I remember those Christmases the most.
The ones where I stood in between heartache ten feet deep and grief and shame that ripped through my soul like a tidal wave of what felt like the entire world against me.
I even considered that life was this painful because I wasn't supposed to be in it.
Sorrow that cuts to the bone and marrow will do that to a person. Will unravel a person. Will break us open and bring us to our knees in the darkest corner of our soul, howling in the midnight hour with the pain of just trying to do life - all wrecked and messed up inside and wishing that life could please be gentler, kinder even, just once.
But even still...
I would look at those beautiful brown eyes staring back at me and the absolute sheer perfection that called me Mama...
And I held her and loved her and sang over her and let the tears fall as I watched her sleep and brushed those gorgeous curls and told her while she was sleeping how sorry I was.
For the mama she had. For everything I was. For everything I wasn't.
For the 1.99 Happy Meal we had to share and call it dinner.
For the trailer. For the pipes that froze. For no running water. For no electricity multiple times. Too many times. For the cabinets that were bare. For the empty fridge. For the car that barely ran.
For the smocked dresses that weren't in her closet and the pink bows that weren't in her hair. For lacy turn down socks I didn't have the money to buy. For new patent leather shoes that weren't on her feet. For the few dollars of a paycheck on the 15th of December that was all I had to give her some kind of a Christmas.
And for the wedding band that still wasn't on my left hand.
And every year I would wish that it was the Christmas to remember. The one where I was happily married with a house full of babies and siblings for my Macey girl. And enough money to pay all the bills and buy all the presents and still keep the electricity on. The one where we baked cookies and decorated gingerbread and wrapped gifts and watched real ballerinas on a real stage.
I would look at other mothers through the eyes of comparison and wonder what on earth they had that I didn't. How they were able to make it work or capture the heart of another or even how on earth they were married, divorced and married again?
I couldn't for the life of me figure out the formula.
And then the holidays would unfold each year.
And during the holidays we had to share our daughter.
Every, single time I would plead with a God that I didn't know, that the drop off wouldn't kill me.
That He would help me.
That He would hold me up.
That the missing wedding band didn't identify me. And the trailer park and eventually apartment complex we called home didn't define me as a mom who loved her daughter less.
The empty car seat and barbie on the floor board of our car after the drop off would send me into a whirlwind of sorrow and despair and a sudden need to pull this car over because I can't drive it while slumped over the steering wheel- emotional breakdown.
I was a failure. By every definition.
And if I didn't know it enough myself, I had an army of people waiting in the wings to tell me so.
But the years wore on and I learned a few things.
I learned that Christmas in a trailer, or a tiny apartment with no heat, or with only a gift or two under the tree- if there was a tree in the first place, or a left hand without a wedding band for any number of reasons, or the painful drop off- pick up with our children, didn't mean that it wasn't a Christmas to remember.
Or that we as parents had failed.
Because the King of Kings was conceived in the womb of a young teenage unmarried girl and was born into an absolute mess of a place without heat or running water or crown molding and magnolia wreaths.
God set it up that way.
We have a Savior who knows.
Because He has been there. He lived it.
I learned that no matter what our circumstances, it's always a Christmas to remember, Him.
And we can hold up our emptiness or our empty bank accounts or empty trees like an offering by measuring everything we don't have and everything that isn't the way it should be or the way we think it should be...
Or, we can kneel down, in a tiny apartment floor, in a drafty trailer, or in a big beautiful home and say to the Author of it all....
Thank you for the breath in my body to praise Your Holy name.
Thank you for the freedom to worship You any time, any place, in any way that I choose.
Thank you for waking me up this morning. For another day. For another Christmas.
Thank you for this tree or a single gift at all.
Thank you for a small bite of food. Thank you for the ability to eat and taste.
Thank you for the ability to visit a church and see the candles and hear the music and worship You.
Thank you for my precious children and for the ability to hold them and tell them how much I love them whether it is on Christmas Eve or Christmas day or any day.
And we can thank Him for the wedding band on our hand, or the one that isn't there this year for any number of reasons or for the one that has yet to circle our ring finger at all.
Because married, divorced, single, single mom or single dad-
It is still a Christmas to remember, Him.
And the God Who loves us more than we can even fathom, inhabits the praises of His people.
We can revel in His glory while we watch our child sleep or while we share a two dollar meal because He has made us in His image. In His very likeness.
We can still revel in His goodness even if our house, bills, holidays, friendships, relationships, marriage, etc. is not what we dreamed about or isn't what we hoped it would be, because He promises us that He will use every single thing we have gone through, for our good and His glory.
We can still revel in His very nature to love us and to draw near to us because His word says that He is close to the brokenhearted.
We can still revel in the fact that it is Christmas, whether there are gifts or trees or not. Whether we have a house full of family or we are standing completely alone. Because the God of heaven and earth has promised us double honor for our former shame and that He is the author of our lives and we are to trust Him with the pen....
From someone who has been on every side of the holidays known possible, I write these words.
I write them to give you hope, to point you to the One who created you and to remind you that no matter what, it is still a Christmas to remember.... Him.
May you feel the wonder of His love above all ...
Merry Christmas sweet friends.