When A Holiday Leaves You Hollow

by | May 29, 2012 | Uncategorized

Loneliness arrives with her suitcases on holidays, packed full of reminders that home isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind.

We left the brick house with the sea green door in the desert almost ten years ago when He told us to go. We looked in the rear view mirror of pool parties and face painting, backyard birthday celebrations and Easter lunches under low hanging orange trees.

We waved goodbye to pushing furniture against walls for Christmas Eve gatherings and to women’s leadership lunches around strawberry salad on antique plates. Pulled the moving van of life’s possessions away from the neighborhood where Sunday worship and elementary school classrooms sat a walk across the parking lot outside our back yard gate.

If the house could talk, it would tell stories of wispy locks strewn on the concrete porch of first haircuts, Harrison’s wobbly first steps, Murielle’s first bike ride weaving down a dead end street, and the sudden death of our first family dog.  Of heads bent low over ministries pioneered, women’s retreats organized, and Christmas teas carefully planned on the living room floor.

Every holiday since pulling away from community waving goodbye on the curb, loneliness arrives with her suitcase of postcards and pictures from the past standing beside my bed at the first light of day.  And after I sulk like a tea bag floating in cold water, I invite Jesus to join me.

Because He reminds me that the destination of contentment is not a place, it’s a person.  That community, church, and family cannot fill the empty places of the soul.  

Today I sit on a low chair beside my family on a beach stretched out white and foamy. The sea’s quiet roar rocks us to sleep and the pages of books flap in the wind.

Later I stand in the ebb of hungry seas, feel sand and tiny bits of shell slide between my toes. He walks with me along the shore of my discontent, points out the cerulean sky, chalked cloud streaks overhead.

The squawk of sea gulls, the way the sun shines on a day of predicted tropical storms, how the breeze blows to cool our warm sun-kissed shoulders. The way the beach empties on a holiday and we bask in this peace all to ourselves. Peace from the sacrifice of others.

And gratefulness erases the delusion that happiness only looks like the laughter of yesterday.  

 Counting gifts of thanks with Ann because it changes the way we see:

  • For a day of discovery in Charleston to celebrate my mother in laws birthday.
  • Pulling weeds and trimming because it’s the best place to hear Him.
  • A new birdbath for my birthday (which is three months away).
  • The way my son enjoys helping his sister work on her school project, giving up his Memorial Day.
  • Dinner at the restaurant that feels like we sit in Paris under candlelight.
  • For time to read good books.
  • The dear friend that lets us park at her house on the island.
  • An unplanned drive that leads to a secret find of beauty along the water. (I just might have to share this one with you later this week.)

Linking with Playdates with God, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, Miscellany Monday, Soli Deo Gloria, On Your Heart Tuesday, Just Write

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  1. Sharon O

    Beautifully written … a story told… saddness shared but redeemed too.
    I am glad your day was full of ‘Jesus, some family and a new perspective’.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Sharon, so glad you heard the redemption. Thankful for that, every day.

  2. r.elliott

    shelly…I do know this…long story…but years of deep fellowship…every holdiay..every big event shared and celebrated…until all was torn asunder. It has been a painful process…a lonely one…but oh His grace…His grace is filling those places…not looking back…but looking forward with hope and peace in this new place. Today…a sweet day with family…knowing others are gathering together… I thought to myself today…wow…no pain…learning to live and accept what is…not longing for what was. Blessings to you as you continue to find that abiding place with Him.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s comforting to know that I am not the only one that feels this way Ro and your words here give me hope. Thank you.

  3. Joan

    Shelly – I always enjoy your posts. You paint such a beautiful picture with your words. It’s true, contentment is not a place, but an attitude of our heart.


  4. Amy Dane (@AmyinWanderland)

    Awesome post. My heart broke a little, too, as you left the place you loved so much. But you’re right: ” …the destination of contentment is not a place, it’s a person.” Amen, and amen.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amy, so thrilled you dropped by and left a comment. I felt a bit guilty feeling so lonely on a day I should be grateful. It was good to get the perspective on the beach.

  5. Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Shelly, what an unusually exquisite post, and how I relate. You left your low-hanging orange trees, and we, our umbrageous oaks and white-saucered dogwoods. We were only moving across St. Louis County, but it may as well have been across the ocean, because our first home, our precious “Linden Cottage,” was being razed. It’s here that my husband whisked me over the threshhold and where we brought our infant daughter Sheridan to share our lives. I cried for days until I realized that we would always treasure the memories of Linden Cottage–its true essence–in our hearts. And most important, in this midst of this upheaval, the Lord Himself became my true treasure. I knew experientially that where He (my treasure) was, my heart was also. I came to know that treasures in heaven are laid up only as treasures on earth are laid down. I love this quote by Bishop Whipple of the last century: “If in utter helplessness we cast our all on Christ, He will be to us the whole treasury of God.”

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lynn, I am from St. Louis too. Born and raised there in my early years. How fun to know we share that. I think all the moving I have done in my 22 years of marriage has helped me to learn to be content like Paul, in all situations. I’m not quite there yet obviously, still learning.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Oh that is so amazing, Shelly! I’m sure we could share about many things in your memories about this Gateway to the West…the Arch, St. Louis Cardinals, world’s best zoo, the mighty Mississippi, lovely Botanical Garden, etc. How old were you when you left? How interesting about your many moves. I think you have offered the key to life (via Paul! :-)….to be content in all circumstances wherever God places you (in terms of locale, profession, life situations… we can be content if we are content in Christ. That’s the key to it all. Thank you for sharing!

        • Redemption's Beauty

          My grandparents lived in Crestwood. I lived in Jennings (know its horrible now), Ballwin, and then we moved to Sullivan. I moved a lot as a child. I took field trips to the arch and planetarium. My grandparents took me to the botanical gardens on weekends, could be why I love gardening so much. I left St. Louis when I was in elementary school but visited often because I spent almost every weekend with my dear grandparents until my highschool years.

  6. Wendy

    Your post reminds me of how I often feel. It reminds me of how I was feeling yesterday… driving down beautiful country lanes with my husband and yet feeling very lonely and detached despite the company. I often feel like an ‘alien’ / ‘traveller’ just passing through this life. I know my real home is in eternity and somehow, I just cannot put down roots and call any place ‘home’. I look at blogs and pictures of people who describe neighbourhoods, houses, and family ‘home’, and I wish I felt as they describe – perhaps it’s something wrong with me… I don’t know… I just know some days I have a longing ache for a place to call ‘home’ and this world and what I call ‘home’ does not satisfy the void I have – I believe being ‘home’ with the Lord will only satisfy it!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wendy, I think you and I are kindred spirits. So thrilled to find you. You described perfectly how I often feel. I beat myself up about it often and then have seasons of being at peace about it. And I think you are right, we will never lose that ache until we look in His eyes, stand face to face. Thank you so much for leaving your comment. It blessed me more than you know.

  7. Wendy

    … meant to say: “Because He reminds me that the destination of contentment is not a place, it’s a person. That community, church, and family cannot fill the empty places of the soul. ”

    Thank you! I believe this is so true… the aching void can only be filled with Jesus! How true.

  8. jamieywrites (@jamieywrites)

    A heart of thanksgiving is the heart of joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength!

  9. Cathy

    the destination of contentment is not a place, it’s a person.

    I agree.

  10. Denise


  11. Christina

    I know the ache of leaving community and moving to a strange place. I still struggle with where we live but God is showing me the good in it too. Blessings!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I often think that the point in moving so often for me, has been the way God has helped me to find contentment outside of people and places. I cannot say it has been easy but I am grateful for the way He loves me through the ache. And I am so incredibly grateful for my on-line tribe, for people like you Christina that make me smile and help the lonely ache to go away.

  12. consolationofmirth

    “And gratefulness erases the delusion that happiness only looks like the laughter of yesterday.”
    I needed that today. Thank you, Shelly.

  13. Amy L. Sullivan (@AmyLSullivan1)

    Lonliness and her suitcase makes a stop at my house too on holidays. I try to tell her how unwelcome she is but she just doesn’t listen. Beautiful post for when I’m sulking like a tea bag in cold water.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Ya know, just knowing that you share this Amy, it makes me feel better for some reason. Because you, lovely you, have such a way of bringing joy through your words and the way you live life that you would be the last person I would suspect to be lonely.

  14. marybethketchum

    Lovely post. It reminds me of the early days in my marriage when we moved far away from both our families to Texas. I think I cried for the first 2 months. Now that we have moved back home, I miss the “family” I made during my time in Texas.

    Wendy is right. All the longing will be satisfied in Him.

    Mary Beth

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Change is hard, even when it is good. Trusting in him for the outcome isn’t easy either, but so much better than staying stuck in the past. So glad to meet you and appreciate your comment.

  15. Laura @ Pruning Princesses

    The community left behind gets to bask in the light of forgetfullness. We forget the struggles as we long for what once was. It’s been almost ten years since I left Iowa and I still miss that community, still struggle with comparing it to the new ones God gives us. Lifting my eyes up and remembering how faithful he is helps. Most of the time. I suppose it depends on how hard I want to hold on to my loneliness. Thanks for writing Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think you are so right, it depends on how much we want to let go. And I have noticed that when I finally do, I see life through gratefulness so much more clearly.

  16. Anne Harvey

    Holidays do bring memories of days goine. the greatest memoy is often one we do not know we have and that is remembering the garden that our hearts deeply yearn for in the midst of this earthly life. Love that you said it was about a person. So agree but it also for me about a place that person is calingl me to live in. That place I only get glimpses of from time to time. That place of knowing the person of Jesus has a place for me to dwell with Him. A place of total praise, joy and contentment. The glimpses give me a desire to want more and to be thankful for the time I do find there. That memory keeps me going and yearning to return. Dear Bishop Frey said once it was remembering the future. I loved that cause the past speaks of a place of no return but the future is a destination. Shelly your words take me to the palce of remembering that there is a future and that warms my sout. Thank you for the beautiful trips your words have given.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think people and places help lead us to contentment but don’t fulfill in the way only Jesus can. I think that is what you were saying. Thanking him for hope today for the future. Love you friend.

  17. Jillie

    Sad post for me today. Hope you’ll bear with me. Things seem a little different here in Canada. A lot of us seem to choose a home in a community and stick with it for a long time…sometimes for life, as is my case. Husband & I moved here 34 years ago and we’re still here. I don’t think we’re getting out of here alive! For about 6 months now, I’ve felt a restlessness and dissatisfaction when I should be full of gratitude. Loneliness plagues me at times, as I’m not in the hub of our neighbouring community where all my friends live. And I don’t drive, so I’m stuck here. Even the scenery is growing old. When you said, “He walks with me along the shore of my discontent” I could certainly relate. I journal all these feelings, and then days later I berate myself for my ungratefulness. The Lord has blessed me with a ‘stable’ daily life, but I guess I yearn for something more exciting. Everyone else seems to be living fuller lives, where mine seems so routine and predictable. Any thoughts or counsel out there? Should I just be grateful and shut my mouth?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jillie, I sent you an email. I love that you left this comment and hope we can talk more.

  18. Jean Wise

    Shelly, you really captured that too well known feeling for many of us. I too have been transplanted and bloomed in a new ground that still after 30 years doesn’t quite fit. Often I remind myself that this is where God planted me but I do yearn for someplace else. Ironically a few years ago we could have moved but with two of the three kids settling close by we chose not to move. I value their closeness more than the green grass growing someplace else. good thoughts today.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I guess the moves help us to understand life from His perspective. I know that despite my discontent in places I have lived, they have provided some of the most rich times of growth in my spiritual walk and for that I am grateful.

  19. Robin

    Each time you share about you walk on the beach my heart pulls. Lord, I want to see this beauty Shelly enjoys around her. One day we will get to walk and talk on this beach.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      One day Robin, I am confident it will happen.

  20. kelliwoodford

    How often we want to squeeze “community, church, and family” into the hole only made to fit the One who really makes us Whole.

    I see this in me, too.

    But, you said it so well, the “destination of contentment.” Yes. We arrive at this destination not by a zip code or a denominational affiliation, but by accepting that all our times are in His hand.

    Your encouragement is timely for me today, Shelly. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I can get focused on what I don’t have that I used to have in other places. And then I remember that God prders the days of my life, that He decided I and my family need to be right where we are for reasons I may not know now or ever. So glad to know this encouraged you. It was healing for me to write about it.

  21. ljbmom

    Shelly, this just made my heart ache. oh, the things we leave behind when we move ahead. Love to you, lady.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      There is often a price to pay when we say yes to Jesus. And its always worth it.

  22. 3dLessons4Life

    Ah, contentment is a person. Repeat…. I needed that today.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad Lyli. You have been such a blessing to me, glad to know I could be one to you today.

  23. Hazel Irene Moon

    Thank you for your sweet comments on my recent post. I think all of us feel loniness at times, not just on hollidays. The last two years we have not put up our large Christmas tree, becaus no one was coming here for Christmas. Son goes with his Wife, and one daughter too far away etc. Right now I have been napping more, because I am suffering the Birthday blues. I put my money in the Birthday offering Sunday and added one extra penny. One year ,makes a difference on joints and bodies. God is my Strength and I am better today because He lives.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh Hazel, I hope you know what a blessing your life breathes over this blogosphere. We are better for having you in it. I know the birthday blues, I’m starting to feel the ache a bit myself. So thankful we are not an age but a spirit to make a difference in this world. You are making one, I am sure of it. Happy Birthday to you friend. Reaching through this blog to hug you. Can you feel it?

  24. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Beautifully written and expressed… I love all your metaphor images like “loneliness arrives with her suitcases…”we looked in the rear view mirror of pool parties…” You make me feel it all with you. I know what it is to long for things behind. I pray He brings you many more joys ahead!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you. Couldn’t give a writer a better compliment. You bless me Pam.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        I’m glad, Shelly… because your writing inspires me in mine too 🙂 I was just reading a beautiful new book (well it is a re-edition, I guess) by one of my favorite inspirational novelists, Elizabeth Musser, this weekend. Her imagery is so lovely too. Guess as a writer, we always notice those things… 🙂

        • Redemption's Beauty

          I haven’t read her, will have to check her out.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        Yes, I think from your style here that you would enjoy Elizabeth’s books. I wrote a review of her “The Sweetest Thing” on my blog. The novels I am reading now are a trilogy that have just been reissued… Two Crosses, Two Testaments, Two Destinies (to come out in Sept). Pretty amazing and moving story based on history in France and Algeria in the 1950’s – but very timely for things America is experiencing. Elizabeth is American, but she and her husband are missionaries in France so she has a lot of knowledge of that country. I highly recommend her works… every one of her novels I’ve read has been awesome.

  25. Melissa Nicholson Smallwood

    I am curious to hear about this drive!! God always blesses me during my time alone in the car.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Melissa, so nice to meet you and thanks for liking my facebook page. I wrote about that awesome little piece of heaven we found on our drive in today’s post. Hope you enjoy it.

  26. Liz

    I hear your heart. We waved goodbye to our family home of 11 years – the home I raised my 4 children alone, the home we considered our “new start” & “new hope” after their Dad left us and moved to the USA (to St Loius!!) and married the woman he met on the internet. We had so many beautiful memories there, so much laughter, some tears, but love abounded and peace reigned and God was with us.
    11 years later we lost it all and I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. (workplace harassment, having to resign & fight the man in court, my daughter becoming chronically ill and a car accident that robbed me of the ability to drive, work & left me with permanent nerve damage down my left side).
    But I fight each day to see the positive in the mess, in the loss, in the sadness… God gave me a husband through all this who loves me dearly. And for that I am grateful 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Liz, you have truly been a warrior on the front lines. So grateful that you stopped by and responded to this post. My heart aches for all that you have had to overcome and endure. But there was such redemption at the end when you said He gave you a husband who loves you well. I am so thankful for that, for you. I hope you will come back again and join in future conversations.

      • Liz

        Thank you for your reply. I do intend to visit again. I also intend to pick up my Gratitude Journal again. I have been neglecting it for a little while and I find when life gets on top of me and I forget to add gratitudes, that it becomes harder to find joy in the here and now… I don’t want that. Thank you again & God bless you 🙂

  27. simplystriving

    Oh how you tug at my heart strings. I struggle with the guilt. Of feeling guilty for looking back, reminiscent of what I’ve had. wondering if I should be salt piled high… Of feeling guilty for not seeming like I fully appreciate where He’s now leading. Then of feeling guilty for being content, which often feels like complacency to me.
    But then I find Him. And He reminds me all I’m feeling is the need for more. Because I was made for more. For more of Him. Why, I’ve been hard-wired for heaven. So yes. I now offer to help loneliness unpack. I offer her tea. And we chat awhile about what we’re longing for…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I watched the video for Grace for the Good Girl over at Emily Freeman’s blog Chatting at the Sky today and one of the gals said she felt guilty for feeling guily which made her a good girl. I’m reading her book with my daughter this summer. Anyway, your commment made me think of that . And we will always have that feeling for until we get to heaven don’t ya think?

  28. bvanderlinden

    This is beautiful. I dream of a bog move but I know I would miss this house where I had my 3 children. I have been here for 12 years yet this is not the home in a town where my friends and family are and I miss that. I get lonely here and while I am happy…I wish I were closer to my hometown. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. So happy to find your blog through Just Write!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my, do I know how you feel. We can feel home but not in our heart, happy but not quite fulfilled. And maybe that will be the way it us until we step into heaven. So glad you stopped by from Just Write. I love that place.

  29. Danise Jurado

    Contentment… Lonliness…. Longing… each feeling so very personal. Reading your words, although I know that they are your words, my heart felt them personally. Jesus gentle touch… also so very personal and always just exactly what we need, when we need it. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. Blessings~ stopping by from OYHT

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Danise, so pleased you stopped by and felt His breathe in the words. What a gift your comment is to me. Thanks!

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