Well- it's a day late- but I want to wish anyone and everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and, of course, all the best in the new year. Despite my bravado and anxiety mixed together this year, I had an amazing and humble holiday. It wasn't spectacular and loaded with gifts that would just collect dust as the years go by. I only got three presents- three inexpensive presents I may add. But I am happy and was grateful for what I recieved. The kids made out like bandits with only a handful of meaningful gifts themselves. They didn't get bogged down and overwhelmed with heaps of packages that I'd just be going through in a years time to thin out their toy heard. We were able to focus on the reason for the season and all the wonderful things and ways the Lord has blessed us that aren't wrapped in silver paper with a huge bow on it. We had a feast and learned what the true meaning of family is all about.
Allow me to wax philosophically if you will ;) (LOL)
I come from a broken family. My brother and I share both father and mother, while my younger sister has a different dad. My real dad went on and had another family of his own with two new children. My mom had been re-married before and that man is now deceased, but had three kids too. So growing up, I was really really (REALLY) against the whole idea of a mixed family. I hated "Half" this and "Step" that. I loved my sister to peices and didn't think of her as a 'half' sister- but it was hard when her dad married my mother's sister and had a son- so now my cousin was her brother and they saw each other as brother and sister as the families still remained close. When my ex-step-dad died, his son that moved out here to be closer to him and, and his wife and children moved back across the country- so I no longer had an 'step' siblings. I didn't talk to my dad's side of the family much and it was hard to talk to these 'other' siblings of mine because I only met them later in life and they were strangers to me.
The Lord works in mysterious ways!
I began talking to a friend that I hadn't spoken to since high school and she wanted some baby annoucnements for her sister as a gift (post to come later). In talking with her- she shared her amazing, and rather large, family story with me. Now she has steps and halfs all over the place - but she doesn't see them as that- even tho her mother isn't with the men who were father's to some of these 'step' siblings. They were all family. It didn't matter where they came from or who their parents were- they were family. Plain and simple. Even this 'sister' of hers wasn't a blood relative, but her ex-sister-in-law- and that didn't make HER any less family either. It was her sister. My friend really opened my eyes to what family really was and what it meaned to be in an extended and crazy family. Sure, it was hard explaining who was who and it wasn't picture perfect June Cleaver type of stuff- but family isnt' that way. Even the most un-divorced, un-halfed families out there can be quite dysfuncional. So here in my small minded stance of "family is what my mother bore", I was quite humbled. Now- I am happily married, don't get me wrong, but I was so against it that I would get 'fixed' in order to not have children that were half siblings to my existing kids. It would've really bothered me if Chris went out and had more children. But don't worry- all that is moot. We are very happy!!!
So my wonderful Christmas gift this year was from God Himself (well- other than Christ of course!) and it was peace. Contentment. I get so wrangled up in what to get others and what I want that I forget the wonderful blessings. This was an amazing year. We spent the day with my family- and what a family it was!!! My mom and step-dad (whom I call dad as he's been like a father to me for the past few years and I love him as such), my brother, sister, grandmother. And then it got crazy!! My aunt and uncle- their son (my sister's brother). Another aunt and uncle who've been pretty reclusive for years - it was so nice to see them and include them. Then my ex-step-brother who has moved back with his wife and children. First thing he said when he saw me was "how's it going sis?" The fact that it's been seven long years and he still looks at me like a little sister resonated in my mind. I liked it. And it made me realize that despite everything that happened- they were still my family.
Times were tough on my parents this past year. They were in a pretty bad accident last year and finances weren't really great. They weren't able to give gifts this year and it really bothered my mom until recently. She was given a peace about what Christmas means-not the gifts or the meal and all the trimmings. But Christ and what He stood and still stands for. She opened her door to many and her peace hit us all. Chris and I were in a bit of debt ourselves and weren't able to buy oodles of gifts for the kids. We fought like crazy over this and have every Christmas we've been together and have had kids. We spent a few hundred on our brood and they got a ton of gifts- but they were becoming materialistic and overwhelmed at it all. This year we could only get them a few gifts each- and you know what - they were HAPPY!!! Content. Playing with their goodies and not having to un-wrap and run and get shuffled from place to place. The day was so slow and casual and enjoyable. I can't wait til next year to remind myself of this and cut out fighting over finances. Stressing over the perfect gift. Giving myself enough time to do meaningful this for the people I love. Sharing and giving to those in need and teaching my children those values. NOT fighting with my husband- and being able to enjoy the holidays for what it is. So in our humble, present-less state- we had a better and more merry Christmas than one I could remember.
Back to the idea of family and contemplating all these things on the ride home, I thought of my real father, who I haven't spoken to in months and seems that I am always the one calling him. I can be bitter and turn my back on him and his side of the family - be content in my 'perfect' bubble. But God put it on my heart to call him- wish him a Merry Christmas. Now that I did it on Christmas and not before shows him I expect nothing from him, and in our conversation showed him that he always has a place in my life. Another hard thing was calling my 'half' sister. I always felt so awkward around her and my (ahem) 'half'brother. I liked my little bubble with my little 'perfect' family. But my, OTHER sister once said that she always wanted an older sister and when she heard she had one, she was ecstatic. But it wasn't what I wanted or what she needed- then again, God put it on my heart that it isn't about me and what I want. It's not even about her and what she wants. It's about HIM. This season. The family we have. The things we do. It's all to share His message and to glorify Him. So I called and wished her a Merry Christmas too and had a wonderful talk.
So if you read this, my dear friend with your rather large and complicated family, thank you for putting it all into percpective. I have THREE brothers. TWO sisters. A SISTER IN LAW and more neices and nephews than just the little one I chose to acknowledge. I have a large family - not a half family- but a WHOLE one because I love them all wholey. This was the gift that God gave to me this wonderful, precious season. Better than any present under the tree or trinket in the stocking. It was wonderful, magical and spiritual.
Now that I shared all that with you- I hope it can open someone's eyes to the wonder and magic of Christmas not found in any parcel- so may all your Christmases be like mine. Full of love, family, laughter and peace.
Love always: Brandie :)