Be Realistic! Let’s just be honest; sure holidays are for family, food and friends, but unless you have perfect relationships, perfect children and a flawless marriage…conflict and old issues will likely rise to the surface.  For some people the holidays are the best time of the year, God bless ‘em.  There are people with a ton of money (or at least really good credit) that can create the illusion of amazing Holidays.  For some of us (most of us) the holidays can be a brutal reminder of what we don’t have, what we have lost, a marriage or a loved one, or the sadness of lost dreams. Most of us feel pressure to stretch ourselves emotionally and financially in order to create an experience to fill the void.  I did it all when my kids were little, I exhausted myself with baking cookies, sending out a thousand cards and running up credit cards so we could cram as much plastic crap under the tree as possible in order to have that idealized moment, no matter how fleeting. I am an older and a slightly wiser woman now, and most of my kids are adults, and I have learned to keep it simple.  What I know now is; everyone eats WAY to much sugar and carbs anyway, the plastic crap all broke or ended up at Goodwill long before I paid it off, if I want to see an update and pictures of someone’s family…I can go on Facebook, and they can go on mine.

Rise above the chaos, and lead with truth and integrity.  When someone starts trashing someone else in your ear at a family gathering, you are as guilty as they are even if you are just listening. Shut it down before it gets out of control.  Negativity and gossip is great way to kill a family gathering, add too much alcohol and you might as well call the Jerry Springer Show and have them send over a film crew.  Deal with your conflicts like an adult, wait for the right time and have a private conversation with the person you have an issue with, and teach your children to do the same. Little kids are going to be hyper with all the candy, gifts and excitement, and adults are going to be stressed with all work that goes into all traveling, cooking and shopping.  Extend grace, stay calm, speak life and be kind, choose to overlook the little things, and wait for the appropriate time and place to deal with the bigger issues.

Just because we are blood related doesn’t mean I have to tolerate your crazy. The fact that your DNA aligns with someone else’s does not mean all boundaries go out the window.  We all have family members that struggle with addiction, mental illness or just bad choices.  I am all for forgiveness and charity…but exposing yourself (and worse exposing your children) to unstable and unhealthy people that are bent on destruction is just irresponsible.  If someone consistently brings chaos with them and ruins the time for everyone else, set boundaries to protect your family and your holidays.  There are seasons in life, there are times to open our doors to someone that is hurting, and then there are times when you have to protect others from a person that is acting out and lacks humility.  Kids are better judges of other humans than most adults are, so if someone is making your child uncomfortable, listen to them.  If something feels wrong it probably is, so trust to your gut and teach your kids to listen to theirs’. Validate your children’s instinct and their feelings.  I deeply regret some of the yo-yo’s I have exposed my family to in the past because I thought I was being a good Christian Girl by including them. Now, I realize I was being foolish. Helping someone is one thing, inviting them into the sacred place called “home” needs to be seriously considered.
You don’t have to be perfect, just try to be real. It is not every day we can get all our babies and their grandparents under the same roof, so I do all I can to create a warm, peaceful and loving atmosphere for my loved ones.  Serving tasty food is important to me, but good music, good wine, good company and a few lit candles is all that is really needed for a holiday celebration. However, none of that matters without real peace.  Thanksgiving Day is always a bit of a struggle for me, I lost my first husband the day after thanksgiving and although it has been 19 years I still get hit hard with memories of that trauma from so long ago. I have learned to embrace it.   This year, was only our second Thanksgiving without our son Michael, and the heaviness was palitible.  We did not fake it, but we all dealt with our loss according to our personalities and where were individually in our journey of grief. Our sons played football and wrestled with each other until they collapsed, our daughters looked at pictures talked about their brother and cried when the pain hit. I supported it all.  I know myself well enough now to just go for a run, and cry it out so I can be present for my family.  I have learned the hard way that I have to take care of myself in order to care for my tribe. We all have to fill your soul with Living Water from a source that will never run dry, everything else only masks and numbs the pain.  Crying and grieving does not mean you are not healed, it simply means you are in the process of healing.

What’s the purpose of the holiday season with all the parties, the gifts and the sparkling lights?  It’s good to know your goal before you start out on the journey.  What do you need to do to make this holiday season special, or to just simply survive it? What do you need to discuss with your family, and what expectations do you need to let go of? To do this we have to re-define what we think life is supposed to be and we must be flexible.  Does it matter if Christmas Eve falls on December 22nd or the 28th? If the goal is being together and the stress of trying to make it work on the 24th is sucking the joy out of the day, the purpose has been defeated. Adjusting days, letting go of what we thought really mattered and focusing on people is a great place to start.  Many of us have to take it a step further and re-define what “family” actually is. For me now, after living some life, surviving some losses and trying to humble myself as I age, “ family”  is simply the people I love that love and accept me in return, no matching DNA needed.