“I don’t like the holidays,” I whispered.
I used to love holidays, before I was married. Before I felt the pull to be everywhere at the same time. Before any decisions that I made left someone upset or angry or feeling left out.
I struggled with a desire to be home, to start my own traditions with my young children and husband. We were the first to be married in both families, and thus the first to break “how it’s always been.”
Thanksgiving was a time to be thankful. All I felt was stretched thin. Christmas was a time to be joyous but I usually felt frustrated.
As we had children, I tried to mask my frustration with enthusiasm. We had fun setting out pumpkins. We decorated the house. But inside I wrestled because I knew the stress that was coming trying to be all things to all the people in my life.
Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t say anything. Instead, I simply let it fester. I didn’t take into account that if I kept silent things would never change. I just simmered in anger.
Thirty years later, I treasure the holidays. It took time, but I finally learned to share my needs. I found the courage to tell my extended family that trying to be everywhere in such a short time was exhausting.
We all made an effort to see each other’s point of view. We didn’t approach in anger, but with a willingness to work through the conflict with honesty and grace. Some were open. Others were not, especially in the beginning. If they were flexible, we rejoiced. If not, we didn’t take it personally. We knew change takes time.
Perhaps the greatest gift that we received came later. When our children married, suddenly there were several families in the mix. We told our children that it’s not the date on the calendar that makes holidays special. It’s the heart behind the holidays. It’s spending time with people you love.
So, sometimes we get together on Thanksgiving, or maybe the week after. Maybe it’s Christmas only, while Thanksgiving is spent with other family members. If they aren’t with us on a specific day, my husband and I fill that time with a new tradition — just the two of us.
What we discovered is that by letting go, our kids come more often because there’s no pressure. They let us in on their traditions. Regardless of the date, when we do get together we have fun! It’s a gift we give our family and ourselves.
Dear Lord, thank You for my family. I’m grateful for so many things, and one of those is family who loves me enough to want to be with me. Help me to share my needs with my loved ones, and to do it with grace and gentleness. Help me not to take it personal as they struggle with change. If I am the one that is inflexible, help me to bend and grow. Help me to be thankful every day for all that I have been given. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
T. Suzanne Eller for Proverbs 31 Women