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DivorceWise Newsletter
Issue 10 - 2001 by Kari West - Garden Glories Publications
Encountering a Christmas Past

Welcome Survivor!

Once again it's Christmas--that season when holiday get-together reconnect us with loved ones. For those of us who have experienced a family breakup, it is often a time of heightened sadness as painful memories are rekindled, reminding us of who is not present and what we have lost. More often than not, finances are tight; and at the very time we are struggling to start new lives and make new traditions, our children are resentful, longing for "the family that was." This year, if you can't quite get into the holiday spirit, take heart. You are not alone. You are among a growing sisterhood intimately acquainted with the turmoil that you are going through. We are here to encourage you to believe that you, too, can and will survive.

In fact, do you know what would have happened if there had been Three Wise Women instead of Three Wise Men?

  • They would have asked directions.
  • Arrived on time.
  • Helped deliver the baby.
  • Cleaned the stable.
  • Made a casserole.
  • Brought practical gifts.
  • And there would be Peace on Earth.

Here's what's new:

This month Kari finished writing another book for women. "Dare to Trust, Dare to Hope Again--Living With Losses of the Heart" is being published under the Faithful Woman imprint of ChariotVictor Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO and is scheduled for release Fall of 2001. (Watch for details in future newsletters. Autographed copies will be available through her web site, www.gardenglories.com or by writing P. O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588 or e-mailing).

In this 10th issue of the DivorceWise newsletter, the featured survival story from a woman just like you comes from Maurine. She speaks of Christmas.

Personal reflection ... by Maurine in Colorado

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorating, baking, music, programs, cards, parties, family gatherings, and finding the perfect gift. I love to see the happy faces of my family.

My first Christmas with my "now ex-husband" was spent 1500 miles from any family. It was the first time I was away from family at the holidays. The second Christmas we were thousands of miles away, and I had to mail all packages by mid-October in order for them to arrive on time. It was at this time that he decided on this rule--I wasn't to decorate or play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.

When my kids were young, I loved to use their handmade ornaments to decorate. At that time, they loved to see their creations on the tree. But when they grew older, they thought they were too childish. Today, I still have these ornaments and they bring back wonderful memories.

A few years ago, we lived in the same city as one of my ex-husband's brothers. He and his wife had three small children. It was the first time we had any family close by to celebrate Christmas with. When they learned of our separation, they sent me a note thanking me for always remembering their children. That note meant so much to me. Thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.

These past two years, since my ex-husband left, Christmas has been really difficult. That first year of the divorce, my college-age son didn't want to spend the holiday with either of us and didn't give anyone a gift. Although my daughter was living with me, she also spent time with her dad. It was like none of us knew where we fit.

Last year I thought about starting new traditions, but then decided that I'm still the same person. So, on Thanksgiving night, I decorated. I put out the nativity set that my children used to play with. I hung ornaments and memories on a tree. I decided if my children come home this year, I want them to see that I am still the same person even though my circumstances have changed. After all, it's Jesus' birthday and that's what we are really celebrating.

This year I will be alone. My son and daughter are visiting their father and his new family overseas. I figure that the best gift I can give my children and myself is the good news that God still loves us no matter what happens in our lives. Our Lord is still in control. And I am still the same mom who prays for them every single day and loves them unconditionally--wherever they are and whoever they are with.

Help for today ... by Kari

Whatever emotions this season holds for you--whether you feel glad, sad, or mad--remember that you won't stay stuck where you are today. Each year will bring different emotions as you encounter the ghosts of a Christmas past. With each encounter, your heart wounds will reopen, bleed a little, then re-heal. In time, you will see that you are growing stronger and moving forward.

Thirteen years ago this December, when I stuck my hand in the mailbox and pulled out a divorce summons, I didn't have a clue how long it would take to heal the rejection and betrayal I had experienced. No one told me that not only would the holidays changed forever, but so would I. I didn't know that initially I would cry whenever I heard Christmas carols on the radio, later I would despise them, and a decade down the road enjoy them once again. No one warned me that all the ornaments I had collected and crafted over 22 years of marriage would weigh too heavy in my hand to ever hang on a tree again and that I would sell the entire box for $5 at a garage sale. I never expected that some years I would feel like decorating a tree, while other years I would wish Christmas didn't exist. Certainly,13 years ago I never imagined that this year I would finally succumb to an artificial tree, which is not only the beginning of a new tradition but a symbol of an emerging flexibility.

So before you beat yourself up for feeling overwhelmed by and alienated with this season, take a look at these statistics. You'll notice that you fit right in.

  • 43% of us have artificial trees
  • Only 66% of us bake cookies
  • 74% do special decorating
  • Only 52% of us install outdoor lights

I don't know about your house, but mine does not even come close to the cozy cover of your favorite magazine. On the fireplace mantel, there are no pine boughs woven with cranberries, tinsel, and bows. The freezer is not stocked with containers of gingerbread men and frosted cut-out cookies. And my table centerpiece is not a 3-foot ice sculpture that I laboriously carved with my chain saw last weekend after watching Martha Stewart.

What my house does have is a candle in every room, just in case the power goes out--and because I love the flickering glow. Perhaps one of the most atmosphere-inspiring, mood-setting items that can be used as a decoration in a house is the candle. Candlelight seems especially welcome during the holidays as the days grow shorter. A single candle can scatter our present darkness and inspire us to look beyond the shadows of holidays past.

Last week I discovered a dented canister of candles at the bottom of a dusty box on my storage shelf. As I popped the lid and peered inside, an oily aroma punctured the air. Soon I was cradling in my palm three ivory-colored angels once belonging to my grandmother and a couple of bent-out-of-shape choir boys. Peeling the tissue paper from their waxy bodies, I uncovered memories of childhood innocence and Christmas wonder--and the unescapable ravages of time. Many of these little paraffin bodies were bent and broken from years of moving here and there. One was split at the waist, held together only by a thin wick running from head to toe. Its surface was scarred and scratched.

I saw myself in this candle. The tissue I had peeled from its face had lifted the color from its cheeks like divorce had erased my expectations and altered my identity. I too am broken and scarred. I too have lost my innocence and wonder.

As I placed the candle on my kitchen counter and lit a match to melt the two parts into one, I was both awed and grateful for those nail-scarred heavenly hands that came to earth to not only cradle my brokenness but to light my way to wholeness. I thought about the words of Colossians 1:17--"In Him all things hold together" and I marveled at the stability of God's love that courses through my heart and soul.

When others' love is fickle, we can count on God to be faithful. He is like a wick running from head to toe that holds us secure. In the midst of change, He remains unchangeable.

Our Savior was born into a world of much like our own with its political upheaval and personal betrayal, making Him intimately acquainted with our suffering. He died, like we will; but death could not destroy Him. A musty tomb could not snuff out His light. Because of Jesus, divorce need not destroy us. Because of Him, we have here-and-now hope and the hope of heaven. Because of Him, we can hold our heads high during this holiday season. We can dare to hope again, to start new lives, and to make new traditions in the midst of life's ever-changing circumstances.

A promise you can trust

"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." ---Psalm 31:14-16 NIV

Please stop by again soon

Please let me hear from you. I answer every letter and e-mail. Also, be encouraged to share what helped you through your divorce so others know they are not alone and that they too will survive. E-mail by Clicking Here or write Kari West, P. O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588.

Copyright 1998 - 2002 by Kari West