We know we’re far from being the only ones. Nearly everyone is making holiday plans right now, and it seems there’s always some point in the process where we have a “coming to Jesus” meeting about how it’s all going to play out. It’s a conversation that’s easily back-burnered as we wait for all parties to weigh in, and then suddenly, Christmas is less than two weeks away and for everyone’s sake, we’ve got to nail down dates and itineraries.
In our house, this conversation usually happens in bits and pieces, always after the kids go down to bed, and crammed in between every other pressing conversation or to do on our radar around the holidays. (Sometimes a graceful December looks like planning after hours so we can have smoother days when the little ones are awake).
For us, the key to minimizing scheduling woes at the holidays, it turns out, is the powerful duo of pen plus paper, and a little space to think and talk without interruption. Tonight’s date night brought to you by the Christmas matrix.
To think clearly, we just have to see it all on paper. It’s essential (for right now) that we write out dates and assign times and spaces to people to make sure everyone’s on the calendar. I don’t remember my parents doing this when I was small, but we all lived in close proximity to our extended family, and there were two sets of grandparents to visit. Now, with relatives spread across six states and four grandparent Christmases to celebrate, we’re working with a little trickier bag of tricks.
We’re trying to satisfy everyone’s hopes and scheduling constraints, and we’re also trying to consider our own. What is it like for Henry and Eloise to spend Christmas at home vs. away? How can we be present in our home church for some of the most beautiful celebrations of the year, but also travel over weekends and make it to as many family gatherings as possible? How do we say yes to this thing and no to that, when it’s all family and all important?
Here’s where we absolutely had to land last year (Jason was hit by a truck a week before Christmas and a lot of things changed), and perhaps where we need to land this year and each one going forward: we’re going to make plans and do our best to see people, but the point at which Henry and Eloise are worn thin and we’re losing our grip on positive family time is the point at which we reassess and adjust as necessary.
There’s just nothing graceful about December when we don’t ensure that the kiddos needs and our emotional well being are intact. As dramatic as that may sound, there’s a reason why at least one new family dynamic-centered Christmas movie comes out every year…because everyone has family dynamics, and everyone is trying to figure out how to navigate them best–especially at the holidays.
We all love each other, or we wouldn’t put forth such efforts to make plans, make meals, host people for days on end, find the *perfect* gift for everyone on our list, drive or fly hundreds or thousands of miles…
Christmas matters. And being with family to celebrate and have experiences together matters, too.
There has to be a way to help Christmas along gracefully, so that we can all enjoy holiday time with our families, and that everyone around us can as well. Maybe that means a special date night designated to fill out the Christmas matrix. Maybe that means celebrating Christmas on rotation, with different sides of the family–first one, then the other.
Maybe it just means acknowledging that we’re all human and all unable to be in two places at once, as much as our hearts would love to do so.
Family dynamics are going to exist, and they’ll impact scheduled gatherings and once a year visits. This reality is a given, but we can do our best to minimize disappointments and maximize good Christmas memories by planning well where need be and remembering that we’re not the only ones who have an ideal version of Christmas running through our minds.
When we let down our expectations (even a little), we’re better able to see the hopes and desires of those in our midst. Perhaps we can even make peace with the matrix as we see that our efforts to love and love well are the very best ways to shed a graceful light on each Christmas celebration.
Hoping that your Christmas plans don’t require a matrix, but if they do, I’ll also hope you can plot it all out on a date night. 😉
Sometimes graceful feels like hard work. Let’s remember that the babe in the manger can carry all of our yokes and make them light!