Christmas is a beautiful time of year. So many memories. So much to see and experience. Such a precious time of remembering our Savior and His coming to earth.
In our family, Christmas has become a unique blend of special times…and intense heartache.
I guess it all started 5 Christmases ago. We were grieving a loss, had just added 3 precious little girls to our family, and threw a cross-country trip into the mix. This was such a special Christmas. So much promised hope and love for our family. It was also the Christmas when I began to become uniquely aware of the fact that the precious girls in my home and under my care had needs that I simply would not be able to meet. They had experiences that had broken them in ways I was only beginning to understand. They had memories I would never share in. Our family would have to be cobbled together with more than love. This Christmas began to drive me to my knees in prayer with a desperation I had rarely experienced in my life thus far.
A whole year passed by and Christmas came again. This Christmas we lovingly refer to as “Our Angry Christmas.”
We purchased a tree together, had hot chocolate, and tucked those same little girls into bed. I was so very excited about Christmas that year. We knew our girls a little better. Adoption was on the horizon. Family was beginning to feel secure. And I wanted perfect memories and traditions to go along with the preciousness of the family we were building.
During the following day, I decorated the tree with love and care. We had a special evening planned. One of our sweet daughters came home from school, took one look at the tree, and threw one of the biggest, longest, angriest fits we had ever seen from her. She was too young to explain. Really too young to fully understand. But during that Christmas season, we saw a fit like that first one every single day. Every. Single. Day.
That year we took the tree down on Christmas Day as soon as the girls were asleep. Sobbing in pain and relief.
Since that year, we have been much more careful in our Christmas planning. We have taken things a bit slower. Planned a bit better. Chosen to tell more and surprise less. Set up special events with days of talk and detailed explanations.
Those things help. We have learned more. We have grown. We have begun to understand a bit better how to encourage our special family through the holiday season.
But heartache, like a bad penny, keeps appearing every year. Keeps poking it’s head up when we least expect it. Keeps us up at nights. Keeps us company during long, hard days. Keeps joining in on family activities.
And, somewhat surprisingly, as the years have gone by, heartache has become less like a bad penny, and more like a dear old friend. Not really in the moment, of course, but after. Looking back, it colors our memories with a dimension and vibrancy that we never would have chosen. It broadens our emotions and deepens our understanding. Even when it feels like our family just might be broken beyond repair this time, somehow that same heartache creates a bond that draws us even closer. Tighter. Stronger.
This Christmas was no different. The holiday season was rough. There were some in our family that were grieving deeply. Memories were stirred that created intense pain and longing. Deepest wants were denied. Love and family lost. The finality of goodbyes became real. What would never be again became clear.
Sorrow. Confusion. Anger. Despair. Sobbing. Destroying.
But, looking back, even from a vantage point this near. I recognize.
Heartache is a giver.
We are left with more than we had.
We are more thankful. More satisfied. More aware. Faster to forgive. Deeper in love. Stronger in faith. Slower to judge. Eager to give grace. Softer in our words. Longer on our knees in prayer.
And so, Merry Christmas, Heartache,
Our old friend.
May we continue to receive God’s gifts at your hand.
This holiday season
And all through the year.