Courageously braving the holiday season (sometimes a rocky and steep incline) …..

people think being alone makes you lonely,

but I don’t think that’s true.

being surrounded by the wrong people is the

loneliest thing in the world.

-kim culbertson

The holidays are coming upon us very quickly.  My age is what comes to mind first when I think about how quickly the years have started going by.  I remember the “old folks” always making remarks about how fast time was going by.  Now I am thinking that same thing as I think of the holidays that are soon to be here this year.  Although the summer was a long, hot, scorching one here in Texas, USA,  it still seems like yesterday that we were celebrating Thanksgiving almost a year ago.

What are some of the things that come with the holidays?  There are all of the fall decorations that really get me into the mood of fall, the traditions that we have developed through the years, fall festivals, family gatherings and of course don’t forget THE FOOD!

Football is one family tradition that is known to many but not a part of my family.  Some people might say that if you do not get into football you are not truly American.  None of my immediate family is into football and many of us have married like minded people.  I don’t have anything against football and I can sit down and watch a game companionably with a group of people but, really, it’s just not a necessary part of me.

When I think of the holidays, and then the traditions, my mind goes into the direction of all of those people (including myself) who have “difficult” families of origin.  This is what made me think of the quote at the top of the page.  When thrown together with a group of disagreeable people who don’t really care about us or even like us, but on the other hand, they call themselves our family… can be very lonely.

Honestly, with my family, it is not really the whole family that is difficult but a few people

This is what a traditional Thanksgiving meal could look like.

who inevitably show up at every function where all are invited.  They tend to make everyone else uncomfortable by their own insecurities.  They may subtly treat some family members as if they are “less than and need to be kept in their place” or if that “less than” family member whom they have labeled is not staying in their “less than” box they take it upon themselves to audibly remind them in a subtle way that they need to get back in the “box” where they belong.

Large dysfunctional, extended families are not well known for being kind to one another.  The unkindness is often a low grade, underlying current much like a sneaky, slithering snake silently moving along the ground and hidden by the tall grass.  It will bite when no one is looking or prepared for the attack.  It will sometimes bite someone and no one else will be able to tell that the bitten person is in pain but the snake and the injured party know it.

No matter how well recovered we are from the pain, no matter how well healed, when that underlying current of the positioning of the family power starts it is still painful for many of us all over again.  Two reasons mainly, the injured party always recognizes the jab for what it is meant to be and the attacker knows exactly where and how to hit in the most hurtful place.  After all, they are family.

My family of origin is like this and I was one of the labeled ones.  No, I am not asking for pity.  Please don’t go in that direction with this, but I am sharing this because I know that even though we don’t like to admit it, there are many of us out there who have similar family issues.  When the holidays start nearing, many of us start dreading certain family gatherings. 

We worry about them and the worrying and dreading make the actual events even worse.  This is one of the reasons that even though it is meant to be a time of celebration, the holidays end up being a major source of stress for many, many people and the stress is felt by the whole family, even the children.

Yes, we are good people.  Yes, many of us are Christians.  We have to forgive those people for being the way they are for our own sakes.

We don’t have to keep returning to those situations, though, over and over again expecting different results or carrying our dread and uneasiness into those gatherings with us.  There is nothing written in a family etiquette book that says we have to attend an event just because we are invited.

We have to really think about these situations and consider all of the aspects.  There is nothing wrong with changing your own course in how you celebrate holidays and that is exactly what we did with our immediate family many years ago.

I am not trying to sway anyone to do what we have done, but I just want to say that there came a time when Papa Joe and I stopped attending most family gatherings because we did not want to risk being intentionally hurt by people who are supposed to love us.   To us, it is just a waste of the precious time that the Lord has given us to enjoy on this earth with those whom we are able to peacefully coexist.

Although it has been a few years since we last went, we spent several Thanksgivings* with our kids at a state park in Oklahoma called Turner Falls.  We would cook our traditional Thanksgiving meal the day and night before and take it to the park completely prepared, build a campfire, warm our food on the campfire.  Papa Joe and the children would hike, climb and explore and I usually sat by the campfire wrapped in a blanket and guarding campsite.  The park would not be very crowded and I remember those Thanksgivings as being the most peaceful and relaxing ones of my entire life.

Honestly, when we first started doing it, I would have a nagging thought in the back of my mind wondering if we were doing the right thing.  So when more than one of our children told us years later that those were also their most memorable Thanksgivings it confirmed with me that we did do the right thing.  Honestly, we are thinking about doing it again this year.

I know that a lot of people choose to continue to be a part of family gatherings that are difficult even if they have been healed and are recovered from what still exists in the family.  That is a good thing if you are strong enough to do it.  The Lord will bless you for your efforts and my prayers are especially with you.

**A special note for those of you who are married, you must be in unity with your spouse about any changes you may make.  I personally believe that wives should lovingly follow the lead of their husband’s wishes in these types of situations although if one of you has a problem with a particular family gathering, I believe that you should try to discuss (not badger and nag) it and possibly compromise.**

I have a question for those of you who may not be feeling strong enough to attend another difficult gathering.

Do you enjoy your holidays?

Do you want to enjoy them?

Perhaps, you may need to make your own changes.  Perhaps not.   Is there some old baggage that you need to leave by the side of the road never to be revisited again?

What changes would you make? 

What changes will you make?

I would really like to hear your thoughts…..Please comment.

Love and blessings to you!



*Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday which is held on the 4th Thursday of November of every year.  It kicks off the holiday season and is generally characterized by families getting together to share a feast where the main dish is turkey with dressing or stuffing along with all of the cultural trimmings.

About Rhonda

Let me introduce myself to you who may not know who I am...I am an artist, writer, blogger, born again follower of Jesus Christ (I pursue Him on an ongoing basis with passion), I am a recovering codependent, survivor of childhood and adulthood domestic violence, an empty nester who still has a LOT of life to live and a LOT more places to go before I stop, the wife to Mr. John, mother, grandmother and I have a passion for being a part of the process of getting preschoolers ready for the rest of their lives! I have probably left something out but that's ok.
This entry was posted in dysfunctiional, forgiveness, Holidays and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Courageously braving the holiday season (sometimes a rocky and steep incline) …..

  1. jedidja says:

    Thanksgiving is not a day on which we do something with family here in the Netherlands. But I get stomach ache when I think about Christmas ;- ) I feel miserable. Because my parents in law always are gossiping about me to others. (But in my face, they are sweet and nice.) December is a month where I will be depressed. Now we decided: we are not to go to my parents in law with Christmas. We go on loliday with the children for a week …
    What is a Christian attitude?

    • eviejowilson says:

      Hello Jedidja,
      Thank you for your comment and I am glad that you have found a way to have a good holiday despite the problems. In answer to your question about Christian attitude, I think it would depend on the context of the use of the phrase because it can mean different things in different contexts…
      But, to me, a Christian attitude would mean that I am doing my best to handle all situations in my life in a way that I know that Christ would have handled them. It is not possible for us to be perfect because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Christ was perfect, though, and lived a perfect life so we can reflect him and his actions in all that we do in our own life.
      I hope that this helps you. I would suggest to you that you research this subject on your own and not take my word completely on the subject. God has laid it on your heart and he wants to reveal some things about himself to you by you searching out the meaning.
      Love and blessings to you, EvieJo

  2. joy says:

    We don’t have thanksgiving feast here in nOrway and my husband has a small family that I don’t have that kind of problem. But I think what you shared is might be common to many. Glad you find the best way to celebrate holiday season with your nearest:)

  3. So this one isn’t easy at all. There is a huge part of me that wanted to scrap certain family gatherings because it was too much emotionally and it didn’t seem worth it. However, my husband and I chose to focus on our own behavior. We haven’t always been perfect in every difficult situation, but I’m glad we’re still working it out. It’s amazing how easily a little bit of love and grace can diffuse tension. I don’t want my children to miss out on family, even if it’s hard at times. But, like I said, this is not an easy one by any means. Every family has to decide what’s healthy based upon all the factors. And I would just add that I think marriage is about listening to each other and valuing each others thoughts and feelings. This is defnitely a tough one!

    • eviejowilson says:

      Thanks for your perspective. It’s always better when you can work things out or learn to handle things with love and grace, like you said. I agree though, that every family situation is a different one! Blessings to you and thanks for commenting.

  4. dukeslee says:

    Navigating family gatherings can be tricky, for sure. I remember uncomfortable situations with my extended family growing up. I’m grateful that our families now have healthy family gatherings. sure, there are squabbles and small disruptions and so on, but all in all, I feel very blessed by the warm feeling I have when I sit at the table with family.

  5. Betty Draper says:

    EvieJo…great post ane so many need to read. I am not from a large family but I have one family member who always makes things tense. Through the years we have missed so much of family traditional gathering because of living overseas. Now that we are stateside together we have decided to forfiet some of those tense times. Holdiays are meant to be enjoyed and the older I get the more I am going to be make happy memories. Thanks for the needed post.

    • eviejowilson says:

      Thanks, Betty, for your perspective. Although there is no right or wrong way to deal with this as long as it is done with grace, peace and love, I have to agree with you. I finally decided that life was too short to waste the time of my close loved ones under that kind of pressure. My heart aches for those who are in constant pain in wrestling with these issues. Blessings to you as you celebrate your holidays!

  6. You may have offered an alternative here that will protect the tender spirit of others; a suggestion that will a reinstate a Holiday to its true form; a holy day.

  7. Thanks for your post. We often read about the happy side of holidays–decorating and food and how great it all is… forgetting difficult family situations. We do have some of that to deal with too. I’m going to just pray my way through it this year…

  8. Christmas and Thanksgiving can be difficult times as families grow apart due to marriages and in-laws, but if there is contension, it is probably best to find another way. I like how you handled it at the park.

  9. Tess says:

    I wish I had a family. Except for supplying a mentally ill sister with food, I spend the holidays alone.

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