"Staying Home" For The Holidays

A friend of mine who is moving her family out of state recently requested that I share some thoughts on what it is like to celebrate the holidays away from family.  It has stuck with me for awhile as I love the opportunity to share my thoughts with inquiring minds.  But I was hesitant.  Because I was afraid to truly be honest.

Home is sort of relative to us these days.  What is home?  We bought and live in a home in Virginia.  Home is also where we both grew up.  And we actually still have a physical home in California - just someone else is occupying it at the moment.  So instead of "going home" for the holidays this year we have decided to "stay home".

We talked about going back to California.  We even looked at airline tickets.  But after mulling over the idea we finally decided to stay home.

So how do I feel about it?  I am actually quite happy.

And that is the wonderful/horrible part.  Wonderful for myself in the day to day.  But a horrible thing to say out loud - especially to our family.

So I kept my feelings to myself for the most part.  And it wasn't until just a few days ago that I realized why I feel the way I do.

In a small group we are in at our church we watched a video by Andy Stanley that focused on some of the stresses of Christmas.  He talked about how our problems get exaggerated during the holidays because these three things are happening:

1. Problems we can't solve
2. People we can't control
3. Expectations we can't meet

It reminded me of holidays past.  Ones that were beautiful and wonderful - but also came with stress.  I remembered telling Brent many times that we should just go on vacation during the holidays because I would get so overwhelmed with all the things to do/places to be/and people to please.

But because my marriage was good, I had friends to spend time with, and I had a routine that I loved, getting through holiday stress was still manageable. 

Now let's fast forward to the present.

This past year has probably been the hardest year of my life.  While we have had a lot of great and memorable moments, I have never struggled/been sad this much for such a long period of time.  Just typing this gets me a little chocked up (I am doing much better than I was but things can still be hard at times).

And so the idea of taking my already sensitive state and putting it through a cross country flight with a one year old, heightened holiday airline costs, adapting to a three hour time change (with a ONE YEAR OLD), fairly splitting time between our family, and trying to see friends during an otherwise busy time of year on top of normal holiday stresses...all just seemed like too much.

And so making the choice to stay home this holiday season has given me a lot of freedom.  A weight has been lifted from my chest.  I get a free pass this year that allows me to skip over some of that holiday stress everyone else has to endure.

It doesn't take away the problems I can't solve, the people I can't control, or the expectations I can't meet.  But it gives me a little hop in my step to bake cookies because I want to, look at Christmas lights with my son, and end my days in the quietness of our home with my husband.

Because we need this time.  We need the rest.  We need to have time to bond as a family of three in order to have the strength to continue in this difficult season.

So how have we spent this holiday at home?

For Thanksgiving we had our annual Thanksgiving Eve turkey dinner.  It was extra special this year because we have a little one who could actually eat dinner with us.  We spent Thanksgiving morning eating cinnamon buns and watching the parade.  We had plenty of leftovers to indulge in, we went on a walk, and we had a quiet day at home.

For Christmas Eve we plan to go out to a late lunch and then service at church.  The next morning I have an egg and sausage casserole for us and a morning of watching our 17 month old understand presents for the first time.  I am sure we will Skype with family and then I have a semi-homemade dinner for us to cap off the day.  Between nap time and gifts galore (sent from family) I imagine we will have plenty to keep us busy.

We went to a handful of Christmas type events this year that made the past month feel festive and memorable.  And it was only because we had the margin in our weekends to go out and refill our family love tank up.

Circumstances change year after year and if we lived back home in California this would be a very different post.  But those exaggerated holiday stresses are likely to somewhat stay the same.  And that is okay.  We just needed to adjust this year for the sake of where our family is at during this season.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas - whether you choose to stay home or go home.  I encourage you to remember though that no matter what gifts you bring, the words you say, or when you end up arriving, it may not change years of ongoing expectations or problems. 

And that hopefully acknowledging this can free us to enjoy the day for what it is truly about.