When Betsy invited me to write with her and some friends about creating peace during the holidays, each week’s topic seemed fun and exciting. I couldn’t wait to tackle them.
Except for this week.
Navigating Family Well.
Because families are a lot.
Without a doubt, the holidays and family don’t always mix well together. There’s the cousin who loves to argue and specifically about politics. The aunt who can’t hear and yells everything loud enough for the neighbors to hear. The dad who spends most of the time on his phone “working.” The sister who is jealous or irritated or spoiled or just flat boring.
And of course, there’s a toddler throwing a fit somewhere.
People stir their grudges back to the top as they whip their mashed potatoes. Replay the hurts and offenses and chances missed for restoration like we watch A Christmas Story on repeat all Christmas Day long. Then we angerly scrape leftovers into the trash can as if the Christmas ham somehow injured us.
Entire movies and television shows have been written about those kinds of families.
Including Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Scrouge Duck being the best, clearly.
But I don’t have that kind of family.
My dad got sick when I was 11. He spent months in the hospital and months recovering only to get sick all over again. It was a long year even though I was really too young to understand exactly what was going on around me.
All I knew my dad was a miracle.
I was grateful for his life then but as I got older and entered those simply amazing teenage years where you feel like no one understands you, the least of all your parents, that gratitude kept me grounded.
We spent countless Friday nights on family dates. Dinner out (wings) (obviously), sometimes a movie, sometimes hours wandering the bookstore. Saturdays were for chores and lunch was a thrown together feast of leftovers. Church on Sunday mornings, lunch out with other families, youth choir Sunday afternoons, and church again that night.
I’m sure there were plenty of Friday and Saturday nights out on dates or spending time at the mall or the movies with friends but honestly, I’m old now. My memory chose to hold on to time with my family over time with anyone else. (God bless bad memories)
As the years went by, my grandmother and granddaddy both passed after battles with cancer. Uncles and aunts lived out of state. My dad continued (and thankfully, continues) to fight for his health. Papaw died and then Mamaw died the slow, awful death of dementia.
For the most part, it was just us.
The four of us. Mom, Dad, my brother, and me.
Then we added Dr and eventually, my mother accepted him as a permanent part of the family (it was a process). My brother married the sweetest, kindest, gentlest woman in the world and she somehow learned to love our loud, opinionated, salty family.
Now we’ve got four kids and they are rambunctious, hilarious, frustrating, and the absolute cutest little humans since Jesus.
We love the mess out of each other.
I don’t know how to navigate family well. Honestly, I have zero baseline understanding on how to not bring up this topic or avoid this person or remember not to mention that thing no one wants to discuss.
Not because we don’t have things we disagree on or have hurts or
toddlers kids throwing fits. We’re human.
But because I’m just so incredibly grateful for my family, that other stuff, well, it’s just stuff. And my family, they are my people. I’ve lost a lot of them over the years and almost lost my dad too many times to count. I’m too grateful for them to bother figuring out how to navigate anything.
So if you want to change your holidays, if you want to have peace, possibly a silent night on politics or football rivalries, even a holly jolly Christmas this year, then do some prep work with gratitude.
Spend some time on it. Even the crack times in your day. Like sitting in the carpool line, in the shower, cooking dinner, wrapping those endless gifts.
Take each person, each topic, each hurt and misunderstanding and regret and write them down.
Yes, actually write them down.
Then pray over them and for them and find something about them for which you can be grateful.
Even if what you find is you are grateful the spoiled rotten kid upset he didn’t get some secret present he whispered in the mall Santa’s ear is not going home with you.
Pray for his momma. Pray for your momma. Your momma’s momma. Your SIL and BIL’s momma. And their dads and friends and co-workers and mail delivery worker and the blessed cashiers.
Don’t wait for the scary, awful, tragic in life to bring you to the place of thankful, grateful, humbled.
Seek out gratitude.
And I promise you’ll be too busy praying blessings over their lives to worry about navigating.
To help you have the most peaceful holiday possible, several writers have linked arms in a series called The Peaceful Holidays Series. We are all writing on similar topics each week. This week’s topic is Navigating Family Well. If you are totally stress-free this season, Great! But if you’re like me, you might need some more ideas. Check out these amazing writers and their contributions!
Janelle Esker from The Peaceful Haven
Jessica Herberger of Celebrate Joy Every Day
Betsy Pendergrass of Gathering Around
Each one of these women offers such encouragement this season! I hope you enjoy every piece and I am praying a Peaceful Holiday season for Y’all.