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