A Messy Christmas

I did it!

I got my first piece published in a newspaper!

And I almost didn’t even notice, because they got my name wrong on the front cover….but hidden away in the paper, there it was!

My first published story.

Now, I’m well aware that my small city paper is no New York Times, but it still feels like a first step. Like a milestone for writing. Almost exactly one year ago, I started this blog, not knowing where it would take me, not even planning to share it at first with anyone (thanks to my sister-in-law, Andrea’s encouragement I did) and now I’ve taken one more baby step. And it feels good.

This is my story, which I submitted into the local newspaper, The Carillon, for the Christmas writing contest. It placed third out of who knows how many entires (hopefully more than three, LOL).

A Messy Christmas by: Heather Bergen

This year it will be perfect! I thought, as I put the last few packages under the tree. Finally, this year I was going to be able to make Christmas look just a little bit like the Christmas’ we read about in all those heart-warming Christmas tales! Decorations hung around the house, most of them new. Mountains of presents are stacked underneath the sparkling tree, each carefully wrapped in brightly coloured paper, ribbons shining on top of them. The usually empty box that sits in the corner of our kitchen (my husband tells me it’s a refrigerator and that people put food in it) was packed so full of meats, cheeses, egg nog and other mouth-watering dishes that there’s no possible way my small army of children will ever finish it all.


I think back to our humble beginnings, just ten years earlier. It was our first Christmas together. I was with child at the tender age of seventeen, a child myself really. Not yet showing, but feeling so small – so lost in a world where everyone around me seemed to have their futures figured out. I couldn’t afford the paper to wrap a gift, never mind something worth giving…but that year the story of a young, unwed teenager, in a stable, pregnant with the Messiah reached my heart in a brand new way. My eyes twinkled with the youth that I possessed. The hope within me was so bright, so fresh…sweetly naive.

Fast forward one year. My eyes still young, but red from crying, stared out of the hospital window at the large, dancing snowflakes falling to the ground like big pieces of confetti. A tear slips down my cheek. How can this possibly be my sons first Christmas? We should have been starting our own traditions, setting up our first tree, maybe with one of those cute “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments hanging in the center. I should have been buying him new stuffed bears, musical mobiles or maybe rattles with flashing lights.

But instead, there is nothing.

We’ve been here, at the Children’s Hospital for over two months. No one is certain how much longer until he is better. None of the doctors even know what exactly is wrong. We’re waiting. Waiting for answers. Waiting to continue our lives together. Turning to face my baby boy, I hold out my hand to grasp the chubby little fingers on his. His large, blue eyes look back at me and once again he pulls away, expecting that I’m just looking for a finger to poke. My heart sinks. He no longer lets me hold his hand. Every couple hours, more blood is drawn from those tiny fingers to make sure that his levels are okay. The tips of them are covered with little cuts. I close my eyes and wonder: Will he make it? Will we ever walk out of these hospital doors and be a family again?

Another year passes! We’re finally together!! All four of us. My husband and our two children. My little boy, now a healthy eighteen-month old and his brand new baby sister! Each of them receives just a small toy. After all we’ve been through, there’s no money for much else. But we’re together this year and it’s all that matters. I’m filled with warmth and gratitude.

Year after year goes through my mind. Most of the time, we were just holding on week by week. Decor? There was no money for that. Fancy meals? Nor those. Just a small gift or two each. Nothing more. But finally! This was the year! We were in a new house, Ryan had a new job. I could pay for all the things on our lists and more! Surely this would be the most special week, the best Christmas ever!

My five children are tucked into their beds when I hear it…there’s no mistaking THAT sound. Someone is throwing up.

I groan.

Are you kidding me?!? Not tonight! Not THIS year! Not just one…but three little children are up all night. I spend Christmas Eve scrubbing rugs and doing laundry – load after load after LOAD! And then I get sick too. Throughout the whole week we all take our turns – a full six-day span before this family of seven is healthy again. The food in the fridge goes uneaten. the sweet oranges on the counter turn green. The new toys lie untouched in the corner, bringing little comfort to this sickly family. And once again bitter tears fall.

Why?!? It’s just not fair! Why did this have to ruin our first real Christmas?

Slowly a strange feeling comes over me and it dawned on me: What was the first real Christmas? It surely wasn’t neat and tidy, was it? And it dawned on me: This was the reason for Christmas. We are so weak and helpless, consumed by our own desires, and if our plans don’t work out, we cry and complain.

Yet Jesus.

He saw our pain, our helplessness, our sicknesses and our junk and he came. Not just to be a baby, but to show us that there’s so much more. He came to heal our hearts, and give us new desires that will never disappoint. He came to give us joy through the hard times. He came to die and forgive. Christmas wasn’t meant to be a neat, pretty picture. It was a messy painful story, full of people with ruined plans. But it is also glorious. It is all our hope.

With tears full of joy running down my face and a heart so full it could explode, I whispered, “Thank you Jesus, you never let me settle for all that Christmas fluff. You made sure that I got to experience the real Christmas once again…messiness and all!”



Worth My Time

For as long as I can remember, writing has just been something I do. It’s like I wake up in the morning and have something to say…sometimes I don’t even know what it is yet. But I know it’s in there, and it’s important. Sometimes it’s a certain topic, other times it’s a feeling…. a deep almost inexpressible feeling.

It’s like a challenge awaits me. The challenge is to share that feeling, to put it into the right words so that others can feel it too.  For some, a challenge like that seems overwhelming. For me, it brings about a sense of relief, as if finally others can understand another piece of what is in my heart, another thought that makes me who I am.  This is why I’m unconcerned with whether or not people agree with me, because I know that one of the things that makes me, me, are my individual thoughts.

My thoughts today?

I like being alone. A lot.

The silly part though, is that I also like being with people a lot. This results in a funny little thing, for what brings me the most stress, in the end also brings me the most joy. I’m like an introverted-extrovert. If that’s even a thing.

Maybe you are one who understands this, but for those who don’t know the feeling, let me give you a little bit of an example:

Picture this…I’m reading in my room and I do not want to be disturbed by anyone…but what do you know, my child comes in, begging to play with me. Reluctantly, (and somewhat begrudgingly) I put down the book and I follow the child out of the room. To my surprise and delight, my child has planned something great and out of the ordinary for me.

A Game. But not just any game, something so sweet… a made up game! He thought it up for me. Just for me!

My heart warms.

I follow the arrows he made…first down the hall, then up the stairs, around corners, into rooms, through the bathroom and finally into my walk-through closet. I stop at the door that is labelled in my son’s messy, grade 3 writing. It says, “Open to find yor surpize”…. I slowly open, curious as to what the great surprise may be. Out jumps my shining faced boy, “Surprise!!!” I jump too, for he scared me, and we giggle together.

The thing that I really did not want to do, suddenly becomes something so much better than reading a book.

What if I had said no?

What if I would’ve told him that I was too tired for his game? Oh, my heart breaks at the very thought!!

And I realize, everything that’s worth anything seems to go this way. Like having a large family over for a meal. It’s work hosting a big group! But the hours spent in the presence of friends is priceless.

I remember, as a teen, sometimes spending an entire day watching TV. At the end of the day, you just don’t feel good, you don’t feel rested.

You feel gross.

Not necessarily guilty gross, but just physically, it doesn’t feel good. Why is that? I mean, it’s kinda like rest… and rest is good, so therefore I should feel better afterwards. Right?!?

But I never did.

Right now, I see a generation of people who are largely unhappy. I see multitudes of those who sit on their phones, spending many hours doing whatever they want. I see people rushing through the lines of the drive-through’s, getting what they want, when they want it. I see grown up “children” living in their parents basements, spending hours playing video games or sitting on Facebook, doing whatever they want to do…never stopping to reach for the next thing that will entertain, that will temporarily satisfy their craving for self, for fun, for happiness.

But if we have everything, then why aren’t we happy? How come, in a generation where we have so much, are depression and sadness so common? If all our friends are just a text message away, then why is our generation so lonely?

Lately, there’s one question I’ve been asking myself a lot. I ask myself this question every time I’m about to add another thing to my list of things to do and the question is this: Is this worth my time?

On the heels of that question come harder questions to wrestle with…just what do I want to accomplish in my life? What am I going to add to my life that is going to fulfill a greater purpose?

Sometimes, in the busy seasons of life, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. Especially this Christmas, I’ve felt the tug of this. For every group and activity we’re a part of, it seems like there’s another Christmas party to go to. And sometimes it’s great! But often I come home grumpy and exhausted. And I feel stuck.

Did you know that it is possible to just say no sometimes? Yeah, really! Who knew?!? I don’t have to go to every single party! 

It just so hard to say no to things though, isn’t it? Because what if I’m missing out on something really good?

But it’s so, SO good for us. We can’t do everything and we can’t give everything. This doesn’t mean that we should say no to everything, but if one day you wake up, like me, and realize that in the next 10 days you don’t even have one single evening or day at home to yourself, then something has to change.

This Christmas season, as you reflect on your past year, ask yourself: Was I too busy? Was I selfish with my time? Did my schedule look too chaotic? Am I complaining about the things I’m doing instead of enjoying them? Am I making time for the most important people in my life? And as you ponder these questions, seek God on what HE wants you to spend your time on for the year ahead.

For some of us, we don’t need to change our schedules, we just need to change our attitudes. Sometimes, like my son’s big surprise, those things we don’t feel like doing are actually exactly what we need to be doing. On the flip side, if we are just dragging ourselves to event after event, completely worn down…maybe it’s time to ask God, “Is this something you want me to continue with in my life? Is it worth my time?” 

Then, don’t just listen, ACT.


For the Discouraged Heart

Isn’t it funny how some days we can feel like we’re on top of the world and that absolutely nothing can tear us down. It’s almost like an invincible feeling. We feel like we could mentor the most broken up person and make them a success! Like we could write a parenting book, and it would finally be the one parenting method out there that would magically work for every single child! (OK…I haven’t felt THAT good since I was a parent of one…haha)

I’m talking about those feel good days in life: Those great moments…the moments when everything is perfect, skies are blue, life is put together, kids are cleaning the house without even being asked. And we think: This is it! I have found the key to having the “put together” life.

But then, the next day. The very. Next. Day…we are completely and unexpectedly shot down. We feel like we need mental help. Like everything is going wrong and we don’t know why. Like we don’t know what happened to our perfect world.

It’s moments like these that we get discouraged. No, not just discouraged, we feel helpless. Lost. Confused.


At times we even wonder if the good times ever even happened, or if we’re  actually just that crazy that we thought them up like a daydreaming child.

Maybe this is you right now.


Oh, discouraged one…do I have a message for you!!!

Dear, precious one, you are not alone. In fact, the very thought that you are doing this alone has probably hurt you even more. This thought, that there’s something deeply wrong with you, has just isolated you even more from others than you even thought possible.

But you’re not alone. This happens to the best of us.

This happens to the strong ones. This happens to the “super mom” next to you. This happens to those who look like their lives are perfect, to those who have it “all together”.

This happens to the single and married alike, to the rich and the poor, to the parents and the childless, to those who have the guts to admit it and those who don’t.

True, to some this happens more often. And it can feel like no one possibly could understand the darkness that has plagued you your entire life. To some people, these down times are long seasons…not just lasting a day or two but they stretch into weeks and months, even years.

But they are seasons.

They will come to an end, and joy, pure childlike joy is waiting on the other side.

To some, even reading words the words pure childlike joy will cause pain, because those words try to awaken hope…hope that has been crushed long, long ago. God wants to awaken that hope within you. Will you let him?

Dear discouraged heart, you are not alone.  The moment that you start to believe that lie will be the moment that your hope begins to die.

Take comfort, Broken Soul, in this: There is One who has always walked beside you. He knows how you feel. Exactly how you feel! He sees your deepest pain, your darkest secret, your hidden tears. He has seen your perfect world turn upside and crumble before your eyes. He has seen you lose something that can never be replaced. And He knows it hurts! He has seen the betrayal you’ve experienced, the abuse that you’ve quietly suffered through. He’s seen everyone turn away, until you feel like you’re the only one left. He’s seen it and He cares.

And He says, “Oh dear child, you are not alone. I have never left you. Hold on, for I reward those who keep getting up. There is only one way to lose this race, and that is giving up. Don’t give up! Don’t let go!”

Discouraged One, you are not alone. Keep getting up, even when it feels impossible. Keep holding on, even when almost all hope is gone. He will help you with even this, all you have to do is ask.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8