Joy in A Hot Christmas Mess

Inside: In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all its imperfections. Christ came to save. Find joy in your mess, whatever it is.

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Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Leah from Grey Ministries here. She writes about helping others overcome the difficulties of life. She has a heart for  supporting others with addictions. Thank you, Leah, for sharing your story!

In the past five years, the best Christmas I have had was the one my husband was in rehab.

As a child, I cannot begin to tell you what a “Christmas elf” I was. I’m sure it was all on account of my mother. Her sister was killed in a tragic car accident at Christmas time when she was only seventeen. Having lost her father only a few years earlier, the blow was beyond devastating to her and my Grandmother. Because Christmas was a sad time of year for them, both my mother and Grandmother filled their homes with every kind of Christmas cheer one could muster- right down to the singing Santa head on the wall, who sang a different song every time we squeezed his nose (the adults LOVED that!).

Growing up, I didn’t know the story of the tragedy that loomed behind the Christmas bliss.

My Christmas was full of homemade gingerbread men gifted to our neighbours, tobogganing at the old mill, colourful wrapping paper, the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, Christmas productions at church and sparkling apple cider served in a “fancy” glass at my Grandma’s house. It truly was, “the most wonderful time of the year”.

It stayed that way until I married my husband. Being a single mother who lived on and off with her parents, I had done my best to ensure that Christmas for my son was still the most magical time of the year. When I got married, I only assumed Christmas would be all the more wonderful as I would be able to do the same for my child as my parents did for my brother and I. Gingerbread men. Hot chocolate. Jingle bells.

 As Christmas loomed closer in our first year of marriage, it became clearer that my husband was struggling with what I thought was alcoholism. Things got worse in November of that year and by the time Christmas arrived, it was rocky- to say the least.

The next Christmas, things got much worse.

Having the expectations I had for Christmas made everything we went through a lot harder. I was devastated that my husband had not only ruined my Christmas but also tainted precious memories for my children.

There was the year we found out he was an “alcoholic” (it turned out to be drugs- not alcohol), the year he went missing, the year he tried to commit suicide, the year I had to call the police to see if he had overdosed… not the Christmas memories I wanted for my kids.

Finding Joy in your Mess this Christmas. In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all its imperfections. Christ came to save. Find joy in your mess, whatever it is. #HeartbreakHoliday #joy #Christmas #addiction

One thing I’ve learned through it all is the loving way God protects His children in vulnerable situations.

When I was a single mother, I worried so much about my son but I now know he will always be taken care of. For children who have had such a traumatic home life, my children have been relatively unscathed. In a meeting at my son’s school recently, his teacher exclaimed in praise, “He is such a joy to have in the classroom! Honestly, he is such a happy kid!”. A happy kid. Even after losing the perfect Christmas.

Although the way that I grew up was wonderful, my Christmas now isn’t about the music, the food or the presents. Christmas is about family- a season of togetherness. This is what the first Christmas was really all about. Yes, it was the birth of Jesus and so we celebrate with gifts and parties but that isn’t the point.

Mary and Joseph had an imperfect Christmas but they had each other. In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. #HeartbreakHoliday Click To Tweet They had a family.

Finding Joy in your Mess this Christmas. In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all its imperfections. Christ came to save. Find joy in your mess, whatever it is. #HeartbreakHoliday #joy #Christmas #addiction


I don’t know what my Christmas will be like this year but I do know that those I care most about in the world will be there. I will not allow anything to get in the way of the snuggles we will have in our Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve, while the giggles of excitement trickle down the hallway past bedtime. Nothing will take away from the delicious fragrance of cinnamon buns and fresh coffee on our Christmas morning. And I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all it’s imperfections because what came of it was a young child who changed the world. From humble beginnings to a story that has been told a million times over-  may there be joy in the world for the Lord.

“Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…’” -Luke 2:9-10

As for my husband, I will continue to hope and pray that he one day changes his role in my Christmas story and contributes to the happy memories my children will have when they think back on what Christmas meant to them.

In the meantime, I have a Santa head to find.

Finding Joy in your Mess this Christmas. In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all its imperfections. Christ came to save. Find joy in your mess, whatever it is. #HeartbreakHoliday #joy #Christmas #addictionLeah Grey is a blogger, author and founder of Grey Ministries, faith-based support, encouragement and resources for women with loved ones who struggle with addiction.

You can find Leah here:

Leah’s support group

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

To read other posts in the Heartbreak Holiday series:
Dysfunctional Disaster Holiday 

It’s the Wonderful Time of the Year

 A Barren Womb at Christmas

Finding Joy in the NICU at Christmas

How to Choose Joy When Deployment Separates Us

Joy In A Hot Christmas Mess

I Feel So Sad And Lonely This Holiday Season

The Empty Seat


Finding Joy in your Mess this Christmas. In a dirty, stinky mess, they gave birth to joy. I will tell my children about the first Christmas, in all its imperfections. Christ came to save. Find joy in your mess, whatever it is. #HeartbreakHoliday #joy #Christmas #addiction

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  1. Kids are a lot more resilient that we are as adults. We find it hard to get over things that kids overlook.

    1. Ah, it’s so true!!! Sometimes, I think things are going to bother them but they really only bother me! My kids LOVE my husband. They don’t feel like they missed out at all. I think it was just normal to them for him to not be around much.

  2. I love this. Christmas is never picture perfect when your an adult. We see the things the kids overlook. Or maybe we focus on the shortcomings instead of the joy. Either way, I pray your Christmas is full of joy.

    1. Thank you! Last year, we did something different and had almost no presents. Instead, my parents took us to Belgium to visit my brother for the first time. It was an AWESOME Christmas. I know that travelling is a huge gift but if you consider the cost of presents and food, etc. taking a trip (even domestic) is about the same. My kids were a little weirded out they didn’t get many presents (tiny, light ones that fit in a suitcase) but it was a great break from the normal rush 🙂

  3. Lately, I have been settled to believe that Christmas is for gathering all the imperfect people in my life and myself included in that! To connect once a year in the name of Jesus…even if some of the imperfect people have yet to believe in Him. Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Keep making good memories for your kids. They are crucial in helping them hold on to their emotional and spiritual health. Making Christmas enjoyable is one of the important duties of a mom.

    1. It sure is, Alice 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement! I think this year, we are going to make llama and moose gingerbread cookies LOL decorate them and maybe even pass them out to the neighbours- how my parents did. It was always fun to decorate them!

  5. Kids usually don’t carry the baggage we would expect them to. That’s why buying the latest and greatest gifts, doing all the extravagant celebrations, and making sure everything is perfect is normally not what kids remember. They remember singing Christmas songs at school, pretending the Christmas tree is a secret hideout for toys, and seeing all the Christmas lights! As you might guess, these are my memories and they don’t appear to include gifts:)

    1. Thank you. It was painful. I don’t want to skirt around that. I think there is a wonderful lesson God has been teaching me through this about being joyful in the pain. All those verses about being joyful when things are hard, “His yolk is light”, “more than conquerors”, “we rejoice in our suffering”, they really mean something and they really can be done. It’s how we can move on when we have lost a baby, or a spouse, or a dream. God is a healer of both things seen and unseen. I don’t regret any of it for one second. For the record- my husband is currently sober and we are on track for a very good Christmas. If it doesn’t happen, I will be sad but not destroyed. If it does happen, I will be overjoyed that I didn’t give up faith that God could heal what was going on with him. Had I not been contending for him, I truly think he would have taken his own life. My kids would have lost a father for every Christmas, instead of having one there whose life had been restored. I better stop writing now lol I’m writing a whole other blog post here!

  6. Leah, while your Christmas “mess” might be a little more messy than most, at some point, I think we all place unrealistic expectations on what the season should bring. I have been guilty of trying to create the “perfect Christmas”, and in the process, missed out on the truth of what it really is. Love. Love, wrapped in a cloth, laid in a manger, later to be hung on a cross, for our sake. That kind of love can never be “created”…….. it can only be celebrated….. in any kind of mess. Thank you for this beautiful post, and I pray that you and your family will be blessed beyond imagination this coming Christmas season! Much love, from The Barefoot Warrior!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, you’re right, we totally can all do this! I said above in a comment that we went to Belgium last year to visit my brother and forewent presents. My parents exclaimed for all of the trip that they wished they had done that with my brother and I from the start so that Christmas didn’t become about the gifts but stayed focused on what mattered.

  7. Wow Leah thank you for writing this. Our family has undergone some hardships in this arena as well. We also do not do big mainstream holidayishness (my own word). We often feel weird but are learning to embrace it and are quite loving the way God has brought freedom to our lives. I am praying for you and all who you serve. I will check out your blog for sure.

  8. This is wonderful. Our family has also had the holiday season marred by tragedy with the death of my sister-in-law in early December, the day before my birthday, several years ago. Those first few Christmases were really tough, and thank God He pulled our family together closer than ever as we maintained and created some traditions to honor the joy of the season – even if we couldn’t feel it all the time. Keep making those memories for your family!

  9. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”
    He came to a world in a “hot mess” and He continues to love us through our ” hot mess”. How awesome is He!!
    I’m praying for beautiful memories for you and your kids this year. Blessings!!

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  18. Beautifully written. Thank you for being vulnerable with us; it truly is a blessing to know that even in the midst of all our messes, God is ever present.

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  21. This is so comforting! There is so much hype about “the perfect Christmas,” but I find when we can find connection in the holy even in the most trying circumstances, that is when we can experience true joy.

  22. This is so true. The Christmas celebrations of many of us are not truly worthy of the glory of the Lord – whether there is upheaval in the family or not. I am grateful for the traditions of family coming together to celebrate the One True God-Man that our kids (now grown with their own kids) treasure.
    Thanks for this reminder to keep the focus on Christ.

  23. Thank you for this beautiful post, Leah. Such fresh insight about Christmas. I’m sorry for the hardships you endured after your marriage at Christmastime. I love the analogy you make between losing the perfect Christmas to the first Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Amazing how so not perfect the first Christmas turned out, but how it highlighted the only perfect One. Love this thought, “…the loving way God protects His children in vulnerable situations.”

  24. Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. It was written beautifully. And it is such an important reminder to all that Christmas can be a sad or difficult time for some people, where things fall short of our expectations or hopes. And yet, we can still find peace. Best wishes to you this holiday season!

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