The Joy Of Christmas Even When It Hurts
Bridget Slattery tells her story of experiencing joy at Christmas, despite being in a seemingly hopeless situation.
Well here we are a few weeks before Christmas and nowhere to go. There are six of us: myself and my five teenage children.
My marriage is finished, my husband Derek has gone to live in Switzerland, the marital home has been sold and the house I am going to buy will not be available until the middle of January.
The accommodation where we were already staying would not be available over Christmas, so what is going to happen to us?
I have tried to find somewhere to stay as a temporary measure but there is none that we qualify for.
It all seems quite desperate and I don't know where to turn.
This must be similar to how Joseph and a heavily pregnant Mary felt as they arrived in Bethlehem and were turned away from various inns.
How desperate they must have felt.
When I was able to identify with them, it felt a little better but still pretty hopeless.
I was desperate and trying to trust that all would be well, but how could that be?
My ways are not your ways
Out of the blue a friend heard of our predicament and immediately offered her home to us, as she would be away with family for two weeks over the Christmas period.
Unfortunately, my immediate reaction was not of gratitude but that I did not want to be 20 miles from where I lived.
Then I was reminded of the words from Isaiah "my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts".
When I thought more about the offer I could see that it was an answer to my prayers.
The house was comfortable and homely. We could all be together for Christmas, with my two elder sons only able to arrive back from University once we had moved into this house with its extra space. It was like a haven during a time of uncertainty and chaos.
We could relax and enjoy the time that we spent together.
How wonderful it was to be together, and do the simple family things that we enjoyed, knowing that we had a roof over our heads for a couple of weeks, by which time we would be able to move into the house that I was buying.
What fun we had. How we enjoyed visiting the rest of our large extended family and I did not have the burden of unpacking etc. God was indeed so good to us at that time.
We would celebrate Christmas in our usual church among friends and then travel back afterwards. I did things I had never done before, like go to the pub and sing carols there. Then we all went to the kebab shop after midnight mass - I’d never done that before or since.
The greatest joy was that we could be together and although there was grief, there was lots of laughter and I was able to relax and enjoy the preparations with my family.
God of surprises
When I look back at how things were that Christmas, I realise that Jesus was with us all the time and obstacles were removed.
I could go and watch my son playing rugby, my youngest daughter could revise in comfort for her exams and we could even have my children's university friends to stay.
It showed me that I could really trust God and know that he would always provide – even if it was not be quite as I had planned. He is truly a "God of surprises".
- Bridget Slattery is a trained psychotherapist and couples counsellor. She runs workshops called Coping with Griefand Learning to Live Again After Bereavement or Divorceat the Celebrate conferences.