Let’s rewind a bit- to Sunday. God revealed a few things to me while I was standing behind a pole during worship at church. I think now would be an appropriate time to share one of those “epiphanies” if you will.
I have always not been a fan of Christmas. I won’t say that I’ve always hated it (mostly because it makes me sound like a terrible Christian), but I’ve definitely not had positive feelings towards the holiday. Always is a quite absolute word, yet I’ve used it in the “since I can remember” sense. That really only goes back as far as my freshman year in high school. That leaves 13 years that I could have very possibly loved Christmas. Now, I do have teeny tiny little snapshots of Christmas past for way back then. I must have been 5 or 6 and I remember having a terrible ear ache and having to go look at lights on Christmas Eve. I cried when I got home because I felt so terrible. I remember being mmm… 7 or 8 maybe and getting a Lego Disney castle- I loved that and was so proud when I completed it. I remember helping my sister decorate the tree. Oh, and in our stockings we always got an orange, coloring book, and sometimes nuts. That’s what I remember of Christmas before high school.
During my formative teenage years different things happened that caused me to turn my back on the good memories focus on the negative ones and turn into a “I hate Christmas” kind of gal. I won’t share all of them because this is definitely not the forum to do so, but God revealed those things to me which made me realize that my perception has been skewed for almost two decades. My parents got a divorce between my 8th and 9th grade. My sister went off to college, my mom and I moved to IL and my dad stayed in OH. Where my mom and I were living was not an ideal place- in fact we were mostly treated like crap (because there isn’t a more poetic word that isn’t an expletive) and were told we should be grateful to be there. I remember watching my cousins open their gifts Christmas morning and realizing that there were hundreds and hundreds of dollars there being unwrapped- I had never seen that much in one place before. I got a flannel. A purple flannel from WalMart. A purple flannel with sleeves that were too short. That was my gift from them. My mom and I were then told that we had to go in our room because they wanted family time (my mom and I shared the dining room as our bedroom). So my too short sleeved purple flannel and I went into our room. That was the beginning of the end for me. The final nail in the coffin came later on that day- but as I said… not the place.
It’s not that I also wanted a video game system, basket ball hoop, Nerf arsenal, or the myriad of other things they got- I just wanted to be recognized and loved. A gift that was clearly not something I liked or that fit did not say “you are loved”. From that point on, Christmas began to give me some very bitter memories. By the time I was a junior, people actually thought that I was some other religion because I never took part in the Christmas goings on in school. At home, I’d fake it because I didn’t want to cause any trouble (which always found its way to me anyway), but inside I was loathing every second that I had to smell the pine, see the lights and wrapping paper. It was only three years that we lived there. It was a hard three years, but my mother tried her best to make it okay for me. I love her so much for that.
Don’t get me wrong, not all Christmases have been traumatic- it truly was just those three, but they were just so powerful that I couldn’t see the good ones that happened afterwards. My sister and I lived together for a few years. One year we both got each other the same gift (completely unaware of the other)- we opened our gifts to discover we both gave a bowling ball, shoes, and a bag. That was pretty awesome. Her and Adam have always made me feel welcome and loved. I’m part of their Christmas celebrations and their family- that’s a given- but there was still something inside of me that just wouldn’t let this dislike for Christmas go.
It wasn’t until last year that Christmas started to change for me. I was invited to spend Christmas at my best friend’s house. Her parents treated me like their daughter. No one had done that before who hadn’t hurt me or turned their back on me. It wasn’t about the gifts (though they soooo hooked a sister up)- it was about the feeling like I belonged. I didn’t feel in the way, I wasn’t told to go to my room, I was welcomed, hugged, and loved.
So this year I decided that I would try to like Christmas. I’m glad I did- because I think without that openness, God would not have revealed these things to me… or if He did, I just wouldn’t have gotten it. It really isn’t about Christmas though. It all goes back to that feeling of loneliness and trying to shield myself from hurt. Christmas was just another barrier that I’ve put up… but that’s coming down.