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Like so many Americans, I spent roughly twenty years going to the in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Three hours (round-trip) road time, thirty minutes of food (scrumptious and savory), three more hours of watching football (which I don’t enjoy) and talking about the weather (how ‘bout that snow?)

Since my marriage ended, none of my friends believe me when I say I don’t need “a place to go” for the holidays.  For a while I tried to explain it, saying that what I really wanted was to find a substantive way of giving thanks to God for all the blessings in my life.  They’d still look at me with sad-puppy eyes and say, “Awww, don’t be alone for the holidays! Come eat with us.”

As much as I appreciate these invitations, I’ve started my own tradition: “Holiday Helping.”  I’ve helped out at the food bank, the home for unwed mothers, and the cancer society – so I’m surrounded by strangers during the holidays.  Not a relative in sight for miles around.

And you know what?  I’ve come to really treasure my time alone (even though it’s always busy and noisy) and consider it living prayer to serve this way.  In fact, I talk to God in my head the whole time.  “Lord, bless and bolster this child of yours.  Give him nourishment with this meal.  While you’re at it, please provide him with new shoes.”

This is a true gift, and it all started because I had nowhere to go for the holidays and felt all alone in the world.  I can tell you this:  not only do I no longer feel alone; I know that sometimes prayers are answered in ways you don’t expect.  So when I run into an old friend and see that tilted-head/sad-eye look coming at me, and I can feel that “pity” turkey-day invitation coming, I can look her in the eye and say it like I mean it.

Thanks.  I’m good.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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