~ Dearest Reader: Before we continue our Finding Christmas series, let me give a little disclaimer. I am a child of divorced parents and this post was written from that point of view. I am also married and have three children of my own so I get it–family life is incredibly intricate and holds a million variables. Please, if you are a divorcee, know that I hold no judgment towards you or the decisions you’ve made, none what so ever. This post isn’t about the rights and wrongs- but it is real and honest about the aftermath and it’s affect on home. As always I welcome your comments here and on Social Media. ~
Christmas used to be one of my most favorite holidays. It was a season filled with all the lyrics of a timeless carol, especially if it snowed. It was a time for family traditions, keepsakes and memories. But after my parents separated and divorced the season became tense and divided, at best. As the grown-up child of a now dissolved marriage I became the neutral zone, the common ground for a holiday without a home.
This family mess stole my Merry and I’ve been struggling to find Christmas ever since. The struggle isn’t my grasp for the meaning of Christmas but for the place we call home. Someone on MTV once said it best:
“Home is where the heart is, and my heart is torn.”¹
You are a product of both of your parents. Your heart is a whole, not two different halves. When your home is torn, so is your heart. The hardest part after a divorce for any child is defining home. What once was a singular place of tradition and identity suddenly becomes two entirely different story lines. It’s utterly disorienting; nothing looks, feels or smells familiar. Whether you were in diapers when the split happened or totting your own diaper-clad littles when the gavel struck, it was more than a short term crisis—divorce forever alters your concept of home.
I’ve spent the last 4 Christmas’s longing for a home that no longer exists. Grieving and angry, I pushed against Christmas-present with the evaporated definitions of Christmas-past. And as I begrudgingly unpacked the holiday decor this year it dawned on me: Christmas needs a home. Not just for my kids, but for me and I want better—even if the only difference is in my heart.
If my parents’ divorce has taught me anything it’s that all relationships are intentional. For better or worse, they are each built or destroyed by the actions we take. (And for the record, inaction is in itself an action). Your marriage, your children and yes, your broken and tattered parents are all relationships found, built and maintained by intentional investments.
“Statistics clearly show that marriages die not because love dies, but because our decision to love does.” ²
A marriage license is no more a guarantee than a divorce decree is a conclusion. Home may change, but it isn’t lost. If divorce is decided, than love and home are decided too.
Look I get it. Oh man do I get it. To be honest, this isn’t the post I wanted to write. I even stopped flat-out angry with the very sentence I wrote above. Divorce hurts. It hurts deep. And that grief and pain come flooding back more often than I expected. But unless we own a private jet, a little house on some Mexican beach and have the opportunity to run away for the entire winter season—you and I are going to have to redefine what it means to be home for the holidays and it starts with our intentions.
Being intentional is a focused forward progression and it requires two things.
Start from a place of Shalom (wholeness). You can’t give what you don’t have, so give yourself permission to heal. Just like grieving is a process, healing is too. Feel your feelings and then deal with them. Healing may not come from your original childhood home or even from your parents. But know that no matter what condition your earthly childhood home is in, you have a safe and secure place in your Eternal Home. With open arms and un-jaded heart, Christ always welcomes you. Your grief, disappointment, pain, even your anger are safe in His presence. He will listen, I promise, and there’s intense comfort in being heard.
Psalms 90:1 (AMP) Lord, you have been our dwelling place [our refuge, our sanctuary, our stability] in all generations.
Intentionality will require boundaries. It is a focused forward progression, but it is not striving. Just because I said we can choose to love the broken people in our messed up families- doesn’t mean we have to cater to every expectation, follow every crazy-uncomfortable idea, or wear ourselves out striving to make everyone else happy. (Trust me, it doesn’t work, not for a nanosecond). Being intentional is a planned out, purposeful step, and it can be a tiny one. Know what makes you comfortable, what is feasible and what upholds peace in your soul and then take actions to implement it.
We can’t rebuild our childhood homes on two halves of a broken heart. But we can intentionally build a home for our holiday with our whole hearts, scars and all. It isn’t easy, and it may take a few seasons to find the rhythm. But I’m going for it. You?
Oh, and by the way the word “intention” not only means having a plan, destined for a purpose; in the world of medicine “intention” means the healing process of a wound. Let’s chat more about that next week.
- Real World, MTV 2001
- Abbas, Jen. Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain, Waterbrook Press. Colorado Springs, Colorado 2004