As you eat the last “fun size” snickers, take down the spider webs from the shrubs and store the goblin costumes away, your mind might drift towards the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings on the horizon.  And these celebrations can arouse anxiety and dread.  The newlywed wonders what it will be like to dine at the new in-laws home where they serve the wrong kind of dressing with the turkey.  The widow might worry about the gaping hole in her heart widening as she celebrates without her life-mate by her side.  The step-children might fret about opening gifts on Christmas day instead of Christmas Eve.  And the step-father may fear that his ex-wife will add unnecessary drama.

Even the healthiest, happiest families have their own unique ways of handling conflict and celebrating holidays.  There is no one “right way,” only the way we have grown comfortable with as “the way.”  Every family is made up of imperfect people which means that there is no such thing as the perfect family.  David Sedaris highlights this reality in his Santaland Diaries essay where he plays the role of an elf at a Santa booth in the mall.  He watches parents cajole their crying children to smile, shout at them to sit on Santa’s lap, so that “on paper everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be” even though this picture is of a world “they cannot make work for them.”

Best selling marriage authors Les and Leslie Parrot propose that we attempt to honor the family of our spouse as a way of loving our spouse.  Maybe we don’t love football but we watch it with the in-laws because we love our spouse.  Maybe we don’t love board games but we play them to connect with our spouse’s kids.  I love the biblical guidance from Colossians “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, meekness, patience, bearing with one another…” because it reminds me that we cannot change our families but we can offer them love in concrete ways.

With Grace and Peace,