This post was due to be published last week. As most things go in my world of medical drama, time-lines and to-d0-lists often get trumped by ER runs, hospital admissions, and multiple phone conferences with doctors. For those who are new to my blog and new to me, I am a mom to 4 kids and step mom to 3. The youngest of my four, Deacon who is 6, has multiple health issues. What first started out to be a startling discovery at age 6 weeks that he was missing sections of his brain, soon turned in to diagnosis that consisted of the need for a pulmonologist, epileptologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, nephrologist (our newest specialist to be added to the group) and of course a neurologist. I also have a 15 year old son, Logan, who is a Type 1 diabetic. We struggle and persevere to make lasting life style changes and stay on top of the ever crazy roller coaster of hormones and sugar levels. My two girls are physically healthy, however, the toll and strain of medical issues with their brothers coupled with my absence from the home while at the hospital with one of them has impacted them emotionally. Add to this crazy mix the fact that we are a blended family with a step-father and 3 step-siblings makes for an interesting ride.
In short, sometimes we all just seem to be a hot mess.
You might be asking yourself, “I thought this was supposed to be a follow up post to the blended family holiday tradition blog post?” and you would be right. That is exactly what I had intended to write about last week. And don’t get me wrong, as I stated in the previous post holiday traditions ARE important. They are some of the very fibers that weave us together creating lasting memories. As often happens to me, circumstances and situations in my life are used by God to reveal greater and deeper truths to me. The situation may seem bleak at first glance but as I begin to walk through it, ever so carefully, prayerfully and yes even fearfully, the Holy Spirit makes a bigger picture, a bigger story known to me. And that is why my blog post has taken a bit of a different turn. Stick with me. I promise it will come together and make sense.
As I alluded to above, traditions and especially holiday traditions, are special and to be cherished. In the previous post I brought up the scenario of a newly blended family trying to make sense of what to let go of from old traditions of “family past”, what to merge into the new family, and how to create brand new ones altogether. The desire will be to have that first Christmas as a new family be wonderful and spectacular; healing even. The disappointment can come crashing in when things don’t play out as “wonderfully” or as “spectacularly” as we had hoped or expected (key word…expectations, they will get you every time). The biggest encouragement I can offer here to any newly blended family is TIME. It takes time. It may not happen the first Christmas. It may not even happen on the second one. Eventually though, things will fall into place.
The second encouragement I can offer is to not push it, don’t try to force it.
Have a discussion between you and your spouse of what or how you have done Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the past and then let the other explain what or how they celebrated. Maybe there will be some things in common, maybe not. You don’t know unless you discuss it. Even discuss what your hopes are for this holiday season. Share your desires or expectations.
I can share with you that in my blended family experience, the first Christmas expectation failure hit me square between the eyes. I was SOOO excited to have a family together, Mark and me, my kids and his kids. We would drink hot chocolate and decorate the tree. It would be GREAT. As my kids and I were digging through the boxes and laughing and sharing memories over different ornaments, I looked up to see my husband and his son just sitting there. My husband looked sad and my stepson looked bored. I tried to encourage them to join in, but they politely said they would just watch. I returned to slowly taking out each ornament wondering what I should say or do because this was not going like I had pictured it. At that moment I realized I wasn’t doing anything to incorporate new family member’s into our Christmas decorating experience. All the ornaments were mine from the last 16 years. My kids were excited but that was because everything in those boxes were familiar to THEM. I failed to think about how this increased the feeling for my husband and his son as being “foreigners in an unfamiliar land”. The first Christmas decorating experience turned into a whopping failure. We talked about it later and Mark confirmed what I thought he probably felt. He added more by saying he felt uncomfortable and it wasn’t that it made him miss his “old life” but it reinforced the feeling to him that this is all very new and how he was starting over. All 4 of my kids were there, but only 1 out of his 3 were there. It made him long for his kids and that was overwhelming to him.
Wow….I hadn’t even stopped to think of how 2 boxes of ornaments and decorating a tree could really put my spouse in a bad place. My expectations had been “me” focused, not “us” focused. It was after that Christmas that I decided the next one not only had to be different, it would be different. I went out and purchased all new ornaments. I bought beautiful silver ornaments and white ones. Classy I thought. I came home and told Mark that this year we were going to do the tree different. All of the children’s ornaments were packed away nice and neat for them to have in the future for their own homes to add to their own traditions. As far as our new family, we would start over fresh. We created our own “new” tradition of decorating our tree each year in silver and white. I would buy a new ornament or two and add to the tree each year, sticking with the theme. Decorating the tree became a time of talking about the here and now and the future instead of staying in the past. We kept my traditional recipes that I would make on Christmas morning that my kids love and added to it his dessert, butterscotch delight, to the Christmas dinner. The first key is I recognized the fault of my own on that first Christmas with innocent BUT selfish expectations. I made sure to not make the same mistake the next year. The second key is that we talked and then compromised for the following years.
The beautiful thing as a Believer is that we trust that God is in charge of the perfect timing and the perfect plan. We just have to keep ourselves open to it. Even in things as simple as holiday traditions can be an example of His faithfulness to us and our desire to give Him the glory. How we live out our lives with each other is the best way He can be glorified. We get the focus off of “me”, elevate the needs of our spouse and get our focus on Christ. Those 3 things are a recipe for success. They are the recipe to a Redemptive Family.
So, getting back to the first part of this post; my “ah ha” moment. It is so very, very easy to get lost in the simple and nitty-gritty things of this world. Even things like my tradition over yours. When you have a trial or circumstance that presents itself of great magnitude such as the critical medical situation your child is in, it really puts things into perspective. At the end of the day, it isn’t about the tree, the ornaments, or the food we prepare. It isn’t even about the gifts under the tree and making sure you spent equal amount on each kid (ugh…we have SEVEN). In light of the recent diagnosis and possible prognosis of my little one I realized these 4 things I read recently to be what is more important this Christmas season: Spend Less, Give More, Worship Fully, Love All. Remember Advent and it’s meaning, that we are waiting for the 2nd return of our Savior. And that, my friend, is a great tradition to have as a family.
Until He Shouts,
P.S. see my facebook, twitter, instagram or pinterest sites for more on Advent and “Advent Conspiracy”. Challenging, Convicting, Inspiring.