' width= Psst. Guess what.

I don’t want to tell you this.

But, it’s true.

I wasn’t able to celebrate the holidays the way we all dreamed for ourselves, as a child.

A momma.
A papa.
Aunts and uncles.
And a gaggle full of cousins.

Instead, my husband Eric and I packed up a 9×13 pan of scalloped potatoes, along with four bottles of Martinelli’s apple cider into the back trunk, and buckled our three year old CJ and six year old TJ in the back seat.

I turned back to smile at the boys and said, “Isn’t this going to be fun? We’re going to Auntie Merrianne’s and Uncle Roderick’s for Thanksgiving!”

But, as we drove off into the cold November air onto the freeway that quiet afternoon, I wondered — What does Jesus think of all this? Celebrating with friends, instead of my family of origin?

Because the truth is, you see, Merrianne isn’t really my sister. And Roderick isn’t my brother-in-law.  But, she’s the closest thing I’ve come by for a big sister.

I met her when I was just twelve.  Merrianne was my junior high Sunday School teacher, a recent college grad herself.  She became the first person to disciple me.  She was the first person to sit across from me in our tofu-sized dining table, sitting in a grimy, dimpled floor kitchen every Wednesday afternoon. It was a two-person book club really.  We’d just talk through book topics and pray.

After I went away to college, we didn’t spend that much time together.  I was often busy.  But, she always made it a point to touch base with me, even if it meant swapping voicemails.  And when too much time passed between seeing each other, Merrianne would call to stop by.  Even if it was just half an hour.  She had the gift of hospitality and it wasn’t limited to her home.  She would come to mine.

Even though I trusted her with a lot of my secrets, I never told Merrianne the truth of how dysfunctional my family life was growing up, how truly lonely and afraid I was.

It was a family code that had always been understood, that I never wanted to break.

Never talk bad about your family.  Ever.

The Message of Family

Like a sapling planted right under the downspout of a gutter, this message of family soaked down deep into the soil of my childhood, down to the roots.  The fear and shame of coming from a broken family seeped into my faith.  I never wanted to be seen as ungrateful or untrusting of God.

I thought having faith in God meant not allowing anything difficult to break me, to never truly be sad and to always love by taking care of everyone and everything.  I somehow adopted the notion that walking by faith meant being strong enough to cover the cracks that made life painful and putting the past behind me.

But, what I was really doing was surviving.  I was ignoring the past, rather than facing the truth of it.

Because facing the truth forces us to make extremely deep and difficult changes. It calls us to truly walk by faith — into the unknown.  It requires courage because we don’t know what life looks like on the other side of renovation.  We only see the tearing down and we don’t want to walk into thin air.

When we are truly walking by faith, we must face what we fear the most:  we alone do not have the emotional resources to let go and embrace the reality of choices.

We realize we can’t go it alone.  We need others who can be God’s heart to listen to us, God’s voice to welcome us, and God’s hands to open the door and hug us.

The old messages from our broken family of origins teach us that the safest place is to suffer alone.  To keep silent and to never rock the boat.  To never need — to keep doing the same thing and hope that it gets better.

But, while writing a book earlier this year, I stumbled unexpectedly into PTS — post-traumatic stress.  My memories have been re-ignited and the truth of how much burden I’ve been carrying and the pressure of meeting others’ expectations of me has been crushing.

That’s why I called Merrianne.  I knew I needed to confide in someone, to help with the kids.  It’s a risky and vulnerable position to be in.  Expressing need and asking for help.  It happens when you’re used to surviving without family to count on.

But, I’ve learned that Jesus understands the loneliness and the isolation of family pain.  Jesus understands when we keep it in, it separates us from the rest of the world and makes us feel like an outsider, like damaged goods.

A New Inheritance

Jesus has been showing me He cares and He was there.

Jesus tells me there is no shame coming from a broken family.

Jesus tells me He’s always known about my emotional needs and now, He doesn’t want me to hide from them.

Jesus also tells me the choice to joy and peace isn’t always smooth.  Because the truth wants to set us free from old patterns of coping with the unpleasant, especially if others are not happy with our choices.

So, for this Thanksgiving, I truly needed family to celebrate with.  People who I felt safe with, who really loved me and my family, without any strings attached.

So, when my oldest asked me why we were going to Auntie Merrianne’s, I tell him what I can. “This year, we’re doing something different, sweetie.”

Even so, I spent the rest of the ride feeling the guilt of unreconciled conflict in my growing-up history. And now that I’m a mom myself, I wished more than anything I could fix things up, so my children could be spared of any broken stories.

I wanted them to have something I never had.

A fairytale family.

But, that’s not the family I inherited.

Instead, God has given me a new kind of family to pass onto my boys.  A new inheritance.

It’s a family that goes beyond what the holiday specials serve up on TV — beyond the Kodachrome images I’ve culled from storybook expectations throughout the years.

It’s a family that Jesus talks about when He calls us brothers and sisters.

“While he was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers showed up.
They were outside trying to get a message to him.
Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are out here, wanting to speak with you.”

Jesus didn’t respond directly, but said, “Who do you think my mother and brothers are?”
He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. “Look closely. These are my mother and brothers.
The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
~ Matthew 12:46-40

It’s a family that goes deeper than blood.  It is spiritual.

This is the new family I’m creating now with my husband and my two children — along with the spiritual family God’s brought into my life.

To gain this new family, it’s required me to let go of my fairtytale family — to open up and share, in order to let others in.  

I am making the choice to break the old family code, to see if a new kind of family — the one I read about in the Scriptures — can come true for me. 

I think of Jesus, how He spent his last meal with his spiritual family, confiding in the difficulty of the coming hours.   These are faith friends to share a meal with, have a conversation, hug through some unspoken tears and a bless each other with a smile.

This is the spiritual family who can bring me comfort and acceptance — during times that are uncertain, when I feel uncertain.

This new kind of family is one that Jesus offers to you and me:  God’s family of faith.

Unashamed

It’s hard to confess that holidays aren’t perfect — especially when the truth for many of us, is that our earthly families have really hurt or neglected us.

It can feel embarrassing, when our families can’t reflect the peace and unconditional love that we long for during the holiday season.  Especially as Christians, we can feel tremendous pressure to reconcile broken relationships all in these last weeks of the year. But, reconciliation isn’t always possible because it involves two parties.  And so, even though we may forgive others, we still have to face the sadness of fractured relationships.

But, because of Jesus, we don’t have to be imprisoned by this sorrow.

Although brokenness can’t be erased on this side of heaven, Jesus can heal our hearts from the shame of hurtful family relationships.

Jesus Himself stands by us in the land of reality — calls us family — unashamed.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father.
That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.”
~ Hebrews 2:11
  

Jesus whispers –

I know what you long for.  You don’t need a fairytale family to be part of mine.

Jesus is creating a new family with us — by bringing others to stand with us — unashamed — as new brothers and sisters.

A Whole New Way

If you’re like me going through a difficult season of changes or facing a new reality, I’m sharing a bit of my story with you, in hopes of bringing you a word of encouragement, from one spiritual sister to another.

You might have a quiet holiday this year.  But, you are far from being alone.

It may not look the way it used to, but it can still be peaceful — even though it is going to look different.  Even though it is washed by the rush of tears.

You and I, after all, are not taking the easy way out.  We are walking through the narrow gate, onto a path that Jesus is calling us to step forward onto.

I’m writing today’s post to you, trusting that I’m not the only one who is walking through the holidays by faith.

Join me, as I make my journey through this month, asking God how I can connect with Him — and others in God’s family of faith — in the coming weeks.

It might mean for you, as it has been for me, simply letting others know the holiday is going to be a quiet one when they ask.

I don’t give a lot of details, but I let them know this Thanksgiving or Christmas is going to be tough.

It’s going to be a quiet holiday.  I need to break away from some dysfunctional family dynamics. I need to take care of me and my family this year.

I do get some prying questions, which are sincere and curious.  I just smile softly and say, “Yeah, I can’t talk about it. Thanks for understanding.”

But, I have found to my surprise, that a lot of people’s response has been opening up about their own family difficulties, and their own childhood dynamics still at play with their parents.

I’ve discovered that maybe I’m not unlike a lot of people — who are going through a difficult time during the holidays.  And I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Then, I tell them about Merrianne.  How I got invited to spend Thanksgiving with her family and how peaceful it was to eat a piece of pie at leisure and offer some leftover potatoes for others to take home.

I tell them how my kids call her Auntie and her husband Uncle.  I share how thankful I am for the spiritual family — how God makes up for our losses by blessing us with friends in the body of Christ, to become our sisters, our brothers — an extended family.

That’s how I’ve explained why we’re spending the holidays with friends who are family.

I tell them, “When God gave us Jesus, He also gave us a bigger family.”

I’ve integrated this truth into the Christmas message with the kids this year:   when God sent Jesus into the world, He not only gave us His Son to come into our hearts, He gave us a beautiful new family to add to ours.  

God gave us a spiritual family, made of faith, so we can feel loved wherever we go and wherever we are in different seasons of life.

For some of you, you have been blessed by a family who has chosen faith in God, rather than fear and expectations, as the family code.   Like Merrianne, you can bless someone else by sharing what you have, by inviting someone over in this Christmas season.  It doesn’t have to be the day of, if you have your special family traditions. You can invite them over before or even after.  I wanted you to know, it makes a difference.  You don’t have to have a fairytale family either, to offer hospitality to someone this holiday season.

Give yourself the permission Jesus is offering to you.  Embrace the spiritual family He longs to bring into your story, to make tomorrow different from yesterday.

In fact, that’s what I’m thinking as I look into the future of creating new family traditions with my husband and children.

I see a whole new way of celebrating the holidays.

No more fairytales.

More faith.

More friends who become family.

 

~~~~~

How is God calling you to step out by faith — and celebrate the holidays differently – this year?

What has God’s spiritual family meant to you?

Pull up a chair. It would be great to have you share.  Click to comment.

~~~~~

 

By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith for everyday life.

 

Photo courtesy of rawrrr_16 via Photobucket.

 

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  1. 2

    Jeepers, this was long…but so worth reading. My family lost one of its dear ones a month ago, and I’ve been wading around in some kind of grief…getting to know all of its intricacies and subtleties. And one subtlety I’ve found is now that it’s been a month, I’ve become wary of leaning on other people. They give – gladly – of themselves, but I hate to impose…especially when I’m past the stage of falling apart every five minutes. But your words speak loudly to me this morning:

    “The old messages from our broken family of origins teach us that the safest place is to suffer alone. To keep silent and to never rock the boat. To never need — to keep doing the same thing and hope that it gets better.”

    My home won’t be the same place of celebration this Christmas that it’s been in years past…I’m tempted to make it so, but that would be dishonest. It would, simply speaking, discount the profound depth of my loss. So I’m thinking…maybe it’s okay to have a quiet holiday, even if I don’t know how that will look. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Bonnie!

    • 3

      Sonika — I was really moved by these words — ” It would, simply speaking, discount the profound depth of my loss.” It’s so beautiful and achingly true. Jesus understands first hand the pain of searing loss. He honors your loss.

  2. 4

    Bonnie,

    This is so beautifully written- thank you! It has healing power of it’s own, I think. Right there with you, girl; right there with you. Will keep you in my prayers for a peaceful Advent & Christmas season that renews hope- like you did here :-)

    Xo

  3. 6

    God’s special spiritual family means that I finally can accept who I am because they do. In my relationship with God, I began to forgive my family of origin for the hurts and embarrassment they caused me. I finally began to see they gave me what they had. It may not have been all I wanted and it may have taken a lifetime of searching and a long time in counseling, but I finally found home again. Being a child of an alcoholic family system brings a certain kind of chaos into a small person’s life. You guess at what normal is growing up this way. For me when the surviving hit rock bottom that’s when God became so real. Years later, I’m more whole and freer. I’ve been through what you’re going through now. It takes time and real love to heal. You tell your story so beautifully with just the perfect words to describe the trauma and recovery process. Through my own healing process, I found an amazing God…a real entity… no fairy tale. I rest assured this day in the miraculous power of His perfect love. God bless and keep you as you share your story with us. Be assured that your words will heal not only yourself but others as well. When the secrets are out in the open, the burden of hiding them deep inside your mind starts to lessen, and day by day you become lighter. Merci mon ami!

    • 7

      “You guess at what normal is growing up this way…” God bless you, Dee. Jesus is carrying us as lambs in His arms. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

  4. 8

    I just so want to THANK YOU and know by the spirit you got a huge TEXAS hug!
    I know that might be alittle forward but after all we are family! Lol thru Christ of course:)
    Your entire blog was written right in line with all I’ve been going thru, to know I’m not alone and someone to relate to my crazy life patterns that have been ingrained in me. But The Lord has been almost overwhelming with His grace and Love and Guidance and Mercy! Theirs just no words but you have such away with explaining how I feel!
    I was from a HUGE family of orgin and therefore the secrets run so deep I’ve even forgot them, so I tend to not understand what’s happening within me half the time? But GOD.

    I too have a friend family that loves me with all my warts, in fact the Lord has used her to file down some of my most tender spots I’m not in aware of until ugly comes out!

    I just want to thank you again but most of all allowing yourself to be used by God to help others!

    Much appreciative for your sharing!!!!
    KK

  5. 10

    Thank you for this post.
    I thought I was the only christian that grew up without ‘normal’ grandparents or uncles and aunts. And I still question god on the unfairness of it. But now I realize how much more he has given me in the form of this ‘new’ family. I guess it’ll still take a while to sink in. But… thank you.

  6. 12

    Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing this…God used this to bring about some insight in my own life this morning. May God continue to bless your healing…

  7. 14
    Brenda N says:

    Cool! Your words are so full of peace and contentment. Your family is blessed to have you. It is hard to give up the idea of a perfect family and childhood but we have our children to love and protect first. May God bless you this holiday season as you celebrate our Saviour’s birth! Thank you for the encouragement (permission) to celebrate it as God directs. :-)

  8. 16

    Loving your realness here Bonnie. I can really resonate with were you say,

    “I thought having faith in God meant not allowing anything difficult to break me, to never truly be sad and to always love by taking care of everyone and everything. I somehow adopted the notion that walking by faith meant being strong enough to cover the cracks that made life painful and putting the past behind me.”

    I believed this lie too.
    I will remember this.
    Thanks for writing.
    Jess

    • 17

      You made me feel less alone, Jess. Grateful we can see each other as we are… and offer the shelter of love and acceptance to each other. It’s special to connect together this way. Thanks for writing too. :)

  9. 18

    You are SO BRAVE. Cool. LOVE this because its an authentic piece. And it speaks to what matters to the heart. Not to what everyone thinks. Selah.

  10. 20

    Oh sweet Bonnie, how glad I am that you have someone like Merrianne in your life. It’s amazing how God brings people into our lives just when we need them. I pray that I will be a Merrianne to someone.

    I often say that we don’t always get to choose our circumstances. But we do get to choose our response. Drawing close to people we love and who love us back is healthy. Unfortunately, families aren’t perfect and there can be much pain when we look back. I like to remember the good and forget the ugly but sometimes it does catch up with us and we need to deal with it.

    I am praying for you as you navigate these waters. The Lord is with you each step of the way. Our job is to follow His lead. May you rest in that promise and continue to write your story.

    Love you,
    Debbie

    • 21

      You are online already, as all your online sisters can tell you. ;) But, I can’t imagine how lovely it would be — and how someone could just be blessed simply by being with you. That is how Merrianne blesses me. Just by being present with me. As I am. Thank you for your prayers. I’m thinking of you too this holiday season, Debbie and remembering your story, as it’s happening too.

  11. 22

    Amen.
    If the names were changed, your story could be my story.
    Thank you for the courage to share.
    Merry Christmas!

  12. 24

    Oh, Bonnie! SO GOOD to hear your voice!! And so perfectly “for such a time as this” in my life (and a for few friends too!).
    Continuing to pray for you!
    <3
    When our kids were "old enough", we felt led to do a new thing for Christmas – serving at a homeless shelter an hour away, or a church 30 miles away, to prepare and serve meals to homeless, lonely, and home bound in that county.
    It helped take our eyes off the empty seats at our table, and put our eyes on Jesus! We made great memories, and it instilled more of serving Him on this day, instead of a "gimme!" attitude. We still talk about those years, with no regrets!

  13. 26

    I am always blessed by the insights you have gleaned as you sit at our Jesus’ feet. This morning’s post spoke deeply. I took a big risk this week by sharing with some sisters [family in the Lord] what is really going on in my life behind the kind of strong exterior you described yourself as having. There is a freedom we find in allowing our sisters to see our real selves, but it sure is scary! Thank you for facing right into what Jesus has for your life this season, and for having the courage to invite us along as you journey. I can’t wait for your book to be “born”!!!

  14. 28

    Thank you for sharing your heart’s vulnerability and wisdom from God with us. I am passing this along to my husband as we walk this road this year. Both of us have had a veil lifted from our eyes to see the dysfunction we have been functioning in with our families. I’m oh so grateful for God’s loving protection of our hearts. You are a true gift and treasure, Bonnie.

    • 29

      Is it as overwhelming and also disorienting for you guys as it has been for me.. and my husband too? It’s definitely bringing us to new territory. For both of us. Sounds like we as couples are walking through the unknown of faith together — and discovering God will protect our hearts. Finding you here on this journey is God’s true gift and treasure to me, Shandra. *hugs*

  15. 30

    Thank you once again for another post that resonated so deeply. I’ve recently found a friend like your Merrianne who has opened up her home and heart to be family to me and I’m so grateful for her. Love you so much and still keeping you close in thought and prayer! <3

    • 31

      Oh, I’m so grateful to hear you have a Merrianne, Eunice. You deserve to feel as loved as you truly are. As we both truly are as daughters of a generous King! Love you much!

  16. 32

    Thank you for this awesome post! I think each and every person in this world has some dysfunctional family relationships. Instead of dragging our children and ourselves around it time and time again, why not break the cycle and decide to have a peaceful Holiday spent without the dysfunction or spent with friends who mean a lot to us. We need to rid ourselves of the guilt and obligation. God calls us to forgive and pray for people not force ourselves to be around them/or take their abuse and chaos.

  17. 33

    Hi…. So glad to hear from u….your message was sooo uplifting…. The LORD really uses u to touch my heart and boy-o-boy did u….ur message really brought up so many feelings, emotions & sorrows that I have buried & carried w/me for ever (it seems)…. Although our lives are not mirrors of one another the burdens & how we handle these hard life burdens are mirrors of each other ……..so all the Glory to Our LORD for giving u the courage & gift of writing it down for me & others to read…I thank HIM & Pray that we continue to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our LORD JESUS CHRIST in the journey our LORD is taking us on…… With Love in HIM, Michele

  18. 34

    Your beautiful, encouraging message truly touched my heart! Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart with us. May your Christmas season be filled with peace and blessings from God.

  19. 35

    Sweet Bonnie, I have been crying through your whole story. The way the Lord has kept you encouraged through all of you family time with a dear sister in Christ, is such a beautiful testimony about the love of Christ.
    No fear – mercy,
    no guilt –grace.
    I’m hugging you in my heart, sister, hugging you in my heart.

  20. 36

    Most of my days I wake up and I have to make an extra effort to put away negative hurtfull memories. It does not come natural to me anymore to be positive. My relationships are all fake in that no one really knows me or what I am going through. I feel like a big ball of poison. That is right; filled with bitterness. But I keep praying to God and commanding my brain to stop with the negative thoughts and look to what the future might hold.
    Today your words made me cry. But it was the kind of tears you get when you are touched by an Angel. God bless you and bring healing to all of us broken people.

  21. 37

    Thank you for your story. You have done the best thing by creating a “NEW” family.
    It’s hard, but necessary if you want to survive.
    Even grandmothers can get the blues at holidays. I’ve had to accept the holidays as different since life changes have pulled us apart. The love is still there and will always be there, but the family is not there. Now I know what older people mean when they say: “But I have my memories.” The best love will not come again in this lifetime for many.
    Blessings to you and those you love.

  22. 38

    It also will be a quiet holiday for me as well. Quiet can be good. Quiet will be God’s presence. It is hard to let go of some traditions when our journey takes twists and turns throughout the year. God is in control. God is love. God IS family.

  23. 39

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! My husband and I are youth pastors about 13 hours away from our family. We’ve been up here for almost 5 years now and holidays were difficult at first. But over the years, God has given us “aunts & uncles” to celebrate birthdays and holidays with and to fill the gaps at those hard times. Spiritual family is true family; when we accept Jesus we are all grafted into the same family tree.

  24. 40

    All I can keep saying is “WOW” … there are really NO words to describe how much I needed this today… how absolutely confirming this was… how incredibly encouraging it was to read your story… and the amazing balm to my weary heart that your words have been.

    I know I’m not the only one blessed by this… but I truly feel as though God had you writing words especially for me.

    Thank you.

  25. 41

    You wrote the words on my heart! The Lord led me down this same path exactly 2 years ago. It has been difficult and emotional. Laden with guilt and shame. But He ever so gently walked me through the hurt of the massive dysfunctional childhood I had. He showed me how His grace and protection for me were there the entire time. He has protected my little ones from that also as they will have no memories of that craziness. It was the scariest and most freeing thing I have ever done! The weight is off.. the shame is gone! He is so good and I am so thrilled for you. I am also secretly thankful I am not the only one:)

  26. 42
    Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing .And thank you, Bonnie, for asking for our input. Just the mere act of my responding and knowing that you care about my thoughts refreshes and enlivens me.
    I feel valuable that I have permission to tell you how I feel, and not only permission, but that you care. I’m learning to live by faith in my family holidays by realizing that I have to be thankful and make memories with whatever my life is. Be thankful for what I have, not wish for what I don’t have.

  27. 43

    Really-Really not-to-be-critical, but concerning the “fairy-tale” aspect I think you’ve got it wrong:

    It sounds like you really did have a fairytale childhood.
    This is important to me, you see, because I think people don’t understand fairy tales anymore.

    I think the old tales used to be a salve over the wounds of undilutedly dysfunctional families, and ultimately the story of the Gospel (good news!) that we’re not stuck where we started, and there is an ultimate Good waiting at the end.

    This is the difference between the “fairy tales” and all the old stories that came before– Greek myths, the Aurthurian cycle– stories of futile struggle against inevitable sorrow and destruction.

    The fairy tales, the idea of a(n ultimate) “Happily Ever After” didn’t really take root until after the Cross reached those cultures. No one who knows the whole tales would want to live through them, except for the part that all we as believers have been promised:

    It will all be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, that just means it’s not The End.

    I am so thankful for the Lord’s promise, to put “the lonely into families.”

    Peace to you.
    –AJH

  28. 44

    Christ showed how much he loves you by putting Merrianne . What a sweet blessing she was and continues to be to you. You can’t change your family, but you can change you. I hope I can be a blessing like that to someone…

  29. 45

    Thank you…I have been clinging to the words of Jesus: “he who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…” trying to rely on Him instead of what I thought was the important. I don’t live close to my family, but my husband’s side seems to carry the expectations you speak of. Thank you for speaking my heart, as I struggle with the feeling that holidays are about expectations instead of Christ, and God’s provision for us. (And this is a family that knows the truth…) I sometimes wonder if it just my own “issues.”

    As you speak the words God gives you, you speak truth and encouragement to many of us! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  30. 46

    Your story resonates with me to the bone. I can so relate to what you are going thru this season as I am dealing with very similar issues. Thank you for sharing and please know you are not alone. I have been dealing with hurts from my childhood that I had always kept buried deep inside because that was what I was expected to do. Anytime I tried to express my true feelings when I was a child they were either ignored or the blame for them was placed on me. I have suffered from depression for years and finally found a helpful phsychiatrist who helped me pinpoint the cause of that depression. I have spent the last 6 to 8 months leaning on God’s word and turning all the hurts over to him. I do not speak with my parents as every time I try, I end up getting hurt all over again. I am finally strong enough to recognize the impact this has on my happiness and well being. It is not what God wants for His children! All we can do is forgive (maybe over and over:-)) and let God have His way with the situation. Thank you again for your willingness to share what you are going thru. May God bless you and your family with a joyous, peaceful holiday season.

  31. 47

    Just the words I needed to hear today. My kids will be with their Dad the first part of Christmas this year. Yes a broken and divorced family- not one of my 3 wishes for sure. I am in the process of writing a book- has to be done by May 1st. Currently do not know who or where I am spending Christmas. It will be quiet and it will also involve writing for sure.
    So thank you for your words. That it is okay to have a different holiday- to take care of myself and to focus on the work the Lord has me doing.
    I am sure that there will be hidden and profound blessings from our Lord.
    Because that is who He is.
    Page Geske

  32. 48

    Dear Bonnie,

    Wow, this really resonates with me! There have been times in my life when I’ve had to do the holidays differently and more quietly too….and in those times, it really is essential to follow your heart and just do what you know you can but not try to do everything or do it all the same way you’re used to doing it. I’m so happy to hear that you’re allowing yourself to make the holidays different this year–the holidays can be so challenging during hard times, so it’s wonderful to hear that you’re giving yourself permission to do things differently. And you’re so right–our faith communities really are a family in Christ for all of us! Thank you so much for speaking to me through this lovely post! I pray and think about you a lot during this tough time in your life! Sending love and many blessings to you!

  33. 49

    Bonnie, thank you so much for your post. You have GREATLY encouraged me and reminded me of what God has given my husband and I. As I write this, our children,
    grandchildren, siblings, and now our parents are all far away. We made a deliberate decision to live among the people we believe God has sent us to, in order to share Christ with as many as possible in these last days. We are both from large families, and this is our very first Thanksgiving and Christmas with ablolutely no earthly family nearby. With tears, I once more read the words “these are my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters….”. I needed to be reminded. God has indeed blessed us and put us in the midst of His family of faith. Our new (?) family has a different color skin, and a different culture than ours, but we share a common Parent, and live with The Spirit. This season they are mourning the loss of several family members, and have invited us to share even in their sorrow. What a gift. We are truly among family. No chaos, not many gifts, no booze or fistfights-no criticisms, but God’s praise, love, peace. It will be a quiet Christmas this year. Just us, and Almighty God, and FAMILY.
    God’s Blessing on you and yours, Miss Bonnie!

  34. 50

    Thank u so much for ur timely mesage, I can identify my situation with urs- dad having passed on jst before I was born,having distant uncles,cousins,aunts…e.t.c life can b frustrating n become hard to even forgive. Thanks coz it has softened my heart n turned my eyes to our spiritual families!

  35. 51

    Thank you. There are so many things I want to say but somehow lack the words to express it well. I have been wrestling with some of these very thoughts. Your insight is helping me so very much. I need to remember this thought of yours: ” Because facing the truth forces us to make extremely deep and difficult changes. It calls us to truly walk by faith — into the unknown.  It requires courage because we don’t know what life looks like on the other side of renovation.  We only see the tearing down and we don’t want to walk into thin air.” I feel that this quote is what I needed to hear so very much today. I appreciate your willingness to share. Thanks again.

    Jill

  36. 52

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!! This last year has been especially tough for our family and I have been dreading the Holidays. If I am honest, a lot of the last several years have been awkward and dysfunctional. Thank you. I have recently been blessed with some friends in the faith who do feel more like family! And they are a lifeline. God knew what I needed!

  37. 53

    Wonderful post. So glad you are at a place you can write again.
    Thanks for opening your heart.

  38. 54

    This breathed life in to me today, and poured tears out of my breaking heart. I went live on a piece of my writing that’s been sitting in my draft box for months. But I realized that I was holding it back out of fear, of it meaning I wasn’t “honoring” my parents. Then it dawned on me that God did not give me a spirit of fear and I needed to give myself permission to speak, to tell my story. It’s coming out of me in pieces, but I just can’t let my dysfunctional family guide my heart anymore. My Heavenly Father wants that job. Thanks for sharing your story and for speaking encouragement to my heart today.

  39. 55

    What a beautiful post describing a faith family. Your mention of PTS sent me over to your blog to read the post you wrote in July. I then shared it with my husband. Powerful powerful post that connects for me, being diagnosed with PTS just over a year ago. I have been waiting to be healed physically before moving forward in my own life. I have come to realize God is healing my inner wounds and showering his love on me as I rest in His love. Thank you for both posts. They have spoken to me deeply. Bless your journey.

  40. 56

    Thank you for sharing your post today!

  41. 57

    Bonnie, your life is a beautiful expression of a God of redemption. I know your boys are so blessed by the love you and your husband share with them during the Holiday season. I’m grateful God takes the brokenness of our lives and uses to reflect the Glory of who He is in our lives. Love your heart!!

  42. 58

    Thank you for your post. The words were ones I truly needed to hear. I am going through something that has caused me more pain than I have ever experienced, and it hurts worse because it is the holiday season. It brings me peace knowing I am not the only one.

  43. 59

    I am 60. I have Parkinson’s. I am homebound and have been for 6 years. I live in a State away from all of my family. I am a survivor. I have lost members of my family to death, Katrina, Rita, and dysfunctionality. I am a Christian. I have Jesus. He has never left me. I have spent every holiday alone! But I’m not really alone, I have Jesus! He’s all that I need, just Jesus! Today I just lost another member of family, my first cousin, to Cancer. She was a day younger than I. We grew up together, celebrated birthdays together. It saddens me greatly but because I have gone through so much death in my family of origin, I was able to comfort my Aunt who lost her eldest child. The sad part is that her other child also has cancer. And that she will probably outlive her children, her husband. My heart goes out to her. How can you say, I’m sorry, when someone has lost their child. There is no explanation, except Faith in the One who gets me and her up every morning. “The Lord’s lovingkindness never ceases, His compassion never ceases, they are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness, Oh Lord.” Lam. 3: 22-23
    Tomorrow is another day, Thank you God! His Grace is sufficient. 2Cor. 12:9-10
    Sandy

  44. 60

    It’s been really hard for me as I see my children denied the love I was denied as I am undergoing therapy for PTSD right now too. I am so grateful for family in Christ. Thank God we are never forsaken by Him, and so very loved. That brings me such comfort in this winter season of soul.

  45. 61

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! For posting this now, today. I had a very painful stupid run-in with a family member who my mom is living with. Everytime I get near him he verbally and emotionally beats me up. It is more than disike… it’s aggressive hatred, blame and unforgiveness. He can’t stand being around me… I’m so “depressing”… because I thought he would be more like to hear about family members moved I asked if he had heard news and shared that our niece had recently attempted suicide. Incredible response on his part. And I did tell him harshly he was the most hateful, bitter, unforgiving person I’ve ever known. I felt bad about it when I got home today, and asked God what did I need to see. I think you gave me an answer! I need my God family. I have really gotten down in the dungeon the last two years mourning family breakup through divorce and the fall out in all aspects of life… especially acute at holidays seeing I’m the Jesus freak and not a “jolly” “fun” person to be around. Joseph sold into slavery in egypt is my story… short version. But there is glory to come and hope that like I heard today… another wonderful friend in the Lord… Bob Mumford… he gave the verse of how God has always from before the foundation of the earth planned to “heal” and make whole and uncorruptible his kids… and his and our search and rescue mission to find His llost family here in this alien place… How does He plan to do this? you might ask… Bob says Romans 8:19… “for the creature was made subject to futility, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same IN HOPE, because the creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the CHILDREN OF GOD!” Yeah!!!!! I love your blog. I also struggle with PTSD but it has really helped to listen to Mr. Mumford’s teaching… what he experienced as a result of his family, especially his dad… and the Lord gave him the knowledge and teaching through his experience… a book called “the Agape Road… Road to Intimacy with the Father” and a new one I think coming out. But this is his core teaching. Love you sister Faith Barista!

  46. 62

    I am so proud of you. Simply…you are becoming gold.

  47. 63

    This was a beautiful piece, one that I think many people need. I’ll definitely be sharing it.

  48. 64
    Debbie says:

    Amen, thanks for your courage to post this! After our mothers sudden death, life changed our childhood /teen years were horrific. Dad remarried right away, and the abuse was awful!
    God was with me and my siblings the whole time! :) grateful I have two beautiful sons who love The Lord and their mom.;)
    Thanks so much for your courageous post!

    Blessings,
    Debbie

  49. 65

    just found you, bonnie, through an incourage email, and signed up to receive your email blogs. your words are so meaningful to me and those same” matters” created an instant bond with that knowledge. I looked at your picture and just wanted to”mother you” with a hug and kiss and words of”it’s gonna be alright”. I am a grandmother now,so i can relate to the wise words of my Godly grandaddy,” the reason the Lord does not take us to be with Him immediately is because He wants us to go through “the school of life” where
    He will teach us and perfect us into His image~~~ but only if we are willing to let go of ourselves and Trust Him. so looking forward to hearing more from you. Our Father loves you so, and you are glorifying Him as you share your heart with others. ~~~Blessings, barbra

  50. 66

    Thank you for this! I too differentiate between family and family of origin. Some people understand this more than other. I have spent the last 5-6 Thanksgivings and Easters with family. I am now trying to figure out if/how to navigate Christmas this year possibly with my family of origin.

    I have been so grateful to see how God has expanded my family with no regard for biological connections. It’s really beautiful.

  51. 67

    This is my story…Thank you for helping to reinforce in me that it is not shameful or wrong to break the cycle of dysfunctional and spend valuable holiday moments with friends we call family.

  52. 68

    We walked this walk toward what we now call our FOC (family of choice, we have bocs and socs, ie brothers of choice &sisters oc choice etc). 15 yrs ago when our 2 were pre school. I had until now been unable to reconcile with the lurking sadness and loss that always tries to drag you back to what should have been. From your words I am going to try and look at it with a slant on Jesus not my broken humanity As I have been. I often find Easter easier as it confirms the suffering. I have always taken heart that there was no other family in the stable, just strangers drawn together.

  53. 69

    Bonnie,
    This was so good to read. My story has some similarities to yours and I feel your pain as you go through this season of dealing with stuff. I know you will come through it to such a closer relationship to God and a new found freedom – I am praying for that for you. This Christmas with fear and trembling I am trying something different. I have several half-siblings. We all share a mother and only found out we were siblings a few years ago (we all have children of our own). Three of us are slowly getting to know each other and each others children. It has been a slow and tentative process as we have all grown up in very dysfunctional families and are wary of forming any ‘family’ relationships. This Christmas I am flying to another city where these two live(they shared the same father while I had a dfferent one) to spend Christmas with them. I am fearful but feel i want to do it. I’m the oldest sibling of them all and the only one who is a Christian and I really want to be able to share God’s love and have them as part of God’s family.

  54. 70
    Brenda says:

    I’lll be with my family of orgin. I’m acknowledging some of the truths you have shared. In January I will begin to seek out that spiritual family in a church nearby. Thank you for sharing with me and all the others to whom Jesus is longing to bring a new reality of His family. God bless.

  55. 71

    I am a single mother of a single adult daughter with depression who, because of her illness, has pushed everyone away and isolated us. Our extended family is so discordant that neither of us would want to spend Christmas with them, to be honest, and I will be working. My daughter does not have the comfort of knowing Jesus – she has pushed Him away too, so she will feel truly alone. This is probably not the right forum but I would love prayers for her on Christmas Day when she will be at her lowest ebb.

    • 72

      Lynne, I will pray for you and your daughter on Christmas day. My husband and my Mother(who lives with me) both suffer from depression. The lows that come and go around my house are many. My husband just recently returned to the Lord and the difference in his depression is incredible. Keep praying for your daughter we know God has a plan, just try to be patient. Her heart will soften one day and the little seeds you have planted will grow.

      yours in Christ, Janice

  56. 73

    Bonnie, This will be the first year in twenty six years that I will not be going with my husband to the big Christmas gathering out of state. I made the decision not to leave my Mom who lives with us alone anymore. She is uncomfortable in large gatherings, and bless her heart she did go one year. We have a wonderful church family here and will invite a friend who has no family near her to spend Christmas day with us. If every christian did this each Christmas just think how wonderful that would be for some one from a dysfunctional family! God will bless you with a wonderful Christmas because of who you are and your great ministry of sharing your love on your blog with all of us. It is a pleasure to know you Bonnie.
    Yours in Christ, Janice from a dysfunctional family

  57. 74
    Carolyn Tidwell says:

    Your writing really hit home with me. My parents did not divorce and kept the 5 of us fairly together-4 sisters and a brother. We are all grown now and I am grieving Christmas because I have, along with my husband lost 2 grown sons, Tim and Ken . Tim from an illness and Kenny was killed by being broadsided by a drunk driver in2007. Christmas always brings me so down as you can imagine. We are blessed to have our daughter who is a blessing more than I can ever tell you. But as long as I live, I just do not seem to care about red and green and peppermint sticks, even though I know it is about Jesus and I have faith I just do not like the Holidays and I feel so bad about it. Many times this time of year I get physically sick. Not so far this time of year thank the Lord. Anyway thanks for letting me vent. Sad Mother.

  58. 75

    My feeling of never feeling good enough was formed from my family. Being the only child of my moms first husband I felt I never fitted in. My half brothers and sisters had each other I was alone. I was reminded that I wasn’t full blood at all times. Sitting around the Christmas table with my step father it wasn’t easy. I became a pleaser just doing anything to grasp an ounce of approval.

    Then I got married and had a family of my own I decided then and there new traditions needed to made. We stayed at home Christmas I pretended that it was what I wanted but the truth is I wasn’t asked. I would find out after the event of family lunches days out, things nobody had asked me to. My girls starting to feel second best to their cousins, my heart ached, no I lie my heart still aches as this is still happening I know not how to change it.

    • 76

      Dearest Sara-my heart goes out to you as I read your comment thru my tears!
      Many of us know what it is like to be treated as “less than”, by family, even by “Christian” workers, by people who are supposed to be “on our side”. How it saddens me that you find yourself in this situation!
      You know, of course, that there is nothing you can do to change their attitudes. You could perhaps let them know how they have made you and your family feel, I don’t know.
      This I do know. You are God’s precious and valued daughter. He is your family, your real Father, your mother. He also knows what it is like to be rejected and discounted by those He loves, even though He created them and wants only to do good to them.
      We have the story in the New Testament where Jesus spoke about the person who planned a joyous feast for all his friends and relatives. He sent out invitations, and everyone was too busy with other things to be bothered. So he told his servants to bring in people off the street–strangers and the less acceptable members of society–so they could enjoy the feasting and partying that all those “better” people couldn’t find time for! I count myself as one of those late invites to the party. It also shows me two things.
      First, that I (and YOU) am beloved and welcomed by the MOST important person, the Father God.
      Second, that “adoption” is an acceptable precedent. In other words, when people (family) cannot or will not accept and value me, I have been shown, by God’s example, that it is proper to make connection with people who WILL love and value me, and that they indeed become my family of love, if not my family of birth.
      It still hurts, believe me, I do know. But because of my hope in Christ, my adoption by God, I have permission and power to move on to productive and loving relationships; and who knows who I may be able to value, love and encourage on my way. There are those around you who need to know that you think them valuable. By doing this, you can give to someone else that which you were not given. You can be the healer for someone else’s pain and loneliness.
      Go get’m lady!
      Love and prayers

  59. 77

    Dearest Bonnie,

    I have been praying for you since I found out what you were going through. I have shared enough of my story with you that I know you I understand. I am so glad God has given you a spiritual family to spend holidays with!!! :)

    I have spent many a holiday without my family of origin. I have enjoyed the spiritual friends and family God has given me. This past Thanksgiving I went to a friend’s who does a “Turkey Trot” every Thanksgiving morning. It is a walk of 2 1/2 mile or run of 5 miles (or the kid route 1/2 mile). Entry fee: donate something – coat for abuse shelter – food for the pantry – diapers for crisis pregnancy center – animal food for the animal shelter. Then we have a breakfast after we get back. It was a glorious holiday. Then I had to work retail on Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday. I don’t know Christmas plans yet.

    Know I am continuing to pray for you.

    God is a God of restoration also. God will let you know how and when to re-enter things with you family of origin and celebrations with them. When that happens have a plan. What you will put up with and what you won’t. Park where you can leave easily if needed. I have left when I felt verbally attacked and abused. My boundaries are starting to be respected by my family. It is getting easier to do things with them.

  60. 78
    Barb Kennedy says:

    thankyou for your honesty. Yes Christmas can be hard trying to live up to this perfect day, I am searching myself in celebrating Christmas without getting discourage because its not perfect. Tobring alive with in my heart the Spirit of Christmas

  61. 79
    Marinalva Sickler says:

    My holidays began with many interrogations and suddenly I received a phone call that threw me into a cry without end. My church’s Food Program had something for me. I drove quickly to the Jack-in-the-Box parking place. The box was heavy and I wanted to pick into it just to find out if my questions were answered. At home, and scavenging the box, there was a nice side turkey. Wesley, my 8 years-old grandson, was expecting anxiously. He wanted some friends over. He finally yielded to the fact that only the two of us were available for that Thanksgiving. Christmas will be about the same. Sad. gray, disform

  62. 80
    Beth M. says:

    Thank you and God bless you for speaking up.

  63. 81
    sharon says:

    I had to respond to this. I have wept through it. You see I am divorced with 4 children, 15,12,10, 7. three boys, one girl. Although my family of origin is fairly stable, my own family is broken. I have grieved so for my children and the fairy tale family that they will never have. Letting go of dreams and expectations has been one of the hardest things for me to let go of over the past 4 yrs. So many things you said went to my very soul with words that I could feel but have never been able to actually express. Thank you for sharing your experience so that it could touch me right when and where I needed it….God speaks for sure through you, sister!

  64. 82

    Your timing on this article could not be better. I come from a family that used to be very close. Until my mother passed away. Now I have two sisters that could care less about me or anything happening to me in my life. This really came to roost about a month ago when my husband was rushed to the hospital with heart issues. No one called, no one came, no one cared. Thank God I have friends. And I started thinking why do I even bother with my family but with the holidays coming I started feeling guilty for feeling that way. Your article has assured me it’s okay to feel that way and perhaps it’s time to move on, spend the holidays with people who truly care about me instead of trying to be someone I’m not in hopes that my “family” will accept me. So thank you for your article. I am now ready to walk by faith.

  65. 83

    Things were very different for me, as well. I’ve been spending the holidays at my son’s with his family and her parents since 1999, but on Thanksgiving I went to visit my sis and her husband. We had an extended family gathering at their church to have enough room to welcome my nephew and his new wife and two children who came for two days from Tacoma, WA. This was the first Thanksgiving with them–my sis had been sick for years and is now emotionally so much better, so we could celebrate together. It gave me much joy. I am sad for what no longer is, but I am happy as new life keeps coming on. God allows us family for different seasons if we will open to it and let it in. He loves us, and sometimes even restores/resurrects.

  66. 84
    Beth Williams says:

    I believe the holidays or any celebration should be spent with people you love. I have heard of some singles groups getting together for Thanksgiving.

    It is truly sad when families can’t speak or get along–even for a few hours on special occasions. God knows your hearts and will help heal them. He just want everyone to be happy and content.

    In years to come I may go and help feed homeless people during Thanksgiving. Being around others takes your mind off your problems.

  67. 85
    Christa Lowe says:

    My sister-law just shared this article with me. I have a large family…that I won’t be spending time with this year. I feel like you wrote this just for me! Thanks from the bottom of my heart for sharing your heart. God bless and Merry Christmas.

  68. 86
    Lisa Roszler says:

    Yep. I needed this. I, too, have a dysfunctional family of origin. I’ve just come from a round of emails from my sister who was upset that I did not let anyone know I was in town at Thanksgiving. (I dropped in for less than 24 hours; spent it quietly with my adult daughter and no one else! It was wonderful!) She said I must not be much of a Christian if I can treat my family that way. Drama. It is so hard to heal a wound when another person keeps picking at the scab! I am thankful for grace and mercy, and for new days and spiritual family. Thanks also to you, for your transparency that allows us to see, connect and move onward. You picked me up. :) Thanks, sista!

  69. 87
    Valerie Hohenberger says:

    My Christmas holiday will definitely be different this year! My husband is in the hospital in another state, awaiting a heart transplant. His health is too fragile to be out of the hospital, and we cannot afford for me to stay there, possibly for weeks, before the transplant. He has been there for a month already, and I finally had to come home. I was able to go over for Thanksgiving and then ended up staying for 12 days! My family of origin is beyond dysfunctional! It has been 40 years since we were all together at Christmas. I relate to your story and pray for you as you embark on this needed journey!

  70. 88

    I just love you, Bonnie! This is my first time reading one of your posts and it totally blew me away! This resontes with me SO much!!!!! I am not close with my immediate family. I grew up with my grandmother. She died my Sophmore year of college. My half siblings lived with me on and off so I’m not close to them. Most of my extended family has always been spread out across the US so I didn’t see them often growing up so we are not close. My father died when I was 9 but I didn’t really know him. Nedless to say, that my hoidays are quiet. Some I have spent with friends and some I have spent with just Jesus cleaning. Cleaning always makes me feel better. :)

    Although God has set me within spiritual family that I treasure dearly, I don’t ever want them to feel sorry for me or to be a burden to them. So, I’m not always honest with them if they ask what I am doing for the holidays. I’ll say sometimes that I just don’t know. And then some years, I have wanted to be alone. I’m not always in the mood to be around people. Does that make sense?

    I loved the part where you wrote about there being forgiveness but still the presence of fractured relationships remains. I feel like so many people don’t understand that that is possible. That helped me! Thank you! Thank you for this whole post. I may print and laminate it. :)

    So grateful for you!!!!!!!!!!!!

  71. 89
    Bonnie Banks says:

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Your words still speak directly to ME!!!! I am on a spiritual journey now too. And your writings have helped to shed light on this journey. I am learning more about my BPD ~ Borderline Personality Disorder. This is not my only problem. I am a 5yr breast cancer survivor who suffered horribly to get to where I’m at today. My family also had problems and we also NEVER talked about it. Now I have to face it head on in order to better understand myself and know how to live the rest of my life better. Sometimes it really does take more than Faith. I am also learning that “different road”. Thanks for sharing and writing what the Holy Spirit has placed on your heart! :) You have tremendously helped this sister! OH! BTW, I spent time with a dear friend who had no family to accept her on Christmas day. It was GREAT! :)

  72. 90
    roderick young says:

    Hey, there’s only chicks on here! Am I allowed? Merrianne passed along the link. :)

    You write remarkably well, Bonnie. I should have known, but the depth in your writing was still surprising. There’s a lot here, almost a book in a single blog post. Let it out, sister. When I read things like this, and the comments attached, I realize how extraordinarily functional my own family was, and feel renewed gratitude for what I took for granted.

    See you soon.

  73. 91

    I just came across this post so I am writing this well into the month of January. But have been knowing this reality for a long time. Our families of origin have many fractures and finding family connections within the body of Christ was a necessity if there were going to any family connections at all. It has not always been easy and there have been missed connections along the way even as we were building these “new family” ties. But it is good. I am still learning the sweetness of letting each holiday time be just what it is. Sometimes it is bitter-sweet because I can go back to the fairytale mindset of what I think it should be, but Jesus is there bringing me back to the precious present and helping me treasure His presence and whoever else He connects our lives to on a given holday. Friends as family is good, very good.

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