I’m going to share something deeply personal about holidays. I hope anyone reading this will say, “Oh, I already knew that.” because it has been a very difficult lesson for me to learn.
For many years, I followed in the footsteps of women before me and worked and cooked and stressed myself out on every holiday. I thought it wasn’t a real holiday unless the table was crowded with people and groaned under the weight of many, many dishes of homemade recipes. The house had to be cleaned from top to bottom and my children had to have a new outfit, many presents to open, and be intimidated into “company” behavior.
All this came to a screeching halt about ten years ago. Christmas 2003 was the last holiday that my children and I spent together. We had good food but the food wasn’t the focus. We had a few presents but there weren’t piles of them and the tree was a small all-in-one with ornaments that sat on a table. We made sacrifices to come together because we thought we might not have another holiday together. We were right. My youngest son died from cancer in September 2004. No amount of sacrifice has been enough to get us together for any Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter since then. And for many years I have been very depressed during holidays. I was focused on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have.
Holidays aren’t about the piles of presents or the mounds of food. It is about the people but it’s about the people connecting and encouraging and loving each other. It’s about spending time together with laughter and stories and quiet conversation over concerns and lessons shared. Whether the table has a huge turkey or bread and baloney, if there are people who love each other sharing the meal and then leaving the table satisfied in their spirits, now that is worth celebrating!
So if at some future holiday I am blessed to have children, grandchildren, brother and sister around the table, I hope we are sharing a potluck dinner that is seasoned well with joyous prayer and laughter, maybe a few tears, and most of all the satisfaction of recognizing the huge blessings we have been given just to be with each other.
And until then, I’m going to be praying for the homeless and our military who also will not be sharing their holiday with their families. I hope they will be invited to break bread with others and find their spirits satisfied too.