If you came over from Encouragement for Today, I’m so excited that you have joined me.


When my family began to grow, adding Josh, Stephen, and Kristin, I didn’t just gain three beautiful in-law children, we gained additional families in the mix.

Josh’s mom and brother (and his wife and daughter). Stephen’s parents and three brothers. Kristin’s mom and dad and brother (and wife and son). That didn’t count their grandparents, or cousins, or close relatives.

So, suddenly Christmas or Thanksgiving was a little more complicated.

Our traditions, like unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, children tumbling from their beds, jumping on ours, shouting, “presents, presents, open presents!” or Richard reading the story of Jesus’ birth, or praying with our children, before we ate a big Christmas breakfast, were changing.

Now, young families were hoping to begin their own traditions, especially as children were born.

They were also struggling to add in two or more sets of families, traveling for hours with kids strapped in car seats, or trying to rest after a night in a strange bed or on an air mattress.

Richard and I remembered trying to do the same thing when our kids were young, and how that Christmas became hard, and we couldn’t please everyone, and somehow the joy of Christ’s birth, and the celebration of our little family got way too complicated.

So, Richard and decided something early on.

Celebrating Jesus’ birth wasn’t going to be about a certain day, or specific traditions, but rather loving each other and celebrating the gift of faith in whatever manner worked.

Yes, we held on to some traditions. Yes, there are times we get together on the day, like this year.

But if Christmas arrives and it’s just us, then we’re okay with that. These are some of the things we’ve learned to do on those holidays.

Open your home to others

Down the street, at your church, in the nursing home around the corner. . . I promise you that within a short distance from your home there are people who don’t have family. Whether due to distance, death, or circumstances, there are people who don’t have the beautiful problem you have of juggling family.

Throw a beautiful celebration and invite in three or four people to have dinner with you, play games, open gifts (small gifts like candles or a homemade gift of fudge is a treasure). Read the Bible story (Luke 2:1-20). Pray together. Laugh. Make new friends and give the gift of Christmas.

2011-11-24 14.04.28Make nature your sanctuary

One year our children were all with their other families. Richard and I went hiking. The day was beautiful and crisp and cold. I sat on the top of a steep hill on craggy rocks. A river ran down below. I couldn’t help but sense the presence of the Creator.

As you can see, we had a blast!

Give intentionally

This won’t look the same for all of us, but make that day a day of giving. Perhaps the gift you offer is a day of no guilt for those who feel pulled between families. With open hands, be happy with and for them. Be flexible. The day isn’t important. The memories you make together on the day you choose is. .  .

Maybe you give financially to a giving organization like Compassion International or Proverbs 31 Ministries or your local shelter.

Perhaps you serve at a local shelter or food bank for a day. Perhaps this is a day you give totally to God and you crank up the worship music and celebrate in His presence all the good things He has given — life, health, a warm home, food on the table, His Son.

Create a fun new tradition

With the help of your children and in-law children and grandbabies, come up with a fun new tradition that you all do as a family, no matter the day you meet.

We have a nativity scene that is toddler friendly. Our grandbabies are three and under (we have five!) and they love to play with it. It’s not unusual to see  Joseph in Audrey’s mouth, or a sheep tucked in Luke’s pocket, or a donkey playing with Doc McStuffin and Elle. We have a special book we read just for the little ones, and Jane will tuck herself in Gaga’s arms as her Big Dad (we didn’t choose the names, the babies did!) reads the children’s book about Jesus’ birth.

We also have a nontraditional meal. By the time you’ve eaten turkey and ham that many times, a Mexican Fiesta sounds pretty good, which is what we are serving this Christmas.

Can I let you in on a little secret?

When you start to see Christmas as a celebration rather than a fixed day or a fixed way of doing things, the pressure is taken off. We discovered that our children look forward to coming, no matter what day it is, because there aren’t rigid expectations, but rather a joy of seeing them and celebrating who Jesus is to our family.


TheUnburdenedHeart_largeIs God whispering in your heart right now? What is He saying to you? How can I pray with you?

And as a Christmas gift, I’d love to give a copy of one of my books to one of you who comments today, and shares a unique alternative to celebrating Christmas!

So glad you came here today. I hope you come back soon!