supportive wife, I am sustained by Jesus, who is constantly by my side or carrying me when I can no longer walk.

Even though I still struggle with trying to be perfect and daily facing my own failure, I no longer hate myself. When I start feeling resentful, I am reminded God has a different plan for all of us. I put my faith in God every day, including the holidays when I’m feeling a little less than adequate in celebrating without Noah.

Daddy Will Come Home

God is strong when I am weak and I know we will come through this deployment stronger in our faith and as a family. Especially our kids—missing their daddy has helped increase their dependence on Jesus and has grown their knowledge that we are loved perfectly and completely by Him. Every morning we read a scripture and often pray and ask God to be a part of our day. I feel more equipped to take on the daily obstacles knowing Jesus is in control, no matter what.

It is those “no matter what” moments that can scare me at times and bring fearful tears to my children’s eyes. I’m honest with them; they know daddy is in a dangerous place, but they have hope. Having said a lot of goodbyes in their short lifespan, they have also been witness to many joyous returns. They believe wholeheartedly and have faith that their daddy will come home. My kids live by example what it means to be hopeful; to have no doubt that someday our Daddy in heaven will return for His children.

Ultimately, that is what Christmas is all about and it gives us a unique perspective on celebrating it—the birth of God’s son, our perfect gift who died for us, and who will one day return to take us to our forever home where we can live free from pain and sorrow!

Tears Wiped Away

You may be separated from a loved one this year, whether because of a struggling marriage, a distant family member, the miles and oceans between families, the loss of a loved one, or commitment to a duty elsewhere. Whatever the case may be, from our family to yours, allow these hopeless times to be replaced by God’s true hope.

No matter what, you can be hopeful, joyful, and faith-filled during the busy holiday season even when you might not feel capable of even that. Whether you feel defeated because you don’t have enough money to buy your kids that perfect gift; or feeling lonely because you are missing someone who is no longer with you on Christmas morning; or overwhelmed when laundry has taken over your house; or your marriage is slipping through your fingers; or you can’t bear to watch your child suffer from cancer another day, God’s plan is perfect and He will return and “…wipe every tear from [your] eyes…” (Revelation 21:4).

It doesn’t mean that you can’t be sad, overwhelmed, or lonely—it just means you do it differently than the world. We have sorrows, but we have a great hope. Christ has overcome the world and its sorrows, including death, and “one day there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Celebrate because of this hope. Celebrate in light of this hope. Celebrate through the power of this hope.