I love words. I like the sound of some words and the meaning of others. I like the way certain phrases flow off the tongue. Good thing I'm a writer huh! Because I like words I am curious about their full meanings and I often wonder what was going through some one's mind when they came up with that word.
Traditions are like comfort food to me. I like having certain times of the year when I observe a tradition or bake a certain food. Even when times are hard or things don't go just like I wish they would - I can light a candle, start a fire or bake a cake and memories flood in connecting me with love. I feel better.
Imagine my surprise when I looked up the word "traditions." The first definition startled me. I checked to be sure I had spelled traditions properly. "A surrender or betrayal - see Treason. The rest of the definitions were as I expected. But again "Surrender or betrayal" puzzled me.
What were they thinking? I quickly looked for treason to see if it offered any reason for such a contradiction in thoughts. The first definition was an "Oh, I see moment." Treason: (Now rare) a betrayal of trust or faith, treachery. I wondered, have I committed treason?
Have you ever noticed how God likes to challenge us? He will leave an area of our life alone for many years. With a blink of his eye he chooses to challenge that area and suddenly we are required to grow. We never like the process, but once we get on the other side we look back with pride and amazement as we see God's hand of guidance and protection.
I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of the year. I knew things were going to be different this year with Amie and Ken in different states and Jamie in his own home. But Mom and Dad were here and I have all my readers. I planned to write everyday and have a wonderful party with all of you. My plans didn't include feeling sad.
There's been sickness, moving trips, problems around the house and issues in scheduling. All my plans lay around me like wet noodles. The little fun I had just didn't seem to compare. Sadness was making a home in my heart.
I miss my children. I miss our traditions. I thought about a 30 year tradition that was not observed this year. Every Friday after Thanksgiving the five of us would go to a local farm and cut down our live tree. How excited the children were. After a big breakfast we piled into the van, sang songs, chatted and laughed all the way to the farm. We walked around and around making sure we had just the right tree.
One year when my foot was in a cast I suggested that we just get something - anything close to the edge and be done with it. Jamie laughed and said, "Mom, we can't do that. Part of the process is to look the farm over before we decide on the one nearest the cashier!" We all laughed and they found a wagon to drag me around the lot. Of course that wasn't near as funny as the year Jamie was dragging a sled to put the tree on. Amie decided to step on it thinking it would startle Jamie. Instead she slid and did a back flip into gushy mud. Once we knew she was okay it took us ten minutes to stop laughing. Getting the tree was always followed by hot chocolate and fresh cookies.
This year everyone had to be back to their jobs. There just wasn't time to go as a family. Ken's car broke down and he had to borrow Jamie's to get back to Illinois. Two weeks later we had to meet Ken half way to switch cars. Every week-end had been filled and Ron and I hadn't had time to get a tree. Christmas is less than a week away and I don't have my live tree. The dashboard on the truck beamed "Check engine". We took it for repairs but the shop said it might be several days. I asked if they weren't ready to work on it, could I run get a tree - "real quick." Ron and I raced to Home Depot. "That one." I pointed as we ran. "That will be okay." Ron began dragging it to the truck as I ran inside to pay. We rushed to the house and Ron raised it out of the truck and tossed it against the house. Rushing back to the repair shop my heart sank. Instead of a wonderful tradition, we dumped a tree we hardly knew against our house.
Treason: betrayal of trust or faith. Yep, that's how I felt. Betrayed. Lost. Alone. Sad.
Good news. This is where the growth comes in. It seems everyone I've met this year is dealing with a difficult issue. Rather than a lot of cheery "Merry Christmases", I'm hearing about a lot of let downs, frustrations and true trauma's. Could it be that God wants me to feel the let downs so I can be honestly helpful? Perhaps God is showing me that this is the year my blog needs to deal with holiday letdown. Have I been so comforted by our family traditions that I didn't understand the need for compassion for others. Maybe I need to practice my viewpoint and see if it's right. Maybe I need to know how it feels to say a cheery "Merry Christmas" when your heart needs a band-aid.
Do we all need to band together via this blog and connect our hearts? Maybe we need to reach beyond our own families to find comfort in a constantly changing world.
Dealing with heartache during the holidays is extremely difficult. I understand if you need to be sad and cry those tears. I've let several slip down my cheek. Perhaps the solution is not in changing our circumstances. Perhaps the solution is in rejecting the treason.
Psychologically we all need "traditions" - comfort food for the soul to lighten our way and give us the umph we need to carry the load. A comforting tradition has the power to help us see the real beauty of the season. The real reason for the season. Don't center on what you don't have, let your mind dwell on the "beauty" of the tradition.
We all need this zero calorie comfort food. We need to light those candles and bake those cookies - whether we feel like it or not. We need to deck the halls and fa la la la la. Like Auntie Mame announced in the movie that bears her name, "WE NEED a little Christmas now more than ever!"
I received this beautiful e-mail from Gloria. It's a practical application of the power of traditions.
She writes: I lost my father in 1990 on the 13th of December. We were so close, I was devastated. In September of that year I received a wonderful blessing in the form of my first grandchild, Ryan. When I was told on the phone by my brother that our dad had passed in California, I just collapsed in grief. I questioned God- over and over, "why??" I sank into a depression and decided I would not have Christmas that year. Both of my daughters went along with my decision.
Somewhere in those 12 days until Christmas God spoke to my heart and told me I would have Christmas and the family gathering should be at my house. He assured me that He may have taken my father but I had a 'new man' in my life now- my 10 week old grandson. Christmas must be celebrated. Our family traditions were needed to show Ryan that he was in a warm, loving family. I wondered how I would answer my grandson when he was older and asked me 'how did you celebrate my first Christmas at your house Gramma?' I thought about it and made my decision. I decorated my house, my tree and baked cookies. We took lots of pictures of Ryan during his first Christmas. I am smiling in those pictures even tho my heart is broken from the loss of my father. The old saying of "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" comes to mind. I know Ryan cannot take the place of my father but Ryan's birth that same year of my fathers' death told me life goes on.
I am truly thankful for my family and for my loving Savior who helps soothe the broken heart. I know my father 'earned his wings' and someday we will be reunited in Glory!
Ryan is now 17 and a wonderful handsome young man. He loves the Lord and he knows he is loved. We talk about our ancestors a lot since I am working on our family genealogy. Ryan never knew his grandfather. My husband died when Ryan's mother was 8 years old. But we look at pictures and talk about them both.
I am truly blessed. I have a loving family and we celebrate wonderful traditions. My family is my best gift at Christmas time.
Wow! Thank you Gloria.
Traditions give us balance and hold our world together. They remind us of our faith and our love. With one smell or a twinkle of a light we are instantly transported back to love. Don't betray your traditions. Don't commit treason with your faith. Hold tightly to the smallest occasion that highlights love.
Pass the cookies and hot chocolate please... Why don't we look at pictures of my traditions? Send me yours as well.
God loves you,