Five years ago my mother invited us to Thanksgiving. I emailed one of my pastors as soon as I received the invitation, heart pounding, hands shaking, seeking his reassurance that I was not sinning if I turned down the offer. He didn't spoon-feed me the words I was looking for... Instead, he reminded me that God's natural design was for families to be together, but also affirmed that in no way would God want me to be abused. With our pastor's guidance, my husband and I established firm boundaries and a solid exit strategy should the Thanksgiving function turn bad. We were relieved to not need the exit plan.
However... That was the last time we spent a holiday together. Heck, that was the last time I was under the same roof as my mother and sister at the same time. In fact, I haven't even seen my sister in over four years.
I was keenly aware of my growth and healing when I came to my husband last night with this statement: "We stopped having holidays with my family because it was too upsetting for me - too painful and unhealthy. That rationale no longer exists, as I'm strong enough now to handle whatever happens and wise enough to know that their issues are not about me." As we talked, we settled on a very different way of spending Christmas this year.
We are having my mom, sister, nephews and niece over for a Christmas celebration tomorrow night. I know it's not Christmas Day, nor is it even Christmas Eve, but it's a start. My children have only met their four cousins twice - very briefly in passing - I cannot imagine them never knowing them. And, as disconnected and dysfunctional my mother is, she has shown tremendous commitment to getting well, and shows a sincere interest in being a better mother and grandmother. I know that this time together would mean the world to her.
Truthfully, I do not like my mother or sister very much, but these feelings I have about them are based on things that happened in the distant past, when my sister and I were young and didn't have a lot of life experience (maturity) under our belts. Of course my mother doesn't have that same excuse, but I believe that wounded people hurt people. I have grown so very much in the years since we were last together, and I'm eager to see if they have too. I have no idea where this meal will lead - if anywhere - but I look forward to seeing them and am praying for changed hearts and lives. It would, indeed, be a Christmas miracle if the overwhelming feeling in the room was love. I pray for love towards my birth family. Blessed, relationship changing, opportunity-giving love.