Strolling the aisles of a home décor mall, I spotted a faded turquoise sign hanging on the wall in one of the booths. A trellis of cream flowers provided the perfect accent color for my kitchen. I knew exactly where I’d put it and as long as the price was right, it was going in my cart. I flipped it over and checked the tag.
Half price? Sold!
As I snatched the sign off the wall and put it into my cart, I frowned. The words on the front of the sign might seem a bit off in my own home.
The slogan sounded too happily-ever-after and fairy tale-ish. It didn’t fit my family. Maybe no one else would notice, but I knew. It sounded like the home I wanted, but not the one I had. I always wanted a close family, but the home I grew up in was full of arguing and distance. My past upbringing became the lens through which I now saw my present.
I wanted the kind of family life I thought other people had — the “we’ve-got-it-all-together” kind I saw in church and on TV. Families that didn’t fuss. Families that always agree. Families that never endured divorce.
The small print taunted me even more: “The roots of a family tree begin with two hearts”. I thought about putting the plaque back in the booth. How can I display a sign like that? John and I don’t even have kids together. We are a “blended” family.
I have three children from my first marriage and he has one. Our kids weren’t exactly jumping for joy fourteen years ago when we announced our engagement. From their perspective, divorce shattered their reality. Our family didn’t begin with two hearts. It began with two heartbreaks.
I glanced at the sign again. Faith…Friends…Do my children really share my faith? Are we really friends? Sometimes it seemed like I dragged them to church and when they were old enough to move out, they couldn’t pack fast enough. How can I display a sign like that? Won’t I look like a hypocrite? A façade of what I wished I had?
Somehow I managed to squelch my doubts and bought it anyway. Even if I felt like a fraud when I read its words, I really liked the colors.
A few years later, I packed belongings to move to our new house. Faced with decisions of what to throw away, what to give away and what was worthy of taking the journey, I pondered the words on the sign once again.
I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window as I tossed it into the box for donations. A lot has changed since I bought it years ago. Not so much with my family circumstances, but with my own perspective. I used to think that my children needed to share my exact beliefs for us to be unified in faith, but over the years and through our struggles, I’ve learned to embrace their uniqueness and accept them for who they are, not what they do. As they’ve matured into young adults, I’ve realized that being friends with my children means letting them celebrate their own triumphs as well as make their own mistakes without someone telling them what they “should” do.
I glanced at the box loaded down with rejected household items and then back at the window, pondering my reflection. A single beam of sunshine seemed to illuminate a different perspective.
How could I have learned that lesson of grace if we’d always agreed? How could we truly be a family if there were invisible requirements and expectations restricting membership? That’s when I realized that God wasn’t as interested in changing others as much as He was in changing me. I took the sign out of the donation box and carefully covered it in bubble wrap. It’s going with me to the new house and I knew exactly where I’d hang it—a perfectly prominent spot in the kitchen because…now it feels legit. Plus…I still like the colors.
Christy Johnson is the author of Love Junkies, 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle. As a national speaker, certified life coach and soul-health advocate, Christy is bold and transparent about imparting hope to women and leading them on a journey of self-discovery to break the toxic love rut. Her captivating testimony about how Christ redeemed her addiction to love and helped her forgive the offender who was responsible for the death of her youngest son will inspire you. She is The Life of a Single Mom Ministries’ Featured Expert on forgiveness and drama-free living. For more information and a free ebook, How to Live Soul Healthy in a Toxic World, visit christyjohnson.org.
The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM) is a 501c3 nonprofit that exists to serve single parents and those who work with single parents. We are fully accredited through a variety of organizations that include high levels of financial accountability and awards for our premiere financial stewardship, including GuideStar, Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, Great Nonprofits, Chamber of Commerce, LANO, and others.