About the Author

Jill is a writer, speaker, pastor, and author of five books. She specializes in faith and the next generation. She likes to travel, grow flowers, and break into random musical numbers. She believes in grace, kindness, justice, dark chocolate, and Earl Grey.

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  1. Jill,
    Thank you for sharing such a real and personal story from the heart. Oh how we want our holidays to be Facebook worthy…to have everything as is “should” be in our mind’s eye. This Thanksgiving I don’t know if my daughter will be joining us or not. Our relationship has been very strained. Even through a divorce, my daughter has almost always been at my table. My heart aches, but instead of counting who’s missing from around the table, I will give thanks for who IS around the table and lift those who aren’t up and into God’s arms (they are His first anyway). I say this firmly, but my heart still wobbles. Holidays can be hard….I will miss my dad too….but perhaps this is what Thanksgiving is all about – giving thanks to God, not FOR all things, but IN all things. Even if things are not as they “should” be, I will give thanks to God for my abundant blessings. Beautifully told, Jill.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Yes, Bev, I agree with you. We tend to have unrealistic expectations for the holidays, wanting everything to be perfect, which is not ever possible…and you are right the scriptures say, “Give thanks IN all things,” not FOR all things. Great reminder!

    • A lovely reminder not just of change, but in the ebb and flow of life nothing ever remains the same. Thank you.

    • Thank you Jill & thank you Bev both for your wonderful words of wisdom. The holidays have become hard since my kids both got married. I love both of my “in-laws” & we are blessed but it has been hard for me to work out the “sharing” of the holidays. It takes more work, makes things busier & I had to accept that I won’t have all my kids together at all the family get togethers. I’m learning to accept & adjust but I have to be on guard & in prayer so the evil one doesn’t steal my joy.

    • Bev,

      For you, and your daughter’s sake I hope & pray that the wall that stands between you crumbles.

      Blessings to you & prayers that all will be well,

      Penny

    • Amen. Thank you for your wobbling gratitude! I remember the years of our oldest being far from us and from God. It’s the most painful thing on earth. I’ll pray for you both.

  2. Wow, Jill. You have put your finger right on the pulse of the holidays! I love how you say it: “Life’s waves move around us and upset things that always have been. But that doesn’t mean the things that matter are not still there. The tangibles change. The intangibles remain the real things.” It truly is the intangible Spirit of God living in us that gets us through those tough holidays. And as you say, the intangibles are “the most real things in existence.”

  3. I really needed this encouragement today. I’m going through all the firsts since my dad died in January 2016 and my mom died 5 years ago. Nothing feels the same but I press on.

    • Amanda, my heart goes out to you. Praying the Lord will touch your holidays in ways that will remind you of all you love about your mom and dad who have gone home to Him…in ways that will remind you that one day the family circle will be unbroken and we will join with our loved ones singing His praises together in worship and thanksgiving once more! Looking forward to singing praises with my parents again one day!

    • Amanda,
      I’m so sorry for your loss, and understand how that is. My thoughts, and prayers are with you to get through one step @ a time.

      Blessings,

      Penny

    • Amanda,

      Prayers for you sweet sister! I know these holidays will be especially hard. I pray God holds you and gives you a sweet peace in your soul, I’m thinking and praying for you and your family!

      (((((((hugs)))))))

  4. Jill, your words fill a newly empty space in my heart, for this is our family’s first Thanksgiving without my mother. She went home in Aug, nearly 90 years old, and although my dad passed 9 years ago, home was still home because she was there. We have large family, and every gathering consisted of around 40-45 people; children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So many traditions! Her home was our base of operations for holidays, birthdays, and any other occasion, so much so that when she passed away, one child, crying, asked “will I ever get to see my cousins again?’
    Yes, we are struggling this year, as we are now in the process of selling the homeplace, and beginning new traditions.
    Thank you for your words. Transitions are hard, but family is strong.
    God bless,
    Margaret Curtis

    • Margaret,

      My heart goes out to all of you for your loss.
      Prayers, and blessings to you, and your family,
      Penny

    • Margaret,

      Prayers for you and your family. I pray God sends a peace to all your souls! May the family continue to gather, wherever, and just be together. My heart hurts for you as I know how hard this is! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers

      (((((((hugs)))))))

  5. Oh, Jill, this is deep heart-food, because change is certainly on the menu this holiday season. We weather this because we know a changeless God — and with the help of friends who have traveled the road ahead of us. Thank you!

  6. Thank you Jill. I so needed that. Our Thanksgivings were forever changed Nov 27 2000. That was our last Thanksgiving as with mom. My brother chose to no longer acknowledge the day. However, since May 13, my sister has joined her. Pray for my family as we reverse the curse placed on ourselves or by the outside. Thank you

    • Jamie, everyone else’s responses are so hard to deal with. I’m so sorry. I lost a sister this year as well. Her kids are now having to do this heart rearranging. Difficult stuff.

  7. You have much wisdom and encouragement in this post. I like how you have not accepted guilt for the change in life- the way they used to be normal. And you have given yourself permission to accept a new normal.

  8. Life has a way of changing what normal meant to you. You learn over time to deal with the loss of family members one by one you struggle with the loss and with out realizing it in time you get caught up in life again and that is your saving grace. You move on

  9. Thanks for sharing this today. I know I sometimes “grieve” what used to be. I too have tried to “recreate” yesterday on today…but realize that it can’t be done. Those moments and memories are intended for our hearts only. We relive the joyful times and yet can remain safe while remembering the not-so-great times. They’re bittersweet things, memories are. God allowed the things in life to happen, He has a purpose for each – even when we don’t understand at the time. Holding on to the goodness is a gift…and I’ve realized this year, letting the ugly go is also a gift from God. Blessings upon you and yours and to all of us who are experiencing those changes in life this year. 🙂 We really can make it, can’t we? We can create new sets of normal while treasuring the memories of those normals that are no more~

    I just wrote about change on my blog…come by and visit if you can. 🙂 http://itcrossedmymind.blogspot.com/2016/11/christmas-wish-list-thankfulinfall.html

  10. Beautiful story. Thank you. I too lost my mom when I was a young adult. Holiday traditions were hard after she was gone. It’s true that the mom is the glue. It’s good to read the hope in the new traditions.

  11. Your words resonate with me this morning. My mother has always hated change and continues to grieve for what we have lost. Between my work at a hospital and our family changing, traditions have become less important than trying to just maintain family relationships. On the other side of the house, Thanksgiving has become completely different since our niece and her husband have repudiated tradition and decided to travel out of state. Christmas is a struggle because of work (again) and not being able to participate in both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day activities. (I am blessed that I actually have had Christmas Day off for several years so I can’t complain.)
    Sometimes it is hard to remember the real reason we are to be thankful and celebrate.

  12. Jill,
    Your post brought tears to my eyes but also encouraging hope. This year has brought many changes for me. My daughter went to heaven (at 34 years old), my oldest son remarried and moved away taking my one and only precious granddaughter who I took care of since she was four months old (she’s now five). The emptiness I’ve felt has been deep and yet I know my daughter is where she is supppsed to be and my son desperately needed a family of his own again (my ex daughter in law tried to murder my granddaughter and was sent to prison). God has been there all along and as much as I dislike how this year has progressed and how different the holidays will be, I still have my adoring husband by my side. We are discovering each other again and it’s beautiful. I’m not one to accept change easily (I fight it big time!) but God is opening up a new door for me to walk through and I’m ready. I relate to everything you said and it’s all so true. Thank you for sharing. We all must face the changes of life but the precious memories will always be there and home will always be there too. God bless you and your family.

    Cindy

    • Cindy,

      I just wanted to reach out, and tell you how sorry I am for all that you’ve been through, your pain, loss, and sorrow. i pray that as you & your husband walk through this door you will find peace, strength and comfort from the Lord.

      Penny

      • Thank you, Penny, for the kind and encouraging words. I know we are not alone in dealing with sadness and loss. My husband and I have found our greatest source of comfort through the recent changes from dear people who care and have prayed for us. You are one of those and I cherish that you took the time to respond!. May God watch over you and your family as well! Blessings to you and all the precious sisters in Christ who share their lives on this site.

    • Cindy, I’m so glad that at least your granddaughter is safe and loved. I think watching the kids leave is the worst. But you’re right, they need their life. Of course, losing one is unimaginable. I love that you hang on to those memories and treasure the time you will have.

  13. Jill,

    Thank-you for sharing this with us. I’m deeply sorry you went through that at such a young age. I understand what you mean by trying to keep it the same.
    I try to remember Dr. Seuss’s quote:’Don’t cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened.’
    To reflect on your reminder too, I’m grateful to those who have sat at our table during the holidays. Yes, they are missed but the memory will last forever.
    Have a blessed day,
    Penny

  14. Thank you for all the wisdom and encouraging words. This will be the first Christmas without my husband who died from a brain bleed in September. Usually we are planning Christmas together and the gifts we will buy and the food to prepare and whose turn it is for what etc. This year my heart is just not in it. Although I will have my 2 sons home for Christmas my daughter, son in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren will not be here as they have been up twice since their dad went to heaven and it is too expensive for another trip. I know that Jesus is with me. I know God’s abiding and constant present in these days and this unexpected journey. I had to move home without my husband as well because all was sold up and new home purchased before his sudden trip to hospital from which he never returned. I did not even have the chance to say “Goodbye, I love you, I am very proud of you”. blessings to you all.

    • Barbara, your poor heart as you face these first holidays. I pray that God gives you a sense of his being with you in those moments when you feel so alone and overwhelmed.

  15. Jill,

    Each holiday has been tough for me. For many years it was just my parents and I. My sisters all lived out of state and had their own families, It has been 7 years since mom died. In the beginning my dad would come and eat with my in-laws. Now he is in an assisted living and has bad dementia. I will be going there to sup with him and other residents. My husband will have both nephews and his 3 great nephews there to celebrate with.

    One idea for those grieving the traditions of the past is to invite others to come sup with you. Think of a widow/widower or single people in your church and invite them over. Make new traditions. That is something my pastor’s wife does. Some people might be alone due to working spouse. It is hard to know. Think of others and have them over. I believe you and they will enjoy the company! It isn’t just about family, but about giving thanks to God for All He has blessed us with!

    Blessings 🙂

  16. ugh. My first “real” new normal was the Thanksgiving my son left for Navy Boot Camp. 9 years ago this week. We had 3 Thanksgiving turkey dinners in the weeks before he left. Inviting extended family members, friends, whoever might want to spend time with him before he left. Overkill… I know. The next time we had Thanksgiving together was when his girlfriend and I went to Bahrain to visit him. He proposed while we were there. We’ve since had Christmas with them in Germany while they were stationed there for 3 years! After he told us he was joining the Navy (after 5 years of college living at home), the Lord showed me that his plans for us are MUCH better than I could ever imagine. I decided then I would enjoy the ride and take any adventure that comes my way! It doesn’t matter what the calendar says as long as we can get together in person, on Skype or by phone or even text. It’s all a gift and it’s up to us how we accept it!!