I’ve shared this each year. The first year this 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 together. Living free in our family, especially at Christmas, is a gift.
The first text looked something like this: Hey, 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 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, at least not around Christmas time.
Did that make me sad? It didn’t. Because a long time ago I made myself a promise — Christmas wouldn’t be limited to a specific day, or a specific way of doing things. We would be flexible. I’d have fun, no matter what day we got together, or if we didn’t at all.
I made this promise first as a young mom when I was hauling little kids out of bed and into the car. I made this promise as I thought about the Christmas I wish I could have. One that was a little less hurried. A little less pressured. One where there wasn’t always at least one person disappointed with us. I wanted to create new traditions, while holding the old (and those we loved) with respect.
It’s not that there wasn’t good memories from those early Christmases. There were. It’s not that everybody was inflexible, but those who were flexible got overshadowed by those who were not. 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 all trying to figure out what the “new” should look like. As the years pass, I see the struggle: Christmas was special. It was something that members of our family had loved and looked forward to, especially with the kids. Where it got tricky was when it had to be on a certain day, at a certain time, for a specific length of time, or we were messing up “how it had always been.”
The intent may have been good, but the impact was real.
One day I realized that I no longer loved Christmas. As a believer, that weighed heavy. How could I share the joy of Christ with my young family when I wrestled with resentment, uncertainty, angst?
Then one year, cancer gave us an incredible gift.
I was diagnosed with metatastic breast cancer at the ripe age of 31. That Christmas I was going through chemotherapy. Radiation was next. And so many surgeries. As Christmas approached, 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, 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 they are parents. Each year, I want to remember the promise I made when I was a young mom. I want Christmas to be about Christ and family and fun and making memories — and not about me. Not my wishes. Not my traditions or how I think things should be. Not my rigid rules, or my disappointment.
While I have no control over anyone’s schedule but my own, I do have the option of bringing peace into this season.
If it takes a little time for us to figure this out (and we eventually do), I’m okay with that. If it means we host Thanksgiving or Christmas at our house or theirs, that’s okay too. If we spend Christmas two weeks before or two weeks after, it’s still Christmas. If they just can’t find a way to do it, and Richard and I take a long hike that year, or open our home to friends who don’t have family near, that’s special too.
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 that has come from this decision, one I didn’t see coming. 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 do our own thing 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,” I hear you. It’s hard to let go of traditions. That day is special. But would you consider releasing the old to discover the new in this season? You might be surprised at what you gain when you do.
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?