Jen Jeffrey: A Broken Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

“Where is Christmas?” While interviewing a grief counselor last week for a story, we had discussed our similar events in experiencing loss. She asked herself this same question and answered with a line in a song that was meaningful to her this year, ‘Christmas is in my heart’ - but what if our hearts have been broken? Is Christmas broken?

It seems that many close friends, family members and church members have lost loved ones recently - just one after the other. The Lord has been busy calling people home. With the tragedy in Newtown, we who have not lost anyone are still in a state of grief over the situation for those who were involved as well as thinking about our own children and grandchildren who attend school today in our uncertain world.

I will not get on a soap box about this because enough people are doing that, but in light of this as well as those who have recently lost loved ones, friends or those who have gone through divorce or something else that seems to have broken their Christmas – is it okay to not have the Christmas spirit? What if you are a Christian who loves Jesus ‘out loud’? We are expected to know what Christmas is really about.

Christians are not exempt from life’s tragedies or from making wrong choices. We experience heartache and we see that life isn’t perfect. But we still have that inner joy because we know whom we trust and whom we believe to love us in spite of ourselves.

My pastor has preached on this - reminding us that God loves us even though we are not perfect and even though we forget Him at times and even though we doubt or we get angry at Him. He loves us!

When I celebrated past Christmases I had joy and knew that I had a big reason to celebrate. Yes, still having friends or loved ones pass away and life not being perfect, but I had the love of Christ and I recognized what Christmas meant to me… and then, just as most of us do, I got into decorating, giving and spreading that joy.

After my divorce, I have found it hard to have that kid-like Christmas spirit that goes with our traditions. I lost it. I still knew what Christmas was about and I still always found some joy at Christmas enjoying being with family, but something changed. I knew it was from the change in my life; I knew it would take some time. “Maybe next year…” I would tell myself, hoping that the child inside me would return. She did, but not at Christmas.

My inner child is four. She is playful, witty and fun. I see her most of the time now… but not at Christmas. This makes me sad and I have to ask myself… “After all my healing, after all my growth, after all the blessings God has given me as I go forward, why does she disappear at Christmas?”

It isn’t because I let her grow up because I have always protected her right ‘to stay’. I learned to take on responsibilities in life but I also knew the importance of nurturing that inner child and, when I let her come out to play, she had made others happy too.

When I had my home, I decorated with a few classy things –  the china, the crystal pieces, the traditional chair covers with bows, a huge tree; and then I had strategically placed an ‘animated toy’ around the house so that each child that came into the house could be a child or an adult would go back to their childhood and let their inner child play. It was magic to see the smiles each time someone pushed a button and made my dancing Snowman dance or my rocking moose sing. Each year, I took so much joy in that. Even when people did not come over, I still went around playing with the toys myself and sometimes I would set them off all at once just to drive my husband crazy – but in a playful way.

I don’t have that house anymore, or any of those things. I chose not to continue to fight over ‘things’ and just left it all. It has been hard starting from scratch and having so many new changes - that even if I could financially give gifts the way I used to I haven’t been able to recover the joy. Yes, my finances changed drastically when leaving a job where I had benefits and more income, but I also had more stress with that job – it was necessary for me to only work part time at the gym during my healing.

Now I am writing and doing what I love, but I also have more financial responsibility in my personal life to take care of.  Is the Christmas spirit in giving just for the rich? Just for those not struggling? Is that why my inner child doesn’t come out at Christmas? I would think after four years and so much healing and growing, that she would be here at Christmas. She does at other times, why not Christmas?

Now that my own grandchildren are the age of my inner child, I have taken delight watching them and remembering when I was their age. Landon just turned six, Kylee is four and about to turn five and Ellie is a little over one year old. Watching Kylee at age four this year has been so much fun because she is so much like I was at that age. I see myself in her.

I have tried over these past few years to regain that child-like, fun Christmas spirit that I had just a few years ago. Trying to regain my footing has been a challenge, but I have seen blessing after blessing in it. I have refused having all my joy taken away. I still have my soul. I still have my family and, yes, the inner child is still there. Christmas is hard for me still and I can’t seem to make it change. I know it will, I just don’t know when or what has to take place in my life.

But I have quit worrying about it or trying to fix my broken Christmas. “Ahhhh, that’s it!” I heard God loud and clear. I have been trying to fix it. That is not my job. Christmas may be broken for a lot of people this year or for the past few years or even decades. We can’t fix it.

Many years ago when I was a child, I gave my mother a magnet for her fridge that is still there today. It was a poem called ‘Broken Dreams’. It talked of how someone had broken dreams they brought to the Lord to fix and, at the end of the poem, the writer cries out, “Lord, how can you be so slow?” The poem ends with the line, “My child, what could I do? You never did let go.”

I can’t bring my old life back. I can’t find normalcy in what ‘was’ because it has changed. It is different now. I have to let go of what Christmas was to me then. How have I grown? How have I changed? How will I receive? And… what can I give?

I still am not able to give monetary gifts the way I used to but someone gave me a gift and I could ‘re-gift’ (as frowned upon as re-gifting may be).

I interviewed the president of Ruby Falls last week and he had given me a pass to enjoy Ruby Red Christmas. What a wonderful gift that I can re-give!

I decided to take my oldest twin Jonathan, with his two children. The kids were at an age that I thought they would enjoy it and not be scared.

When we arrived, my inner child appeared! I first saw the horse and carriage, the little girl in me has a love for horses more than any other animal and that was the first thing my eyes saw! I wanted Kylee to see it. We went over to pet it. Landon was not afraid and had pet it first. Kylee had to be coaxed just a bit – this horse was 17 ½ hands tall!

After petting the horse, I spied a large snowman waving at us. It reminded me of an ‘animated toy’ like I used to have (only bigger). I wanted to go over and push its button and make it dance! The snowman nodded when I wanted to take a photo with my cell. Landon got right over there, but Kylee would not go. I asked the snowman if I needed to pay anything… (if any of you remember Long Island stories when I was in NYC and Cookie Monster had his hand out) I expected to pay but he/she waved ‘no’, it was on the house.

We went on the tour and I noticed the kids didn’t want to hold our hand and walk ahead of us. I told them before we got inside to notice what color of clothes their daddy and I were wearing just in case they wandered away from us. But we still grabbed their hand and went inside. Later, I couldn’t find Jonathan when we were in a dark area. He was right in front of me. He mocked me and said, “I am wearing a black shirt… in case you wander off…”. 

When we went through a tight fit and came to another open space, we heard the chorus singing up ahead. I was trying to get out of the way and let others come through the narrow trail we had been following. I stood real close next to a group of people and Jonathan looked at me as if he were embarrassed to tell me to come to the other side. I looked at the person next to me who was singing to the rest of the group on tour with us. I had made myself part of the chorus! I wasn’t sure if I should start singing along and pretend that I was part of a flash-mob joining them or quietly bow my head and get over to where my group was.

As we walked back through the narrow trails, Kylee kept walking very close to the low rock wall and I kept telling her not to hit her head on the sides. She kept doing it on purpose for the attention. I saw me at age four again. I remembered when I was her age and had a broken leg. I was at nursery school and the teacher placed me on a couch next to her as kids lined up to have her tie their shoes after naptime. As kids passed by, they kept bumping my broken leg. I started to move it but the teacher had yelled at one of the kids who bumped me, so I kept my leg there and let the others keep bumping me so they would get yelled at and I would get attention. Kylee comes by it naturally.

After seeing the falls and having our picture made, we went outside and up the stairs to look upon the city below. Kylee loved the lights. To see her eyes light up, my granddaughter, my kin, part of me… my inner child met her with her delight and fascination. I even saw my 27-year-old son’s inner child come to play when he felt the snow and saw that it was wet and not paper.

Jonathan and Kylee saw another set of stairs that went up even higher. We all began to go up and Landon decided he would not. He is afraid of heights so I stayed back with him.

When Jonathan and Kylee came down we headed for the car. The horse was already gone but on the way to the car we saw remnants he had left behind. The kids were most fascinated by that!

As I realized my inner child came out to play at Christmas time for just a bit, I pondered all of this.

Yes, I can celebrate the joy of Christ’s birth and First Presbyterian is so wonderful to be a part in doing that. I am hearing the messages that I need to hear and being around people I love who share in my faith and my love for the Lord.

With regard to that ‘kid-like’ spirit of Christmas that I had been missing, I decided that it really isn’t about what gifts you think you should be giving and can’t. It isn’t about what decorations or toys you think you should be a part of – that is me ‘trying to fix my broken Christmas’.

The ‘fun’ Christmas spirit we all want to feel a part of and we might miss out on while others are celebrating traditionally. Those of us who have recently experienced loss or just have never totally recovered that Christmas spirit - remember to ‘let go’. Let God have it all. He can do so much more with it than we can.

Look at what is around you now …not at what is not around you. If you are at a good place in your life, share with someone who isn’t quite there; whether it is a gift or a gift of comfort. Receive what someone gives to you and give that spirit to another.

God bless you all this Christmas!

jen@jenjeffrey.com


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