It Didn't Start as Abuse

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I wasn't going to say anything this year. I had told myself that part of healing was not sharing painful stories. However, I have also said that if my past helps even one person find the strength to escape, then it was worth it. I had two messages from people yesterday. Randomly asking advice about abuse. All last night I tossed and turned and thought of what to say to help. Truth is I don't know. Each situation is different. But I do know that God gives each of us a mountain. And sometimes it is to show others it can be moved. 

I can tell you it didn't start as abuse. It started as a friend. A friend in need. A friend who didn't seem to have anyone else and who listened to my problems. A friend who made me feel wanted loved, and above all of that needed. It started with a guy who was fun, made me laugh, and made me feel special. Little by little, it started changing. Looking back, of course, I see the red flags now, but at the time I would write them off. He was having a bad day, he got mad easy because he felt alone and I was all he had, he didn't want me to be with my friends because he only had me. He needed me. He got angry and yelled then apologized and said the sweetest things. Yes, it hurt but hey. When you love someone, you are supposed to stay with them and help them right? And even in the emotional turmoil I never once thought he would hurt me. I have never been more wrong in my entire life. 

For 4 years I dealt with the emotional. Draining myself of everything I was. Never feeling happy or good enough. Always feeling drained and like my entire life was looking over my shoulder watching and waiting for the next blow up. He hit the wall, but he didn't hit me. He hit the car and broke the side mirror, but he didn't hit me. He even hit himself, but he didn't hit me. He needed me to not have my friends and family. She needed me to be home and always be available. So I stayed. I was needed. You stay with those you love. So I stayed. 

I can't tell you where your story will end up. I have heard all the excuses of "he won't do that" because I used them myself. I know where mine ended up. I ended up under a Christmas tree being trapped under his drunken angry and demanding self. He raped me while I stared up at a Baby Jesus ornament. He raped me while our kids were right down the hall sleeping peacefully on Christmas Eve night awaiting Santa the next morning. He raped me. That's where my story ended up. And he was so drunk that the next morning he didn't remember any of it. Woke up happy and smiling. After all, it was Christmas. 

My story ended with a 9 mm pistol to my forehead watching his finger on the trigger and the look in his eyes. That's when I was able to gather a small portion of strength and leave. 

No, I can't give you an answer as to what to your monster is going to do. But he will get worse. You deserve more than that. You are better than that. You do not have to stay because you love someone. You never have to sacrifice yourself like that for true love. I can tell you it is going to get much much worse so please leave. I will help you do that. I will listen. And you don't deserve that life. 

I looked at this tree this morning and just stood in awe at how far I have come. Yes, this time of year is still very very hard, but the sign hanging beside the tree is what got my attention most. 

"God can restore that which is broken and make it amazing. All you need is faith." 

God has certainly done that for me and he can for you too.

By Christina

Santa Isn’t the Magic of Christmas

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I am, admittedly, one of those moms who (re)lives childhood joys through her children. I am the first to initiate ice cream for dinner, always down for a spontaneous dance party, plan costumes year-round, and there is nothing I relish more than the magic of the Christmas. So, last year, when my 10-year-old asked if Santa is real, my festiveness ran head first into my promise to always be honest with my kids.

As a single parent in a complicated situation with my ex-spouse, and as a human being in a world that profits from lying to people, I have created a couple of very simple metrics for my success as a parent. The first is that my children never doubt my love for them, under any circumstance. I frame my discipline with my love for them. I remind them on notes, before bed, and I do so relentlessly, whether I am angry, frustrated, tired, or overjoyed. The other metric is that my children never doubt my honesty, no matter the subject. So, we have some tough conversations, and my kids are probably more aware of the landscape of grown-up life than many families would be comfortable with. But, for me, those metrics work. Those metrics function to guide my parenting decisions and give me solace during family turmoil and in anticipating my inevitable parenting failures.

But those metrics were insufficient to answer the Great Santa Question. I was dumbfounded. Do I tell her the truth? Would that rob her of the magic of the holidays? Would she resent me forever for stealing Christmas from her? Worse yet, my 8-year-old was sitting right across the table, wide-eyed in anticipation of my response. So, I defaulted to my usual stalling mechanism: I answered a question with a question. “Do you really want to know?” I asked. “Are you certain that you want to have this conversation when it could potentially change the way you feel about Christmas?” She, having learned from and surpassed me in stalling tactics, responded to my questioning of her question with yet another question, “If you tell me the truth, can we still pretend?” So, that’s how the conversation that killed Santa in our family started. But, that conversation did not kill the magic of Christmas.

That year, and since the fake Santa revelation, the way we talk about Christmas has changed a bit, but for the better. Instead of the magic of Santa, we now focus more on the miracle of Jesus Christ and why we really celebrate Christmas. The changing narrative has prompted my girls to be more Christ-like in their approach to celebrating, with a greater motivation to give instead of receive, with more grace in their reaction to Santa not being able to grant all of their wishes, and with more intention to understand how truly magical Christmas, family, and God are, when extricated from the materialism and consumerism of the world.

Do my kids still get gifts? Yes. But knowing that Santa’s spirit lives in their Mom, who works hard to build the magic for them, has made it much more special. My daughter said to me last year, “Mommy, I cannot believe you’ve been doing this for us all these years. I know you must have worked so hard.” I cried. I cried because it is nice to be appreciated, sure. But I also cried because of the joy I felt realizing that my daughter was growing into a person who pays attention to the sacrifices others make.

Do we still get visited by the Elf on the Shelf? Heck yeah. But now we work together. I stage the first visit, and then my girls plan out their own unique scenarios, and we take turns. It has prompted so many fun, creative conversations. Do my kids still write Christmas lists? Yes, but they are shorter and buffered by the new joy they’ve found in focusing on how to make Christmas magical for kids whose lives are not privileged enough to be anchored in years of expectations of Santa. Our Christmas last year, and heading into this year, are much more collaborative, God-centered, and magical than they were with Santa.

I am thankful for our years with Santa. I would never wish away the late nights making footprints with flour, constructing return letters, nibbling cookies, sweeping away reindeer food, or constructing any other Santa-related surprises. Santa was so much fun for so many years. If you are anything like me, the Santa myth is just as much fun for you as it is/was for your kids. The thought of losing Santa can be scary for parents because he is a key figure in the cultural construction of Christmas.

I am not here to tell anyone what is right for their family in terms of celebrating Christmas. I know that each family and each child is unique. I just want to share my experience for those who are worried that the Santa question will sap some of the magic from their holiday. Ending Santa doesn’t mean ending Christmas. In many ways, for my family, it has meant rediscovering the magic and meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all of my single moms (fellow Santas)!

A. Smith

This Christmas

It’s the Christmas season. Celebration is happening all around us! Trees are decorated, and the malls are crowded. Calendars are full of parties and kid’s plays at school. Christmas music streams everywhere we go. Churches are telling the story of Jesus! 
We hear of Mary and Joseph, who chose to follow God and trust Him. Mary, a virgin pregnant with the Son of God! And Joseph, who agrees to marry her and raise this child. 
We know of them traveling many miles to Bethlehem for the Roman Census. We see that there are no rooms available and we cringe when we think of her giving birth in lowly circumstances. But, we rejoice when the heavens sing, and the shepherds come to worship this little child. 
The Christmas story gets me every single time! Just hand me a box of Kleenex and leave me alone to cry! 
But, for me, the Christmas story doesn’t start with Mary and Joseph. It doesn’t even start with the prophets, who told of His coming. For me, it starts in Matthew 1. 
“This is the family history, the genealogy, of Jesus the Anointed, the coming King. You will see in this history that Jesus is descended from King David, and that He is also descended from Abraham.” (The VOICE)

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The story of Jesus begins many generation before. It begins with a man named Abraham, who served God and headed to the Promised Land. When Abraham entered into covenant with God, he opened the door for the Savior to be born. 
Matthew 1 is the ancestory.com of our Lord and Savior Jesus. And some of those ladies had a history! 
Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with her Father-in-Law. 
Rahab was a well-to-do prostitute in Jericho. 
Ruth wasn’t even a Hebrew! She wasn’t a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How did she sneak in? 
And, finally, we have Bathsheba. The woman who had an affair with King David, got pregnant, agreed to trick her husband, was a co-conspirator in his death, then lost the baby. 
These ladies are not even your “good” sinners. And, they are right there in the middle of the greatest plan ever made. 
See, I don’t think God made a mistake here. I believe He purposefully chose these imperfect women for His perfect plan. He didn’t want His Son to only come for certain people, the “real” believers. He sent His Son to come for all of us imperfect people because He has a perfect plan for us! 
Perhaps, Momma, money is tight this season and you can’t buy your kids much of anything to put under the tree. Maybe you have to celebrate Christmas alone, while the kids are with their dad. The stress of the season can try and rob you of the joy that Christmas holds! The joy of a Savior that was born to bring us back into fellowship with our Heavenly Father! 
So, as you go through this Christmas season, instead of seeing all your inadequacies and failures, look at what God does with them! Look at what He has in store for you! You momma, were chosen to parent those kids! He chose you and He chose them. Just trust Him and soon, you’ll be able to look back and see just how God is using it all for a greater plan! Never let go of that! 
And have a Merry Christmas!! 
 

Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com