My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


    Family traditions...We all seem to have them even if we don't recognize them. It's kinda funny...Some of the holiday traditions my kids (now grown) still cherish are those we never really intended--they just evolved. When we are all together, they often talk about the odd little things they remember but never so much about the presents except the more practical sentimental ones...Honestly, we never were able to give them much of value but they remember the artsy fartsy stuff that I always made sure was under the tree to encourage their creative spirits--art pads and pencils, guitar picks and musical accessories, journals and books. (A tradition worth its price--they are all uniquely gifted now.) They can buy those things themselves now but it's still an expected "tradition" for mom to include them... We remember church Christmas plays, cantatas, and band concerts...Stockings with all their funny little pint-size treasures...Green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and broccoli-rice casserole...The cooking chaos and mad rush to Granny's house. 
     They especially remember the extra unplanned guests we always seemed to have--kids, family members, or even a couple of strangers who had nowhere to go, no families, or whose families didn't celebrate Christmas. But it's more than the annual ritual--our stories center around memorable events, laughable disasters and special graces of each Christmas...Those stories that are once in a lifetime and unrepeatable...
     ...Like Pepaw's last Christmas with us--he was so weak. Even the kids somehow sensed it would be his last...That last picture of him confined to a wheelchair, the kids in his lap and surrounding him...and my belly carrying unborn Zachary. He insisted that Zachary be in the picture too! That was a sadly sweet and precious Christmas...Like the beaming face of an incorrigible neighbor boy who brought us gifts he had gathered around his house and obviously personally wrapped for our family. "Taking" was his usual nature but he and his sister often found shelter at our house on scary stormy nights when their dad was working. Jacob wanted somehow to show us he loved us. His gifts were hilarious and totally impractical but even the youngest understood Jacob's "giving" was a special uncharacteristic joy for him although we were quite speechless! (I still have my lime green carnival prize dog somewhere!)...Like the year  a young man, 17 years old, spent Christmas morning with us. He was almost in tears when he discovered "Santa" had filled a stocking for him too. His family had never celebrated Christmas or even birthdays. It felt good to share our family and our Jesus with him on his very first real Christmas. 
      The holidays changed somewhat when my husband and I separated and finally divorced. Two years ago, I wanted to forget Christmas altogether--my depression was so deep. I prayed for a way out and begged my kids to do Christmas without me but nothing doing for Brittany. I didn't look forward to holidays anymore. But last year I just couldn't muster the same old Christmas. Too many years, I determined to "make" Christmas happen. I just couldn't do it anymore. So my kids and I decided to make drastic changes--to lessen the chaos, runabout, and busyness. We set the day apart just to be together at my house without running from house to house to make all the busy rounds.
     No big fancy meal--just Christmas brunch (cooked mostly by the kids and their dad) and a newer tradition with two bartenders in the family now--mimosas, and most important--lots of laughter and love. Again, we had additional welcome guests. The kids now invite their special romantic interests and friends who have no family. I used to be the one telling them who was coming to Christmas. Our usual family of seven was 11 this time. Without all the hustle and bustle of cooking, cleaning, making everything just so and rushing off to other obligations, I was able for the first time to actually sit and enjoy the time with them. It's a rare occasion when all of my children can gather in one place anymore, and when they do, I'm always so busy. Not this time. So much laughter, lots of sharing, and limitless love. Tension of recent years melted away for the day. We went to the movies together, and then out to eat Chinese...No cooking, no dishes, no fuss! Our best Christmas ever! A lot of the fluff was gone but the spirit of our most precious tradition remained. We not only shared our Christmas, we shared our family. Just as Christ so lovingly draws us to Himself, we embraced each other as well as our guests and drew them in as our children...and brothers. We were all equally blessed, I think. 
     When divorce fractures a family, when extended family discord strains relationships, when growing up strips away visions of sugarplums and merry old men, the Bennett family can still find it in ourselves to seek and share the Love that came down that star-filled night more than 2000 years ago. I wasn't sure my ex-husband and I had really instilled anything positive--life had gotten so twisted...But my kids remember the best of Christmas past. It was good and we committed as a family to make this unconventional Christmas our tradition. At least for one day a year in our family of however many, all is calm, all is bright...

"Silent night (though not so silent)...Holy nIght.
Son of God, Love's pure light...Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth...Jesus, Lord at Thy birth."
"Silent Night" written in 1816 by Priest Joseph Mohr

“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.”
 This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword 
will find favor in the wilderness;  I will come to give rest to Israel."
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again..."

Jeremiah 31:1-4

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