Bittersweet Christmas


Are you asking yourself how a Christmas can be bittersweet?  Come with me as I share a few thoughts with you about my struggles celebrating Christmas.

As a child, I have sweet and delightful memories of celebrating Christmas with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  Somewhere in my life, I’m not sure where, it changed and I began to almost dread the holidays.

The grandparents died, families grew apart, we all grew up, got married and had children of our own.

Gary and I are only children and upon becoming married…we were expected to attend all family events…both sides.  Attempting to eat multiple Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners became stress zones. Our children were born and another dynamic was added.

Being the people pleaser that I can be, (more about that in a future post), over the years I racked up credit card debt trying to purchase the perfect gifts for everyone. I wanted my family and friends to feel special, loved and appreciated.  I wasn’t secure enough to know that the size or cost of a gift had nothing to do with my relationships being healthy and loving.

My parents divorced when I was in my 30’s and that added unexpected and unwanted loss, awkwardness, and heartache to holidays.  I remember like yesterday the first Christmas without my dad…I left a voice message on his answering machine telling him in a tearful, cracking voice how much I missed him.  At that point he was an alcoholic who was refusing help and had destroyed his marriage and life in the addiction and the added betrayal of infidelity.

Yes, I know the true meaning of celebrating Christmas.  I am a follower of that babe, now Risen King, who was born in the manger. He is the truth I hang on to in a culture that bombards me with everything but Jesus being the reason for the season. 

This year, I decided I wasn’t going to allow the painful memories of the past  ruin one more Christmas.  I picked up a book of Advent readings by one of my favorite authors and I was intentional about my approach to the manger. I put up a tree and walked through sweet memories as I hung ornaments…cute little ornaments with grade-school pictures of my children on jar lids they had made for me, antique ornaments from my grandmother’s tree, baubles from friends who knew my struggles and over the years had gifted me with ornaments to encourage me, shiny glass bulbs an aunt had hand painted, simple homemade trinkets from my mom. I spaced the lights just perfect, went round and round with the garland and the most fun of all, my favorite….I draped (actually, I threw it on) the silver tinsel.  I was peaceful, relaxed and reveled in every minute.

This year, the most precious gift of all came from my granddaughter, Delaney. I had received a Christmas stocking from a friend and it was empty.  She noticed, asked me why… asked her Papa why.. and then she disappeared.  A short time later, my daughter-in-law alerted me that Delaney was quietly tucking something into my empty stocking. She had colored a picture for me and was ensuring I had a gift in my stocking.  I hugged her, holding back the tears, asked her to autograph her artwork, and, as all good Nana’s do, promptly put it on my refrigerator.

 At the tender age of 7, she already understands the simplicity of Christmas… the gifting of our hearts to those we love and to those who do not have what we are blessed to have. 

Merry Christmas 2014!!!