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Every holiday image we see is centered around family, friends, and rooms full of smiling people. Facing a holiday spent alone—or feeling alone—is hard. Cheri and Amy talk about shifting our perspective so that a “silent night” isn’t a painful night but one filled with peace instead.

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Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad Rules

Episode #24: Alone But Not Lonely — Facing a Solo Holiday with Peace

 

Cheri:

What’s the old saying – “A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter for

the rest of her life.”

 

Amy:

Yeah I love that saying since I’m a mother of two sons!

 

<music>

 

Cheri:

Hey, this is Cheri Gregory, and you’re listening to Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad

Rules.

Welcome to the 7th episode in our Holiday Break series. If you’ve missed any of the

previous 6, you can find them all at GritNGrace.info — that’s Grit, the letter N, Grace, all

one word, dot info.

Today, my deLIGHT-full co-host, Amy Carroll, and I are discussing the various ways we

can feel alone during the holiday season – and what we can DO about it!

 

Cheri:

So for this episode we’re going to be talking about the bad rule that say’s “If you’re

alone, then you’re unloved.”

 

Amy:

This is really tough during the holidays. When you think about the commercials that are

out there…all the ads…it’s always a room filled with people. The truth is, its not

everybody’s going to spend thanksgiving or Christmas in a room filled with people. And

it actually kind of brought a little lump to my throat to say that and I know it could be

me someday. Its not right now…but it could absolutely be me, and for our listeners, it

might be you.

One of the things that has really helped me is quote where it said, “I’m

not by myself. I’m with myself.”

 

Cheri:

Ooh I like that.

 

Amy:

It really has changed so many things. I used to feel self-conscious even to go to a

restaurant and eat by myself, and now I’m like, “No! I’m with myself!” It kind of has a

little sass to it, which I always appreciate.

But it also has made me think about things differently. My husband works a lot of long

hours and kind of weird hours. So we both work from home, which means that we’re

together a lot…but then he works in the evenings and on weekends a lot, I travel and

speak on the weekends a lot…so I tend to be alone on weekends and the evenings quite

a bit. It really bothered me at first, but I’ve come to sort of embrace it with this idea of

being with myself; that because of Christ in me, and because of the interests that he’s

imbedded in me, if I switch it around and think Hey I get to be with myself, which means

that…I mean it is an opportunity to focus, for a change, instead of what everybody else

wants to do and what everybody else loves, it gives me permission to do what I want to

do and what I love. So, I think if we switch up the perspective it’s very helpful.

 

Cheri:

I think that’s brilliant. And I think perspective is so much of this. I was thinking back to

one of the worst Christmases in my entire life. I was in high school and I was definitely

being a drama queen. The boyfriend I had been dating and I was sure I was going to

marry…he had just dumped me. And so I spent the entire Christmas season- and we had

been dating more than a year so I had memories of our first Christmas together and

they had been wonderful and glorious, and so the contrast was so great- and I spent the

entire time thinking What does this mean about me that I’m alone at Christmas? What

does it mean, what does it mean, what does it mean? And so much of my identity was

wrapped up in needing to have somebody with me, somebody to affirm me, somebody

to love me. And when we ask ourselves what something like that means, we’re often

very mean to ourselves. We come up with the worst possible conclusions… and so of

course I concluded that I was unlovable, and that I would always have miserable

holidays, and that nobody would ever want to marry me…and honestly all it meant that

in retrospect God was looking after me because he was not the guy for me…

 

Amy:

Sure

 

Cheri:

I put so much into this one relationship and then I put so much meaning into the fact

that I wasn’t in a relationship over the holidays. And of course, all I could see was

everybody who was in a couple all holiday long and I felt miserable because of it. Last

year Ann Marie, who lives about 8 hours away from us, she told me about a week

before Thanksgiving that he was considering not coming home…

 

Amy:

Ohhhh.

 

Cheri:

And I did my best not to let her know, but I just about freaked out completely. And

really it would have been sensible for her not to come home. It’s a really long drive, and

it’s only for a day or two…and then she would have to drive all the way back… It

probably would’ve been safer…but I really had to ask myself why is this such a big deal?

It’s just a day? Again it came down to, “What does this mean about me as a mother that

she doesn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving?” And it gave me some sympathy for

people who have family members who for one reason or another, either can’t be home

for the holidays, or chose not to be home for the holidays, or for families where people

are really being shuffled around between various family members. I thought wow that’s

gotta be rough.

 

Amy:

I’ve seen this in my own family. I grew up in North Carolina but all my extended

family…aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers…everybody was out in Kansas and

Colorado. So we spent a lot of holidays in North Carolina with no family, but here’s the

thing my parents modeled for me that I want to pass on to my children as well: they

didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They didn’t project anger on those family members who

might have chosen not to come that long distance that Christmas. Instead they folded

other people into our family. Almost every Thanksgiving- we didn’t travel on

Thanksgiving a lot- cause Thanksgiving is one of those compressed holidays…

 

Cheri:

Oh yeah.

 

Amy:

Christmas you have a little more time around it but nobody’s driving to Kansas and

back over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s too long of a trip. So we had a group of other

families in Greenville where I grew up that got together for Thanksgiving. So that was

our Thanksgiving family. I want to embrace that. Now they deal with the same thing

with my brother and I. I think I shared a couple weeks ago that we have decided that we

spend Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other. So it flip-flops; they are

alone on one of those holidays every other year because my brother’s family is on the

same schedule so we can all be together. Its tough…and as they get older and as I get

older, it gets tougher and tougher to do it that way…. to think of them, or my in-laws

too, alone on Christmas or alone on Thanksgiving. But both sides have been so gracefilled

and really have adopted other families into their family instead of being alone.

 

Cheri:

The last church we were at, they had a huge Thanksgiving potluck every year. And so

anybody who either didn’t want to do the family thing, or they didn’t have family to do

it with, or maybe they just wanted to do it the easy way and bring the whole family…and

the only deal was, there was sign ups for the food so that you actually had enough of

everything. And I remember the first time we went- it felt strange to be doing a potluck

for Thanksgiving…and it was just so much fun, and there were so many people included,

and it was so much easier than the hassle of trying to do it all at home. And I thought

what a great ministry! And the purpose of it was to include people who might not have

any place to go and might be feeling really alone.

 

Amy:

That’s a terrific idea. Even as you said that I had this little prayer in my heart that one of

our listeners that might be alone this Christmas would take on that project at their

church or in their neighborhood. What a great idea.

 

Cheri:

Yeah. Now a corollary to the bad rule that if you’re alone you’re unloved is “if you’re

surrounded by people…well then you cant possibly feel lonely.”

 

Amy:

Oh goodness. Well I am an extravert and yet I have this tendency to walk into a room

and feel alone. It’s something…I don’t know where it comes from because I was so well loved

as a child, but as a little girl it was acute, and its just been something that’s hard to

battle against as an adult. I’ve been reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book this year

Uninvited…such a beautiful book about dealing with that feeling of rejection. One of the

things that has really helped me is that she has some questions in her book. And she

says, “Here’s the secret shift we must make: Do I walk into situations prepared with the

fullness of God in me, free to look for ways to bless others or do I walk into situations

empty and dependent on others to look for ways to bless me.” WOAH.

 

Cheri:

Wow.

 

Amy:

That is underlined, and starred, and highlighted in my book because I realized that every

time I walk into a room and I assess the situation…that even though there’s all these

people that I’m alone…I’m looking for something from them rather than walking into a

room and thinking how can I bless someone in here that feels alone.

 

Cheri:

Hmmm. You know what you’re making me think, Amy? I’m thinking there have been

times in my life where the best feeling in the entire world has been walking into a room

cause I know that feeling, I hate walking into a room- but the best feeling in the world is

when somebody goes “Cheri! I’m saving a seat for you!”

 

Amy:

Oh, yeah.

 

Cheri:

There is nothing like having someone save a seat for you, and be waiting for you, and

anticipating you, and wanting you to join them. And then there have been seasons in

my life when I’ve been the person saving the seat. When I’ve kept an eye out and I’ve

been the one to notice them, or to pull them over, or to text them ahead of time and

say, “hey do you want to have lunch with me?” And so I’d love to throw out permission

and a challenge: For our listeners for whom this is a season when they’re walking into

any room and they’re just feeling vulnerable…permission to let someone know that you

need them to save a seat for you. It’s okay to ask; it’s not only meaningful if they do it

spontaneously. If you say “I need someone to save a seat for me” and they save a seat

for you, it still counts. You still aren’t having to walk into that room not knowing where

you belong. Because that’s what it comes down to isn’t it? Its that feeling of belonging.

And so that’s the permission. If that’s where you are this year, tell someone, ask

someone, let your need be known. Now make it a safe person. Don’t tell the one

person in your life who will tell you you’re crazy. That’s my habit- I get vulnerable with

the one person I shouldn’t be vulnerable with and then I don’t tell the truth to the

people who would actually take care of me. I’m getting better at that. But then the

challenge for those of us who are in a season right now where maybe we’re feeling

okay, and were not necessarily feeling like we need somebody to save a seat for

us…maybe…in fact, we’re in charge of the seats in some way…I really want to challenge

our listeners to be the ones to save the seat for other people and to let them know in

advance that you need them, that you want them, that you’re looking forward to them,

and that maybe you even have a task that you’d love their help with. Boy, what a

wonderful gift to be able to give to combat that sense of aloneness because I think this

bad rule is such a hard one- that if we’re surrounded by people we cant feel lonely, and I

think that’s when we actually can feel the loneliest sometimes.

 

Amy:

One of the pictures that God continually challenges with me with is keeping an open

circle. During the holidays it seems like this is the time that we’re with the people that

we feel like we belong…whether its families, friends…so we tend to hold hands and

make a circle. And God always challenges me with the picture of keeping one hand

open. So keeping the circle open. Always looking for who needs to join us, instead of

just completing the circle and staying closed.

 

Cheri:

That is an amazing image. I love it.

Well, I want to go back to the scriptures that we’ve been kind of marinating in for the

holiday break series: Matthew 11:28-30. “Are you tired, worn out, burned out on

religion? Come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how

to take a real rest. Walk with me, and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the

unforced rhythms of grace. I wont lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company

with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 

Amy:

So beautiful. “Keep company with me.” We’re never alone. Jesus is always inviting us to

keep company with him. One of our interns, Kendra- this was amazing. She threw out

some verses at us and I love this one…you gave our audience permission to ask

someone to include them…that includes God too. And that can be one of our prayers. I

had never seen this before, its Psalm 25:16 where…I assume its David, is praying, “Turn

to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Man! It takes a lot of grit

even to say, “I’m lonely. I feel afflicted. This is not fun to feel like I don’t have a place to

belong at Thanksgiving or Christmas.” But if we will pray that prayer, that’s written right

in scripture, Jesus is right there with us.

 

Cheri:

And it takes grit to dial down the expectations for how Thanksgiving and Christmas

should be. I’m thinking of all the Norman Rockwell images that we have kind of

emblazoned in our heads. It takes grit to realize that there’s a lot of different ways that

these holidays can be celebrated. I know families who choose, and I know single

individuals who chose to go volunteer on Thanksgiving day, and they help serve

somebody else’s meal so that they can be part of blessing somebody else rather than

being at home alone feeling sorry for themselves. I think it takes grit to shake off “poor

me syndrome” and I don’t think we can ever shake it out of someone else, I mean I’m

back to thinking about when I was a teenager and I was so miserable. Bless my family’s

heart, they just let me be miserable…they didn’t try to tell me to count my blessings, or

tell me in 10 years that I’d be glad I had gotten rid of the guy, or anything like that. But I

think its something we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say “Do I really want to

stay in this place? Can I take one step towards getting out?” and also to realize that, you

know, on any given day of the holidays we may be feeling two things at the same time.

We can feel lonely and we can choose gratitude at the same time…its not just one, or

the other. But it does take grit to move out of the misery of loneliness and start moving

towards gratitude, and towards generosity towards others. How about the grace piece?

 

Amy:

Well it’s so true that we can feel two things at the same time. I think grace needs to be

extended to ourselves as well as to others…that on that day, if you feel lonely along with

feeling thankful, don’t beat yourself up; it just means that you’re human. On the other

hand I think, these are times of the year that bitterness can become very entrenched

towards others. So the grace has to be extended to others, that they are not with you

for whatever reason, so that bitterness doesn’t build up and the relationships start to

break down…

 

Cheri:

Good point. Good point. You have a great truth that we can use to replace the bad rule

that says if you’re alone then your unloved- what was that?

 

Amy:

Well the beauty of this time of year is that we are celebrating Jesus who is also called

Emmanuel. So because Jesus is Emmanuel- God with us- we’re never alone. Gosh it

made me tear up to say that! It’s a wonderful truth.

 

Cheri:

It is…it is.

 

You’re not alone if you feel alone during the holidays. We hope you’ve gained a slightly

new perspective on how you can respond to these very human emotions.

If you head on over to the web page for today’s episode at GritNGrace.info — that’s Grit

the letter N Grace dot info — you’ll find several free downloadables, including this

week’s “permission slip.”

Print it out and post it as a reminder you that you don’t HAVE to obey the bad rules that

say

If you’re alone, then you’re unloved. And if you’re surrounded by people, you can’t be

lonely.

Instead, you can focus on the fact that

Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, we are never alone.

 

<music>

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode 24 of Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad Rules.

Join Amy and me for next week’s HOLIDAY BREAK, when we’ll be talking about

managing our own emotions during Christmas season.

For today, grow your grit … embrace God’s grace … and when you run across a bad rule, you know what to do! Go right on ahead and BREAK IT!

Your Turn

  • What makes you feel alone during the holidays?
  • How do you stay connected with friends and family over the holidays?
  • How are you breaking (or planning to break) bad rules this holiday season?

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. 25 years ago our to son’s were married the same year, neither of them invited us for Easter or even asked what we were doing, there inlaws didn’t either. I was sick to my stomach & couldn’t eat I was soo disappoint ed .

    Then Thanksgiving & Christmas came around what a hassle every year , one daughter in law had to be w/ her family on Christmas day , no taking turns w/ either holiday . Older son had been divorced when his son was 7 so of course they came every other Christmas on the day. Our son would have liked to have our Christmas on the day as, his boys would go home the the next day often times. No way .
    We haven’t had our family together for 8 years now for anything cause the younger son has moved to NH . No invations by either of them to get together because of all the hassel we went through in the earlier years . Older son is hurt & younger son doesn’t even relize it. My husband says leave it all alone cause it might might make things worse. We are blessed w/ wonderful neighbors & friend’s we get together with. I like to entertain too. Guess I ‘ve gone on enough , blessed Thanksgiving to y’all.

  2. Nancy Griggs says:

    I am usually with myself! I love that statement because it helps me in my alone times which is about 90% of my time. Thanks!

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