Hard Candy Christmas

Michele Armstrong December 13, 2019 0
Hard Candy Christmas

Christmas 2012. My first Christmas after leaving my abusive marriage; my son’s and my first Christmas experience as a broken family from a “broken home.”  Never in a million years would I have ever believed those words would apply to me; my family; my life. How did this happen? It all just felt weird.

Having always spent time with both sides of the family through the years during Christmas, I would find Christmas of 2012 vastly different. I wouldn’t make candy with my mother-in-law or attend the community Christmas party with her life-long friends. I wouldn’t laugh at my father-in-law’s frustration while stringing lights on the tree as he exclaimed he would just as soon throw it out in the yard. Nor would I purchase a gift for my husband–a tradition which really didn’t make a difference because at times he openly expressed  his disappointment with the gift I got him anyway. In fact, no gift exchange with that side of the family would be a part of my Christmas that year–a highlight of past Christmas Eves when our gift exchanges would take literally hours to complete. My first Hard Candy Christmas was staring me in the face.

Christmas 2012

Trying to come to grips with my strange, new life, I was experiencing a new Christmas, as a new hire, at a new job, in a new city, in a new apartment, with new friends, in a new world—light years away from the old one. Not quite sure how to feel, I found myself touching on a myriad of emotions—some good; some bad. I wasn’t even sure which ones I was allowed to feel. Was it ok to feel relief? Because I did. Was it ok to feel empowered? Because I did. Was it ok to feel free? Because I most certainly did that. Was it ok to feel ok?

But was I really ok?? I wasn’t sure. Because in one moment with all those feelings of freedom came grief and guilt and shame and uncertainty and sadness and anger and betrayal. But in the next moment came excitement and anticipation  and validation a peace. But then came fear and accusation. And…well, you get the picture.

Determined to bring back to me the childhood wonder of Christmas that had been lost through the years, I did everything I knew to make my own new traditions for Christmas. I loved flocked Christmas trees, and I bought one that year—just to spite the fact that my husband had never liked them and had insisted we get a green tree every year. Pleased with my rebellion, I decorated it with beautiful colored lights that glowed like candy, and blingy ornaments that fairly sparkled.

My sparsely decorated tree was a thing of beauty–representing a life on my own; making my own decisions. But still there was a nagging whisper of sadness that something had been lost. I remember listening over and over again to the song, Hard Candy Christmas. The words of that song represented my own sentiments, indicating my sweet Christmas had a hard side. For me, that beautiful holiday season was a tiny bit gray. But somehow I knew I was going to make it, and I would come out stronger on the other side. That Christmas with all its wonder, signified a new start in a new season of life–and it was all so exciting; and a little bit scary.

My family was my anchor during that time, so I made my plane reservation as a single-traveler to be with them for Christmas. Traveling alone at Christmas seemed odd, but I was grateful to spend another wonderful Christmas with my family. Had I not been with them, I would have been lost. As with every year in the past, we had a glorious Christmas together; only that particular Christmas was more like those of my childhood–a little of the child-like joy returning. Not feeling the pressure to perform a certain way, or to say or not say a certain thing, I could just be me; and my family could just be my family–without anyone dissecting and judging our every move. With my husband out of the picture, it was a whole new Christmas for all of us in ways.

In keeping with tradition, my mother bought us tree ornaments for our stocking that year. Through the years mom had purchased ornaments for my family every Christmas representing our personalities, our likes, our hobbies, are accomplishments ; or perhaps little snowmen inscribed with each of our family names–including our beloved pets. And 2012 was no different–except for the names on the mittens. With my son, John, married with a family of his own; and my husband and I separated; the names on that year’s ornament had dwindled down to two.

When I pulled the ornament out of my stocking that year, I remember being taken back for a moment–as if being slapped in the face with a new reality–one of sweetness, wonder, joy and excitement–but combined with a twinge of pain. An inner voice said, “This is really precious; and I’m so grateful for this new life. But on the other hand, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” An accurate representation of Christmas that year for me was the misspelling of my name on the adorable ornament. In comparison, the gloriousness of that Christmas discreetly mingled with the distinct feeling that something was a bit topsy-turvy.

The next year, however, brought a new excitement I would not have dreamed possible. I had the privilege of spending Christmas with my new husband–my most beautiful and precious gift I am privileged to celebrate every day. My life is forever changed through God’s grace in sending me this man to love, and Christmas is all the sweeter; the wonder has returned.

Christmas 2013

God is so good! First and foremost, how lost I would be without His grace in sending Jesus to this crazy world to fix what’s gone so wrong. But I also know I would have missed out on another great treasure were it not for His grace in sending me my sweet husband, Jeff. My gratitude overflows.

And so now, Mom buys us ornaments with the names Jeff and Michele inscribed on them. Our perfect little family woven together in the aftermath of chaos and destruction, we are now so complete, so happy, so filled with wonder. Satan didn’t win; Jesus did. We did. My Hard Candy Christmas is a Christmas past. I live Christmas every day now. Because in spite of all the pain of the past, Jesus made it all right. We are made with love.

And now, as another Christmas nears, I wish everyone the most beautiful of Christmases–knowing that in your tremendous joy or excruciating pain, one truth will always remain: Because of the gift of Jesus Christ, we all have hope and the promise of peace…..peace that will last forever.

I wish you peace.

Merry Christmas!

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1:23

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