Tuesday, December 23, 2008

family gatherings

Isn't it ironic how family gatherings over the holidays can make one so thankful to get back to friends? I don't write this because mine are horrible, but I spend so much time listening to how awful others are and if I'm honest, some of our gatherings over the years have left a bit to be desired. For starters it's like a bunch of casual, polite (if you're lucky) strangers making small talk for entirely too long. We never really go beyond the weather and if you do the room goes silent and waits for the "ghost of reality hidden" to pass.

If family gatherings weren't awkward enough on their own I had a family member reccommend we leave our handicapped daughter at home for the gathering this year. GASP! (go ahead let it out). She didn't really mean to be unkind at all, but she realized what great lengths we will go to in order to include her in some gatherings and concluded it would be best to leave her out. OK, I'm not politically correct for the most part and not very easily offended, but I'm obsessing on this one. Beyond the obvious, "What color is the sky on your messed up planet?" there are many reasons the holidays are difficult for parents in general, let alone those with kids with special needs.

For starters help around the holidays is often sparse. Everyone wants the holidays off including those who work to help us. I'd be a grinch (and probably lose staff) if I made it difficult to have holidays off. Secondly, the chaos of the break in routine can be crippling for most. Our kids survive on knowing what to expect... not going to happen with Christmas and New Year's parties. Thirdly, keeping her entertained in a new place without her toys while fielding questions, along with the staring, goes without saying. Thankfully, in our case Abby doesn't realize she's on display, but I do. I get tired of being in a display case... look but don't touch. I used to like being the center of attention when I played ball, but this is different.

I keep telling myself, "If you can't love family, who can you love?" I'm not sure if I'm saying it because I believe it or I'm trying to convince myself. There's a flip side to that too. It seems like there's a seperate standard for family members. So many seem to sit by just waiting for someone to say something offensive to set them off. A brother may say something that you might let slide from anyone else, but since he's your brother you're instantly and mortally offended... for life? Come on... shouldn't we extend grace to family too, not just strangers. We boycott gatherings because of something stupid or maybe you're even justified by worldly standards because you have been wronged or misjudged, but to stop associating for life... isn't life a bit too short for that? Could you really plead that case before your creator and say something like, "I didn't love them because they hurt my feelings or treated me unfairly." Get real.

Try something new this year. Love... not because they are loveable, but because it's the right thing to do. Extend grace not because they deserve it, but because of the grace that was extended to you when you didn't deserve it either. Attend the gathering to be a blessing to someone there instead of mourning the lack of blessings to you. Give... Give... Give... not only to the warm fuzzy ones, but to all! Give grace... Give forgiveness... Give of yourself. I might even try it. I'll keep you posted.

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