Holidays Away From Family
By Mellisa Blackburn
I slowly opened the battered cardboard box. Nestled inside were several Christmas ornaments from my childhood. I pulled out an old patchwork ball. It reminded me of the Christmas when my mother spent hours cutting out small bits of material, then hot-gluing and pressing them into Styrofoam balls with a crochet hook. The entire tree ended up looking like a patchwork quilt.
Then I pulled out an old walnut shell with a tin soldier glued inside ó a Girl Scout project. Ornament after ornament came tumbling out, along with memories of Christmases past. I could almost smell hot cider on the stove, the cinnamon stick wreath above the kitchen door and the chocolate cookies baking in the oven.
My husband walked in to find me laughing and crying, surrounded by crumpled paper and Christmas decorations. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking down memory lane, pulling out decorations from his childhood as well.
As a young couple stationed in Hawaii, we had no family around and desperately missed them. So when the holidays rolled around, we invited a close single friend to celebrate with us. He helped us decorate the tree, down to the funky ornaments and tinsel. Then we drove around looking at Christmas lights. He even hung his stocking next to ours. He opened presents with us on Christmas morning and kept us laughing with his jokes.
We also invited several single sailors over for dinner. I called my mom for her turkey recipe and it gave us a chance to bond. My husband called his mom for her famous five-cup salad, usually included in every holiday celebration.
If you find yourself spending the holidays away from family like I did, there are many things you can do to celebrate. Try to incorporate many family traditions for your children to make them feel as if nothing has really changed. See if your local community has free holiday events such as a downtown lighting ceremony or a parade.
Plug into your local church and get involved with activities like serving dinner at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Or see if there is another MOPS mom who doesnít have family close by and offer to share dinner. It helps to divide up the cooking with another mom and to have other kids for your kids to play with.
Consider inviting single people who are away from their family to spend the holidays with you. They might be more lonely because they donít have anyone nearby like you have your spouse and children. You can provide a "home-y" environment and a good home-cooked meal.
Most of all, keep your expectations low. You are the glue that holds your family together. If you like to cook, then go all out. But if the idea of a big meal is too much, let your family pick favorite dishes for dinner, even if itís pizza. Itís not the trappings of the holidays that make it special, but the time you spend with your family that theyíll remember.
Itís also ok to be sad. Have a good cry. Then go celebrate. If you want to be alone with your family and take your time, then do so. But donít dwell on being far away from them. Focus on the good memories and making new ones with your children.
Take pictures of the kids opening presents to send to grandma and grandpa. Talk to them on the phone or on a webcam Christmas morning. My mother recorded a sweet message into Christmas ornaments and the kids played them over and over again.
You could also send a piece of yourself to family, like a box of local treats and art from the kids. When we lived in Hawaii, we sent out chocolate covered macadamia nuts and flowered leis. We joked with the family ďback homeĒ about decorating the Christmas palm tree. Everyone got a laugh, and it helped them experience what Christmas was like where we were.
In Christ, you are part of a bigger family and are never alone. He knows when you are sad and hurts with you. Heíll send people in your path to keep you company and give you opportunities to bless others.