The phone rang in the middle of the night. Our son had been arrested for the murder of his wife’s first husband. Life as we once knew it stopped.
The first Christmas was brutal. An empty seat at the dining room table. An unknown future. Unspeakable pain for the victim’s family and for our family. Why didn’t our all-powerful God stop this horrible crime from happening?
Now, 23 years into our son’s life sentence, we’ve learned some things that I hope will be helpful if you are facing a hard Christmas yourself—or if you know someone in that situation.
- Grieve your losses.
No, the holidays will never be what you once anticipated. Shed necessary tears as you see sentimental ornaments, hear a favorite Christmas carol, or review memories of happier occasions.
- Concentrate on simplicity.
Christmas doesn’t need to be a lot of work and exhaustion. A simple scented candle, a favorite meal, or a wreath on the door can be enough when you’re in a hard season.
- Balance alone time with the time you spend with a few trustworthy people.
Our natural inclination is to turn inward and isolate when we’re hurting. Be intentional about connecting with a friend and share openly about your journey.
- Accept the kindness of others.
When you’re used to being on the “giving end” of compassion, it’s hard to receive from others graciously. Let a caring friend drop off a meal or help with extra expenses due to your difficult situation.
- Identify someone who needs help and offer tangible support.
Serving others has been the single most helpful thing Gene and I have learned. In reaching out to others who are hurting, we’ve shared our story, listened to the life experiences of others, prayed together, and developed supportive friendships.
- Experience the power of praise.
Play worship music. Get out an old hymn book and read the lyrics of a favorite song. Read the Christmas story and express your thanks through prayer for the gift of Jesus, the Savior sent to save the world.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 NIV
Father, You are holy, righteous, and just. I praise You for giving me life. Thank You for patiently guiding me through the good days and the hard days. I give You all that I am as an offering. I want You to be pleased with my choices, my attitude, and my service to You. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world. I glorify Your name. Amen.
Question: What are you thanking God for during this holy time of year?
Speak Up for Hope is our nonprofit organization. No one on our staff receives a salary for their many volunteer hours, so your gift goes to your intended purpose. You can designate gifts specifically for:
- Inmates and their families
- Books, Bible studies, and curriculum for classes inside the razor wire
- Equipment needs in prison chapels
- Games for visitation areas, so children have something to do with an incarcerated parent
- Books for the “Read-Me-a-Story” program (inmates reading to their children on video)
- Scholarship assistance for us to equip people to share the gospel and teach the Word of God globally through Speak Up Ministries. These gifts can be designated for military spouses or for anyone who needs training.
Give online at www.SpeakUpforHope.org, or call Gene at 586.481.7661 if you’d like to make a tax-deductible credit card donation by phone. Thank you for your generosity.
About Carol Kent
Carol Kent is a bestselling author and an international speaker for conferences, outreach events, and retreats. She’s the executive director of the Speak Up Conference, an event committed to helping people develop their speaking and writing skills. She and her husband, Gene, have founded the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, which benefits inmates and their families. Carol holds a master’s degree in communication arts and a bachelor’s degree in speech education. Carol has trained Christian speakers for over twenty-five years, and she has been a featured speaker at Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women, and Women of Joy arena events. She is the author of over twenty-five books, including the bestselling When I Lay My Isaac Down, Tame Your Fears, and Becoming a Woman of Influence. Her two newest titles are a 365 page-per-day devotional titled, He Holds My Hand, and Staying Power. Connect with Carol at www.carolkent.org.