Although the past eighteen months brought struggles of separation, heartache, and isolation, they also presented opportunities for reflection. We were all forced to step back and ask clarifying questions about the way we live our lives: the time we invest, the financial resources we utilize, the relationships that are most important in our lives, and yes…even the traditions we have held.
With the holidays coming up, we gathered the family and asked some honest questions.
We asked, "If you could change anything about the next three-months, what would it be?" We assured them that they will not hurt our feelings. What works? What doesn't work? Be honest.
The Surprising Family Conversation
What ensued was a fascinating conversation about our family culture and the traditions we have instilled for a number of years now. Most surprising to us was how traditions which we thought are so important, were of little importance to them.
To some degree, our children were ruthless with their evaluation of holiday traditions. Turkey? Eww – gone. Let’s do steak. Carving pumpkins? GROSS, the ‘guts’ are slimy. Baking? We like it, but do we have to do so much of it? Do we really need that much food and do others? Because…it’s exhausting. Let’s pick one or two of our favorite Christmas cookies so we don’t spend all day in the kitchen.
Refine. Reduce. Refocus.
What came of the experience was a set of new family traditions. Time and space for service to others and more clearly defined intentional time together. As a pastor’s family, we are often engaged in congregational care. However, our children encouraged us to do more outside our church family and outside our bubble to serve more during the holidays.
How thankful we are for this important conversation!
A Psalm of Thanksgiving
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness and delight;
Come before His presence with joyful singing.
Know and fully recognize with gratitude that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, [a]not we ourselves [and we are His].
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with a song of thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, bless and praise His name.
For the LORD is good;
His mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting,
His faithfulness [endures] to all generations.
How about for you? What traditions are part of your family culture? Why are they traditions? Why are they important? What joys do you find in them, and is there opportunity to create space for new traditions to emerge? Listen with open ears, find new opportunities to grow together, and be thankful for these beautiful moments to be together and shape life together as a family.
Mandy Ebel is the Director of Partnerships at Generous Giving. She and her husband, Brian, live in Lexington, Kentucky with their two children.