“There’s no place like home…”
For some very blessed people, Dorothy was right. I hope my now adult children always feel that way about coming “home.” Jane and I work at it. We seek to have low expectations and respect their adulthood, yet not lose who we are. It’s a tension…and I’m not sure we always do it well.
For the past several weeks our home has been abuzz because Aaron and Jiayu are home with us from Taiwan! Excited? Anticipating? Planning? Working? Even a little nervous? Yes, all of the above and so much more.
We’ve never really interacted with Aaron and Jiayu as a married couple. Add to that, though we continually stay in contact with them via Skype, emails and texts – it’s not like being there or having them here. Then, though we’d love to have them here, they’re adults and need to make those choices for themselves. More importantly, they need to be sensitive to God’s plan for their lives, not ours. But we greatly miss them and are so thankful that they worked it out to come and be with us. This week, too, we’re are making Jiayu’s first ever American Thanksgiving! So, we’ve got just a little bit of pressure.
Did you know there are several homecomings in Scripture? Jacob went home to Canaan. Naomi returned to Bethlehem. Absalom went home. The Prodigal finally went home to Dad. The Jews returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Like today, all of them were fraught with emotion.
One of my favorites is when Joseph sent wagons back to famine devastated Canaan to bring his father, Jacob, to what was going to be his final home – Egypt. What a scene it must have been! A son that was thought dead was alive and now the second ruler of Egypt.
During this time of year some of us will be going home or we’ll have now adult children returning home. The holidays are approaching — it's the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? During this season nostalgia and sentimental memories are all around us. At times those memories buoy us, bringing joy as we recollect times gone by. Sometimes a fertile imagination can sabotage us, as we attempt to make them like something out of a Hallmark movie or Norman Rockwell painting. For most, the holidays are an assortment of emotions. So, how can we keep the joy in the season?
Remember, first that they are “holy days” not just holidays. At Thanksgiving who do we really thank? God. At Christmas, who’s birth are we celebrating? When New Year’s rolls around…Who is it that gave us another year? It’s not, “what do I want out of the holidays?” It’s “who does God want me to be?” Or, “How can I best honor the Lord during this season?” If I truly believe that God has given me the greatest gift already, His Son and my salvation, then I should be the most thankful and joyful person because of what I’ve already received.
Some sadness is normal. In every home, there’s an empty chair. For some, it’s still warm with a recent loss of a spouse, parent, or another loved one. Others will work through the empty chair of a broken relationship of a divorce, wayward child or divided family.
If you're dealing with loss, take time to reflect on the gifts, even in loss your Heavenly Father has for you. Remember, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Lower your expectations and idealism. Nothing says Merry Christmas like having a meltdown or biting someone’s head off. Hopefully, that won’t happen. While the season will hold many beautiful moments, it also includes cranky kids hyped up on sugar; tired parents who stay up too late assembling toys and stockings. It probably will include a few ornery relatives who find some sadistic thrill from stirring up trouble, whether its politics, or how last year’s pumpkin pie was better, or just a little black raincloud of negativity.
So, plan for a disaster or two to invade the season, yet determine to not create or encourage an environment that accepts it as normal or makes it worse. A snide comment is usually best ignored. Only do triage if there’s a need to do triage. Seek to keep the vital and maybe favorite traditions while releasing the rest. After all, too much doing leaves little room for enjoying.
Focus on the greatest gift and the joy of giving. As a believer, I’ve already received the greatest gift I’ll ever receive, what Paul called “the inexpressible gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). This year’s must-have toy is next year’s rummage sale item. Teach your children to value what money can’t buy. Get creative with those ever-growing Christmas lists. Perhaps agree to draw names or to give to a charity of choice.
One of my greatest gifts that always nearly causes me to spring a leak each year is when Jane hands me an envelope letting me know that she has donated to help someone or some organization in my name. I’d much rather have that than one more sweater.
Celebrate and Connect. Laugh loud and hard, grin from ear to ear. Relish every blessing. Take a holiday from any pressures, problems or worries. Join with others celebrating God’s many gifts and even the simple wonders of life. Fill your time so full that there’s no time to complain or criticize.
Care about others. One of the most fulfilling things we’ve done as a family is to go and carol a shut-in or someone we know will be alone during the holidays. The memories you make by caring for others will be greater than any gift you’ll receive.
Reconnect. Use this time to reconnect with those you may have lost touch with through the year. Personally, I love those Christmas letters that are included with a card. It’s an opportunity to update friends and loved ones on your family. I love it when it includes a photo showing how the kids have grown or a new grandchild. Share blessings that bring hope, not bragging to somehow show how much better your kids are than their peers.
Stop and spend some quiet time. As your recuperating from too much turkey, use that quiet time to draw you closer to the Lord in a new way so you might experience anew what the angels announced a couple of thousand years ago, “Peace on earth and good will to men!”
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.