I’ve shared this each year. The first year the post received so many hits it crashed the site. When I transitioned to a new server, I lost the original post and all the comments. But this is still a vital conversation we can have as parents of grown children. It’s also a safe place for younger women to share how this impacts them, and how we can do better. Living free in our family, especially at Christmas, is a gift.
The first text looked something like this: Hey kiddos, when do you want to get together for Christmas?
And then it began. One of our children proposed a date, and another said it wouldn’t work. Someone else thought a date might be open, only to realize that it was already filled. We kept working at it, until we realized that maybe this was a year that we wouldn’t be able to do Christmas together.
Did that make me sad? It didn’t. Because a long time ago, I made myself a promise — that Christmas wouldn’t be limited to a specific day, or a specific way of doing things. That we would be flexible. That we’d have fun, no matter what day we got together.
I actually made this promise as a young mom when I was hauling little kids out of bed and into the car. I made the promise as I longed to be with my own children on Christmas morning. I imagined all of us in our pajamas after a big breakfast of French toast. It seemed like there was always at least one person disappointed (or outright mad) because we weren’t where they wanted us to be. Or those that were more flexible got lost in the explanation that “this is how we’ve always done it.”
It’s not that there weren’t good memories. There were. Yet Richard and I were the first to be married on either side. We were the first to have children. And in those early Christmas years, we were often the ones “messing up” the way things had always been.
One day I realized that I no longer loved Christmas.
As a believer, this weighed heavy. How could I share the joy of Christ with my young family when I wrestled with resentment, uncertainty, angst?
One year cancer gave us an incredible gift.
I got sick at the ripe age of 31. That Christmas I was going through chemotherapy. Radiation was next. My children were young and all I wanted was to watch them grow up. That Christmas no one said a word about expectations. I’d see a flash when I laid down for a nap, my body tired from the toxins in my veins. I knew what they were doing. This might be our last Christmas together. They were taking pictures. They were treasuring the gift of now.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 (ESV)
It’s been years since that hard Christmas (and yet such a good one). My children are grown and now that they are, I want to remember the promise I made. I want Christmas to be about Christ — not me. Not my wishes. Not my traditions or how I think things should be.
While I have no control over anyone’s schedule but my own, I do have the option of bringing peace into this season. I desire that my children know that mom is flexible. That if it takes 52 texts for us to figure this out (and we eventually did), that I’m okay with that. You see, my children weren’t created to fill the need of Christmas in my heart. They aren’t supposed to juggle and finagle and worry about who is mad at who. Most of all, I long that when they see me, they’ll see that while I love them with all my heart, Christmas isn’t about a day. It’s about Jesus.
Lord, let my children see you in me. In every day, but especially in this season of celebrating you.
There’s a hidden treasure in this, one I didn’t realize.
Because it’s pressure-free, they work really hard to be with us. Maybe it’s not on Christmas day, or maybe it is. Maybe it’s unconventional and Richard and I hike on Christmas morning, while they have sweet family time, or they are with the other side of the family. Yet when we gather (and it’s wild and wooly with 6 littles), my prayer is that they will fall in love with Christmas and all that it means.
If you are on the other side of someone’s anger or disappointment this Christmas, I’m reaching with a huge embrace. I pray his peace wraps around your tender heart, and you see how beautiful you are to him.
If you are the one struggling to hold on to what “once was,” would you consider releasing that to discover the new in this season? You might be surprised at what you gain when you do.
Living free togetHER – taking it deeper
Traditions are important, but people are more important.
- What is one way you can be more flexible this Christmas?
- Read Romans 12:18 — How can you bring peace into your current situation (as far as it depends on you)?
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The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness