Gary and I have been married since 1986, and for the first fourteen years of our marriage, we lived less than an hour away from his parents, my grandparents, and a few other extended family members. Living so close, of course, meant that we always spent holidays with family. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and even birthday celebrations found us surrounded by many loved ones. They were lovely days, filled with laughter and sweet memories.
In May, 2000, however, Gary and I and our two children left Florida and made the cross-country move to Boise, Idaho. With thousands of miles between our loved ones and us, spending holidays with them was no longer possible. In fact, we haven't spent a single holiday with family since Christmas 1999, which means holidays can often be lonely and somewhat depressing. For several years, we whined about not being with family during the holidays, but we eventually realized that the best thing to do when you are lonely and sad and missing someone is to take your eyes off yourselves and reach out to others. Which is exactly what we did.
Two Thanksgivings found our family of four serving at the Idaho State Veterans' Home. We served a meal to the veterans and just spent time chatting with the men. It was a beautiful experience. Other Thanksgivings, we invited neighbors and church friends to join us.
At Christmas, we began looking around for other families who were also far from loved ones, and we invited them to share in a Christmas Eve feast at our house. We opened our door to people we knew well and some we didn't---a co-worker of Gabrielle's; an older couple from our then-church; former neighbors; families whose children Gabrielle taught in Sunday School (but who Gary and I had never met). One time, we even invited a young man none of us had ever even laid eyes on until the moment he showed up at our door Christmas Eve---he was a new arrival in town, the friend of a Florida friend's daughter. Every single gathering was filled with joy and laughter and abundant blessings.
Our heart for reaching out to others and sharing a meal with them began with Thanksgiving and Christmas, then it was Memorial Day, then Easter, then the 4th of July. It wasn't long until it became what it is now---an open door any day of the year. We simply love opening our home to others, sharing a meal together, and extending the love of Jesus to them.
Although born out of loneliness and the longing for family, God had so much more in mind. If you are feeling lonely with the holiday season on the very near horizon, why not look around for others who are missing their loved ones too. Invite them over to share a meal around your table. I'm sure you will be abundantly blessed by doing so!