Hi friend, this post is part of my series: parenting a hurting child. I pray that you will be blessed. Check out the other posts in the series and be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss any updates.
I am fairly positive that my in-laws celebrate holidays completely opposite of the way it’s supposed to be done. Well, at least that is what I spent the first few years of my marriage thinking. For them, a holiday can be celebrated anytime and in any way. It doesn’t matter if it is two weeks later or if you spend the whole holiday driving in a van to be a part of a missions team. It doesn’t matter if there is no Christmas tree or if Thanksgiving dinner is made in the microwave.
Growing up with a homebody traditionalist kind of momma, this concept of holidays was really quite absurd. I will admit, though, it made things easy. I never had to fret that I was going to hurt their feelings or mess up their perfect plans. I was free to celebrate however I chose, without any fear that it was going to cause friction.
Then over the years I realized that their view of holidays wasn’t just easy it was beautifully profound. Because the celebration of a holiday isn’t about a tradition, a place, a gift, or a single perfect day. And if we make it about any of those things, we are guaranteed to come face to face with unmet expectations.
You see what my in-laws so wisely knew was that the celebration of a holiday is more about the people than the holiday. It’s more about staying up late at night playing cards with those you love than having a Martha-Stewart-perfect Thanksgiving table. Oh, those little place cards, decorations, and 4 hour side dishes are wonderful, but they aren’t the key to a perfect holiday. My in-laws…they have it right. The holiday is always perfect, if you chose it to be that way. No rules necessary.
I have to laugh when I think about our family gathered around the piano in sweater vests with hot chocolate singing carols. Friends, for years I have longed for that silly scene. Not because I would enjoy any of those things, but because the scene promises happiness. A happiness that we all long for, especially now. My heart is heavy thinking about the fact that we are a mere month away from the holiday season. You know…that time of the year when hurting families are haunted by the thoughts of all that they lack. But this year, friends, will be different…
Make it about more than one day
The problem with Christmas is that we build this ridiculous amount of hype over one little day of the year. Feelings are hurt if we don’t eat a Christmas dinner with every side of the family and then some. Pressure is thick to see as many people as possible in the span of those precious 24 hours, feverishly ripping into piles of presents that we can’t even really afford to give each other. All to celebrate the day that Jesus was born… on a day that isn’t likely the actual day he was born anyway!
What if this year instead of putting so much pressure on that ONE day, we resolve to enjoy the entire season? What if we made everyday in November and December one to look forward to? What if everyday was a celebration of HIS love?
If the holiday is more than one day, there will be no need for trauma over who has the kids for Christmas or what family we will see first. Or who gets to watch the kids open presents. We are free to enjoy every moment that we have.
We started doing this a few years ago and have never looked back. I love that we can relax and enjoy it all, everyday as the month progresses. I love the excitement of my kids and the simplicity. So how can we do this? Perhaps my personal favorite is through the celebration of advent. I’ve used many different resources to make a Jesse Tree. This year, I am going to use a fantastic ebook called Truth in the Tinsel. This book provides a simple craft each day that you can hang on your tree as you walk through the season. It’s precious and can be easily adapted for various ages.
For Thanksgiving, we have taken each day of the month and done something to serve others. We’ve also made thankful chains or other resources to remind us of the blessings we have. Check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest board for information on these ideas and others.
I’ve also used this idea of making the holiday more than one day for Valentine’s day, Easter, birthdays and pretty much any holiday.
Make it about someone else
This probably works for just about every problem we have in life, but bears repeating. If we make it about somebody else, it eases the pain of what we lack. If it’s about serving someone else, the sadness of having 4 kids who aren’t old enough to buy me a present is trumped. My focus moves from having nothing under the tree to how we are helping others. No longer am I concerned with what should be. (Oh, and believe me friend, I totally get the pain of what should be…)
Instead of making it about others, the first few years we overcompensated. It’s ever so tempting to OVER compensate at the holidays- but trust me- this makes the lack more obvious. Filling the stockings with stuff won’t fill their empty and broken places. Only God can do that.
Last year we declared Decemeber to be the month of random acts of kindness (RAK). Each day, we found a new family to bless. Sometimes it was a random car in the parking lot. Sometimes it was a surprise delivery to a friend. Everyday we blessed others and it was beautiful. We didn’t spend our days running around with toy catalogs and markers, planning out what might be under the tree. Instead, the kids couldn’t stop talking about who we would “get” next with our RAK. We loved it!
Create new traditions
Every year we have an advent calendar at Christmas time. There are pictures of my oldest doing this when she was barely 2. The memories are precious to me. This is one tradition that we have carried on, despite the brokenness. I won’t lie, it’s painful. Doing those things we used to do as a family, rarely refrains from pointing out the blaring hole. But, some things are worth working past and this is one of them.
As for the rest, we are working to create new traditions, things that are feasible (and generally free). This is where Pinterest is my friend. Why reinvent the wheel? Someone else thought of a million great ideas, why think of them all again? Pinterest is an especially great place to find ideas for creative holiday traditions or fun times together. Let Pinterest work for you instead of pointing out the things you can’t or don’t have. Hint: follow people who don’t post a bunch of lovely dream house pics or $1000 outfit ideas. And then only go into the feed of the people you follow. There is a lot of trash in the “everything” category anyway. Be selective! Oh and follow me! I promise no dream house or trendy outfits are ever pinned. Hehe.
Celebrate the promises
Maybe there isn’t anything worth celebrating this year. Maybe your child is dying of cancer. Maybe your family is broken so badly that it seems beyond repair. Trust me, I know why you feel this way. I’ve walked through several years of painful holidays. Years when it was hard to breathe and I was sure that I wouldn’t make it through the day. I am here to tell you that this is a lie. You will make it. The pain is crushing, but you can not be defeated. You, friend, have victory in the ONE who gave His life for you!
This year, your holidays will be amazing. Not because you are surrounded by a whole and restored family, but because of who HE is. Because He promises to never leave you…not for one second. Stand on the promises, don’t miss a single one. Celebrate because HE is worthy to be celebrated.
Your turn~ what have you done differently to celebrate the holidays with your hurting child? Let’s help each other by sharing our ideas.
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