I just survived a terrible Christmas. In the grand scheme of things I know the petty problems and annoyances of my life are nothing but exactly that, petty annoyances. No one died, no one is dying, I am not homeless or in fear of becoming homeless (Well, that part isn’t true. I always have a hidden anxiety about losing a job and becoming homeless. It is a by-product of my unstable childhood. Yawn.)

No, this Christmas dragged the bottom of the well of nuisance events because of the new dance our family is doing as a by-product of divorce. It is true what they say. Whatever affects you, affects everyone around you. Especially in a family. Child visitation schedules are par for the course when parents part ways and it brings up all the weaknesses in the original relationship. Watching/helping our daughter ride the waves of emotions as she suffered her first Christmas as a parent without her child beside her, made Rob and I ever more grateful we have never had to face the challenge of divorce. It is truly not for the faint of heart. I have a new level of respect for everyone who has ever been through the hell of divorce, double that respect for divorcing with children involved. It is terrible.

Since I have built into my Survivor Psyche (also a by-product of my troubled childhood. Double yawn.) the need to find the positive in every situation, no matter how dreadful, it has taken me almost a full week but I found the positive in this Christmas. It is not a new positive, I have felt this particular thankfulness on many occasions over the years, particularly on birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and any employer-paid official holiday. Normally my feelings of gratitude are a fleeting thought of “Thank goodness today I don’t have to deal with anyone beyond my own immediate family.” This Christmas my feelings are deeper and wider, a thankful prayer of heartfelt gratitude to my Heavenly Father who knows me best.

My ultimate, core gratitude is a prayer of thanks to my God.

It goes something like, “Thank You, Heavenly Father , Heavenly Mother and everyone else involved in making this happen. You know how much this means to me. I am so, so thankful for the kind heavenly souls who decreed years ago, way before I was reintroduced to my biological parents in adulthood, that the Mormon members who met my parents when they were investigating joining the Church, were not nice them.

Thank you for making the choice for my parents to join and become devout, dedicated Jehovah’s Witnesses easy for them. Thank you for sending Jehovah’s Witnesses who befriended my parents and were equally as socially inept as they are.
Thank you for giving my parents a way to worship thee and feel loved by thee, that doesn’t involve me. Thank you for giving me every Sunday as a day of rest at church, not having to worry about what crazy thing my parents might be saying to someone, or worrying that their dirty clothes might stink up the classroom, or that their lack of personal hygiene has caused ANOTHER outbreak of lice within the congregation. Thank you for letting the kind, sweet Jehovah Witness leaders explain to my parents why they aren’t welcome back to church meetings until they clean themselves up.

Thank you for giving me a break on every manmade holiday from their constant needs and my guilt about not being a good enough daughter. Thank you for not requiring me to explain Claudia’s schizophrenic delusion that she is an alien visiting earth from another planet or Ralph’s developmental delays that make him an eternal 8 year old boy. Or their story on how they met, had two children that were taken by the courts and how we were reunited years later.
Thank you for helping me fully understand how mental illness and cognitive delays create lives of need, lives that depend on the kindness of others and the generosity of local, state and federal governmental programs to do for them what they cannot do for themselves, through no choice of their own. Thank you for letting me see up close and personal the pain of being rejected by society because of mental illness and impairments. Thank you for allowing me to be the buffer between my elderly, struggling parents and a world that does not understand them. Thank you for giving me a husband and children who are supportive of my efforts on behalf of Ralph and Claudia. Thank you for letting me more fully understand the scripture, “ …unto the least of these, my bretheren..” Thank you for giving me the privilege of seeing the world through their innocent, joyful eyes.

But really, sincerely, Lord. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you for making them Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t celebrate birthdays or holidays, and me a party-loving Mormon. We love each other and have reconciled that when we all meet in heaven, we will be equal at your footstool. We firmly believe in your Atonement and are comforted with the thought that all will be made whole in the next life.
This difference in churches is merely a tool of thy grace that allows me to enjoy Sunday services in peace and holidays without guilt. I accept it as the gift you give me. Amen.”

It is a bit unusual in terms of church orthodoxy, but I have lived an unusual life and I am confident Heavenly Father knows exactly what I mean with my prayer of gratitude. May He grant you the gifts of peace that you need also, whatever they may be.