Because That’s Just The Way We’ve Always Done It

Anything but N O E L

Anything but N O E L

Traditions. Some make sense, some don’t. Some are passed down from generation to generation, some are only one generation old.

A couple weeks before Christmas this year, I was having a very hard time getting into the spirit. Part of it was probably being in a new city and a new house and not yet feeling “settled.” I’m sure the warm, humid weather had something to do with it too. It’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit when you sweat putting up the outside lights.

If it weren’t for our family traditions, Christmas would never feel like Christmas to me. And yet, I seem to forget that when I need it most. This year was the first in twenty-five Christmases that we were not celebrating with my in-laws. It was going to be just the six of us, far far from home. So more than any year before, this is the year I needed traditions.

Many years ago, I worked with a woman who told me of a tradition she had for “The Twelve Days” of Christmas for her girls. Each day for the twelve days leading up to Christmas Day, she gave them small, inexpensive gifts. At the time she told me of this tradition, her girls were in college in another town but she still mailed them their gifts to open each day they were away. The gifts changed over time to match their age, and as college students she got them stamps and sticky notes, pens and stationary.

That very year, I instituted the Eslick Twelve Days tradition. I’m not exactly sure what year the tradition of starting Day 1 with Tic Tacs stuck, but the boys have been receiving packs of Tic Tacs on Day 1 for many years and I think they’d be disappointed if I changed that now.

This year, like a few before, I’ve considered skipping The Twelve Days for the sake of my own convenience. And again this year I was reminded that “it’s tradition.”

I realized this year, after my oldest son took away the trash bag I was planning to collect the discarded wrapping paper and bows as they flew off the packages, that the mess is tradition as well. Just like decorating for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend, sending Christmas cards, making monkey bread for breakfast Christmas morning, opening stocking stuffers last, doing family Christmas puzzles, driving around looking at Christmas lights, the NOEL stocking holders that mysteriously rearrange themselves, and the countless other traditions I’ve taken for granted.

Christmas morning monkey bread

Christmas morning monkey bread

Traditions are what make family family. They are what bind us together, what makes us unique, what sets us apart from everyone else. Some families share a few of our traditions. Some have traditions we’ve never had, like caroling on Christmas Eve or going to the movies on Christmas Day. But no other family holds all of our traditions, and ours don’t exactly match anyone else’s.

God made me to crave change in some things. That’s part of the reason my hair has been so many colors over the years. But Christmas is Christmas anywhere we take our traditions.

I wanted to start a new tradition this year, our “Georgia” Christmas tradition, and have s’mores on Christmas Eve. But it had been raining for two days and was too humid to get the fire going. We managed to get it done Christmas night instead, so I guess that’ll be our s’mores day instead. That’s just the way it worked out.

And years from now, when asked why we have s’mores on Christmas night, we’ll say, “Because that’s just the way we’ve always done it.”

Christmas S'mores, Year #1

Christmas S’mores, Year #1

 

 

 

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I Bought The Lies

Report Card Fail

Some days I think I stress more about how my children behave than I do anything else. In fact, I know I do.

I expect them to be adult minded when their teenaged brains haven’t yet matured to adult. Sometimes I doubt they will without my constant hounding and pounding. I know I’m being unfair and yet I can’t help constantly pushing them to think better, act better, be better.

Semester exams started today and I’m pretty sure I’ve been more stressed about it than they have. I not only want them to do well, but because I have allowed my identity as a parent to get wrapped up in how well they do – I need them to do well.

I’ve been doing a study on Ephesians and, as I reflected this morning on Satan’s tactics in my life as The Father of Lies, I realized how much I pull my identity from my children rather than from who I am in God through Christ. And then I start to believe I am all powerful in their lives and the only good that will come out of them will be a direct result of my constant attention to discipline and correction.

Yes, I have an it’s-all-about-me issue.

So I have to ask myself, Why do I need them to do well? What difference does it make to me if they don’t? I am still saved by His grace according to His mercy. I am not God to my children. I can trust Him to be a more ever-present, powerful influence in their lives than I am.

Ephesians 2:6 talks about us being seated with Him in the heavenly places. This isn’t a dimensional position, but a position of authority and power. Present authority and power. As in right now!

Read what Kay Arthur says about this:

When you don’t understand God’s mercy, you are slow to run to Him in the time of need, and although the enemy cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, once you are saved he delights in deceiving you so you don’t appropriate what is yours. His strategy is to convince you that whatever you need from God you don’t deserve. He wants to convince you that you shouldn’t ask Him for it or expect Him to give it to you.*

I bought the lies.

The lies that say, “if your children fail, you fail” and “when your children make bad choices, it’s a reflection of your parenting.”

The fact is, I haven’t neglected teaching them. I have poured hours into training them how to study, how to make decisions that don’t hurt them or anyone else, explaining to them how important it is to brush their teeth, and endless other life lessons. And I’ve prayed for them along the way.

Is there more I could have done? More I should be doing now? Without a doubt, there is. But mostly that involves including more grace and mercy. Because all the correcting and lecturing in the world won’t direct a child’s heart like receiving grace and mercy. That’s how children learn of God.

So, what does that look like? I’m still trying to figure that out. Here’s what I do know: Whether or not my children fail their exams speaks nothing to my effectiveness as a parent. What does speak to it is how I demonstrate God’s mercy to them in all situations. Even semester exams.

So next week, after exams are over and there’s nothing more they can bring to the table, we are going to move on – all of us – to focusing on The Reason for the season.

And maybe even bake some cookies and work some puzzles.

Because January will be here before we know it, along with another chance to think better, do better, be better, for all of us.

 

 

 

*LORD, Is It Warfare? Teach Me to Stand, Kay Arthur