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Friday, 19 November 2010
Family Visits
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The great thing about the holidays: we get to spend time with our family.

 

The bad thing about the holidays: we get to spend time with our family.

 

Spending time with our family is important to me and my husband. All of our family is out of state, so we spend a lot of time on the road each year going to visit. We have family in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. I come from a large extended family and my husband has a smaller family circle. He's use to just being with immediate family. I am use to being around the extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles, second cousins, third cousins, etc. Our visits are usually very enjoyable, due in large part, I think, to the fact that they are planned in advance at a time that works for all parties. In other words, the visits are on our own terms - we stay long enough to enjoy each other and not so long that we get on each other's nerves.

 

The holidays make family visits a little more complicated. The bigger the family, the more complicated it gets. For example, you try to get everyone together on one day. That's a tall order in itself. Some people have work conflicts. Others may (GASP) be spending the holidays with their spouse's family. I have had friends who ate two or three Thanksgiving dinners in one day just to please all the family. Others negotiate how to divide their time among family (i.e., the "every other year" rule; alternating holidays; one side gets Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day, etc.).

 

Some may not be able to afford to travel to visit family. They may not to get to go on the road trip, but they will certainly take a guilt trip for not being able to be there. Since I was four years old, we haven't lived in the same area as our family members. All I have known is either visiting or being visited by family during the holidays. I don't know what it would be like to have all your family living in the same general area and be able to get together without the worries of packing, putting the dog in the kennel, stopping the mail, etc. I wonder if people in that position take it for granted.

 

Another complication is that you want to have this picture-perfect, Hallmark-moment, Currier & Ives festive gathering where everyone laughs and smiles and gets along. The reality is not so picture perfect, and when it doesn't match our expectations we can become disappointed and disillusioned. If Uncle Joe is loud and has bad table manners as a rule, it's likely he will be that way at your beautifully decorated Thanksgiving table. Yelling at him and correcting him in front of everyone isn't going to change him ... it's just going to give everyone indigestion. And don't forget the children. We mix them in with a bunch of cousins in a sea of family cooped up inside a too warm house and we expect them to behave like little angels. I can't remember making it through a family holiday as a kid without one of us either getting a spanking for our over-activity or getting injured from playing with our cousins.

 

Proverbs 17:1

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

 

I am not saying don't spend the holidays with your family. But if all you do when you are together is argue and hurt each other, maybe it's time to rethink the situation. I know that I have taken a few years off from spending Thanksgiving with family. I couldn't sit through one more political argument while I was trying to enjoy my turkey and cranberry sauce. And nothing goes with pie like your grandmother asking how much weight you had gained. Even when I tried to divide my time, I felt guilty about not getting to see everyone. So, for the last several years I have cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner and anyone who wanted to come was welcome. Sometimes family would come. Sometimes we would have neighbors and friends join us. Last year, it was just the three of us. There were lots of leftovers for turkey sandwiches, but I have to admit it was too quiet and I missed having at least a little company. Somewhere between the big overcrowded gathering and just our immediate family is the happy medium.

 

Genesis 13:7-11

And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

 

Abram used wisdom to maintain his relationship with Lot. The fact that they went their separate ways to establish their households did not change the love they had for each other. In the following chapter, Abram takes his fighting men out to rescue Lot from the four kings who pillaged Sodom and Gomorrah. Everyone in your family may not always get along, but let something or someone come against one of them!

 

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  Who couldn't use a little more peace at the family holiday dinner? Before you head off to the big family dinner this year, ask yourself what you, as a Christian, can do to make the time with family better.

 

Do a little advance work. Pray for your family - pray for each person and his or her needs. If it is a person you don't have the best relationship with, pray for a mending of fences and for peace. Pray for yourself, too. Pray that you will have an enjoyable time together. Nothing is impossible with God!

 

Lower your expectations. I don't think that picture perfect, Hallmark-moment, Currier & Ives family gathering exists anywhere except in pictures, cards and movies. People are people. We have different personalities, even if we are related. We marry or date other people with different personalities and opinions and bring them into the mix. Accept your family for who they are and love them anyway. Isn't that what Christ did for us?

 

Agree to disagree. I really don't know why the one side of my family chose dinner time to discuss politics and other world issues. We didn't discuss them any other time we were together. I never put in my two cents, because it would have added fuel to the fire. Just because you are family doesn't mean you will agree on everything. You may have to agree up front that certain subjects are off limits during dinner or the entire visit. In Romans 12:18, Paul advises us: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. As far as it depends on you . . . you have choices and you can set the tone.

 

Don't take the bait. An offense is a baited trap. Satan loves to use offenses to cause trouble. No one can hurt you the way family can. We always hurt the ones we love. Was I offended when my grandma said I was fat? You bet. It hurt my feelings. In hindsight, I see that it was the beginning of what is now her dementia. She lost control over good judgment in choosing her words and now has lost control of her memory. But I know that she loves me and I love her. Now what she says goes in one ear and out the other. If someone says something to hurt you, your first instinct is to say something hurtful back. Romans 12:17 says, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone." What does it do for your Christian testimony before your unsaved family members if you are quarreling or having a temper tantrum?

 

Remember the reason for the season. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or a special birthday celebration or anniversary, there is a reason you have gathered as a family. Try to keep that in the forefront of your thoughts and actions. Remember why it was important for you to see your family. Take the opportunity to love them and tell them how you feel about them. Encourage one another. You never know when it is the last time you'll spend a holiday with them. Many of you have experienced that kind of loss and know what I mean. These holiday memories that you are making are important and need to be cherished.

 

This blog article has been a little different. Let me say for the record that I don't have an Uncle Joe and all my uncles have excellent table manners. I guess because we are heading into the holiday season, my thoughts have been for my family. I really miss my parents and grandfathers and my cousin, but I have great memories to hold on to. Our family is so big and spread out, it is impossible to give everyone the time and attention that my heart wants to show. I can't be everywhere and I can't be with all of them, but God can. We can only do what we are able to do. I'm not sure where I will physically be for the holidays, but I know my heart will be with all my family. I will be happy about spending time with the ones I am with and I will be praying for blessings and a joyous time for those I can't be with. Nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:39) and nothing can separate me from the love for my family.

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Posted on 11/19/2010 6:38 AM by Susan Nelson
Comments
19 Nov 2010
Lynn Cook

Susan, I loved this article, As I read, tears were streaming down my face, I guess we can all identify with this Thanks for such great writing. I always enjoy reading these.



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