Make believe and magic, the elements we entertain at Christmastime. Please join us in our annual seasons greetings sharing how the feeling can accompany you throughout the entire year!
Holidays are hard. Well. They can be. It’s not always “holly and jolly.” Our troubles are not always “miles away.” Sometimes they’re sitting right next to us at the dinner table. But so often a smile is slapped on, and “making-it-through” becomes the method of operation, because “it’s the holidays” and “that’s what families do.” But are we cheating ourselves by taking that approach?
My cousin and I spent Thanksgiving together this year. It was really enjoyable. More importantly, it was authentic. May not sound like much. We spent Thanksgiving together last year too. And it was awkward. Why? Well, only for the reason that we hadn’t spoke for a period of time. Like five years!
Yes! Five years! “Whatever on earth for” you may ask. Well, that could cover a whole other blog post, or possibly even an entire book chapter. For purposes of this post, the details don’t matter, but for us personally, the lessons are in the details so just because I’m not sharing the nitty-gritty doesn’t mean my cousin and I never confronted it or dealt with it.
We have gained much from the ordeal.
For starters, we know that it’s a point on the enemy’s scoreboard. Or more like five points, for all the years we lost. However, we pray what we’ve gained gives us bigger boxing gloves to win the next round.
“Heather, are you saying you anticipate problems?” Yep. I sure am.
Not being prepared was the most effective component in ripping our relationship. See, when Brandon and I were young-married, our small group leader would tell us, “The enemy wants your marriage. John 10:10 says ‘the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy’ and that includes your marriage.” This simple understanding made us aware of those things positioned to divide us.
Are you with me? You know, those issues that are camouflaged in marriages—everyone has their own. The bigger picture we frequently had to remind ourselves of was the enemy wanted to destroy our marriage.
The Word says in James 1:17 that everything good is a gift from God. Our relationships are good! Whether they are marriage relationships, family relationships, church-family relationships, or friend relationships. They’re all a gift! And stupid Satan doesn’t want anything good in our life. Simply put, relationships are a gift from God—expect the enemy to target them.
This isn’t meant to scare us. This is meant to prepare us. Cue up the Lion King song, Be Prepared!!!! Not having a game plan to handle problems is more than naïve, it is foolish and relationally irresponsible. And remember, I’m writing from a place of walking this painful path, not a pointed-finger place.
The Word says in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above everything. This may be a bit of a stretch, but where do we hold those relationships we hold dear? In our HEARTS! So we must, we must, we must guard our relationships.
As we’re guarding, understanding the enemy’s intent to tear our ties of love, security and belonging, remember he is not a conqueror, he’s a coward. I Peter 5:8 says he prowls around like (picture a phony pretender) a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The loser is searching out for weakness and cracks of opportunities. Seal your bond with others, guard and protect your special gift from God.
So what if there’s already a problem? What if there’s hurt and pain? Here’s a nugget of encouragement, trials can make our relationships stronger. But wait. Before we exhale that sigh of relief, there’s a contingency. Trials CAN make our relationships stronger, IF we let them.
Think of your relationships like your faith. I Peter 1:7 tells us, “trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Doesn’t that give us a different perspective about problems with the people we love?! Zechariah 13:9a says, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold.” This gives us a different view of trials in our relationships. Those issues, those disagreements and hurts are fire. And we certainly feel it as such. But that fire purifies, removing impurities. The fire reveals something of great value.
So we shouldn’t resist it. When we choose to live with the elephant in the room or consistently return to our broom-and-rug avoidance we are choosing to live with fake-imitation-jewelry relationships instead of enjoying the high-quality-genuine-authentic-pure relationship.
This is where my admiration grew for my cousin. Honestly, I had idolized her my entire life. She’s seven years older than me and she was everything I ever wanted to be. But we realized that while our bond was shared, our personalities were not. If you had to place us in categories—I am fight; she is flight.
Our relationship had indeed rotted. And it grieved me. Seriously. Like a death. I didn’t think we’d speak again.
But you know how that story ends. I already told you we spent the last two Thanksgivings together. Talk about a spoiler alert. Goodness. I should aim to uncover some surprises in these posts.
God used those in-between years. He grew both of us. I let go (something a fighter and girl of control is never known to do) and Krista enlisted to fight.
It took, like I shared, five years, but she drove to my house, knocked on my door, sat on my couch and took the brave steps through the fire of refining our relationship. It wasn’t mended in a day. Remember, I had released it. I needed peace and happiness and grieving our loss was too painful, so I had let go, of the relationship, thus letting go of her. I couldn’t fight for both of us. But I did forgive. I forgave long before her drive up my driveway. However, forgiveness and restoration are not the same. Forgiveness depends solely on the individual; restoration depends on both. Restoration has less to do with forgiveness and everything to do with trust. And the flight personality girl who made a decision against herself to fight, persistently determined to build a new relationship cultivated a place of trust. We both became a little bit more of what we needed through those painful places of our relationship.
Holidays can be hard.
If you’re in a good place with those you love, be on guard, be prepared, have a plan to protect and defend.
If you’re in a hard place, don’t be afraid of the fire. Have courage to walk through it. Let the problems produce something genuine and authentic.
If you’re in the in-between place, have forgiveness and pray. Although you may not be able to speak, the Lord can and will and does.
Happy Holidays— much love…. ❤️
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One of my Dad’s favorite movies was Fiddler on the Roof. You might be inclined to think my Dad was a fan of musicals. He wasn’t at all. My Dad admired the leading character’s value for tradition and family. Dad had such respect for the customs of the Jewish people, and while there are multiple themes from the story, it was the father’s strong desire to preserve those customs and traditions that made this movie a household favorite. While I didn’t grow up in a home with strong religious customs, we did have, what I would consider, a few traditions. And those traditions were always associated with this time of year. My Mom loved to host a big Thanksgiving for our family and friends. Dad and I would tease her that she wasn’t happy unless fifty people were there. But there was a bit of truth in it. Mom loved large gatherings. On Christmas Eve we always went to my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Roy’s. Again, it was a large gathering with delicious food. Everyone would visit and laugh; it was so loud, but with the happiest sounds heard when families come together. It was the sound of delight to be together, joy in one another’s company, and love.
Seasons change and so did our traditions. The first big change occurred when my husband and I married and we attempted to blend it all together. More changes came along with each child. And the last big change took place when I began working as nurse. Our holiday festivities are tailored around my unit’s holiday schedule, but it’s an accommodation my family makes out of their support and vision for what I do.
Throughout all the changes, adjustments and accommodations, my husband and I have been able to maintain one tradition we set on our very first Christmas back in 1999. Cutting down our Christmas tree. I grew up with an artificial tree, so it was quite exciting to me to experience picking out a tree, tying it to the roof of the car, and bringing it home, smelling the aroma of a fresh tree throughout the Christmas season.
And keeping with tradition, that is what we did yesterday. We kicked off the Christmas season at the Christmas tree farm. On the drive, random thoughts filled my mind. One of them was about the dad who thanked me for taking care of his baby the day before, on Thanksgiving Day. I spent Thanksgiving maintaining my focus on the fact that I had four healthy children at home. My shift would end and I would leave to drive home to a relaxing, comforting place. Many families didn’t have such a blessing this year. And there was one of them, expressing his thankfulness for people to take care of his sick baby. It was so touching to me that in the midst of his baby being in intensive care, he acknowledged that I was away from my family to be there with his.
Whichever tradition, whether it was Black Friday shopping with the girls, putting up lights on the house, catching another football game, conjuring up recipes from Thanksgiving leftovers, or getting a Christmas tree, it all comes down to who you spend it with. Sometimes modifications are required, but it’s a small adjustment to make considering the big picture.
The Grinch had to steal Christmas to think “of something he hadn’t before!
The Whos down in Who-ville still had something to sing about when it was all stripped away. So whether or not there's lights and presents, food and games, whether it's an official holiday or a postponed gathering, we all have a reason to sing!
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