When Holidays Don’t Follow the Recipe

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in Alabama.

Even though we live in upstate New York.

We will celebrate Christmas in New York, but without Grandma and Grandpa.

They’ll be in Alabama.

See, my husband’s family is managing two businesses right now — one in Alabama, one in New York. Someone needs to be present in both places, so we’ve been taking turns all year.

Let me tell you — this kinda messes with one’s traditional family plans for the holidays. And birthdays. And, the rhythm of a rather close-knit family.

Now, before you get all weepy for me, let me assure you, God’s grace has been abundant. In all the traveling back and forth, instead of feeling displaced, I’ve begun to feel like we have two homes, and this is a rich feeling. We have met lovely friends down in Alabama (even a family who have invited us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, which is great ‘cause I could never cook all the fixin’s for Thanksgiving dinner in the tiny kitchen on our bus!), and my kids seem to be thriving despite our nomadic lifestyle this year.

But as the holidays approached, I realized I’d have to be sure to set my mind on something other than the usual expectations for treasured family time and familiar surroundings. Because those are gonna be in short supply.

Maybe your holidays aren’t going to be the way you’d wish them either. I imagine some of you are none too excited that you’ll celebrate Christmas without a significant other again this year. Some of you face the holidays with a feeling of emptiness, because what is Christmas without children in the home? The holidays are so focused on warm family get-togethers…but what if you don’t have either family or that kind of warmth in your life?

I think when faced with celebrating a holiday in a way that doesn’t fit our expectations, we need to go back to the essence of the holiday. What are we really celebrating? Why do we have this day?

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for what we have. Even if you don’t have a ring on your finger, or a child’s giggles to wake you, or a crackling fireplace to cozy up to, the list should still be pretty long…the bed we got a few extra minutes to sleep in that morning, the food we will eat (even if it’s not your traditional family recipe, it will fill your stomach!), the country we live in, and the fellowship we can have on any given day with our Heavenly Father.

Christmas, too, is so often centered around family get-togethers, but once again, we ought to boil it down to its essence, and from there add in what we do have to create a recipe for Christmas cheer.

We have Christ. Hello — the whole point of Christmas is that He came.

The rest is just gravy, people!

How will your holidays be different than you expected this year? Anybody else livin’ in a bus? Away from family? Anybody else still find themselves filled with gratitude for what we DO have to celebrate? Share in the comments? I need to know I’m not alone, okay?


  1. Thanks for the reminder ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am very thankful.
    But I have to remind myself of it.

    To be thankful for the baby instead of thinking of the crying.
    Thankful for the family I have instead of the fact that the traditional family Christmas is no more since my grandparents moved to a smaller house.
    Thankful for all the things I have that I don’t need instead of looking to someone else and the things they have that I don’t have. Really, I am so spoiled rotten and half of the time I don’t even realize it!

  2. This will be the fourth Christmas season in my marriage that we have been on the move. The first: my husband’s separation from the military and moving across country to live with family. The second: after a year of unemployment and living with family, we moved 3.5 hours away from anyone we knew and started over in a new home, with a new job & no church. The third: our move to AK to work and serve with missionaries living in the remote Arctic. The fourth: this coming Christmas. After being unemployed for nearly 10 months, it looks like we’ll be leaving and selling our home. Where will we go? We’re hoping missionary friends in Arkansas will take us in – – at least temporarily. We’re giving away all but what will fit in our minivan and leaving behind close family and friends and a place we love. We simply don’t know what God has in store, but still… He is GOOD. Past the emotions and the struggle of another “failed” Christmas celebration, I know deep down that we are blessed beyond measure.

    Thank you, Trina, once again, for your encouraging words. Blessed to call you a friend.

  3. This definitely resonated with me as I spend Thanksgiving in India, knowing I’ll be here for Christmas too. It’s the first holiday I’ve spent away from home and my family, so it’s a little sad to miss out, but then I look out my window and see the barefoot kids running in the dirt and I know I have much to be thankful for.

  4. Hollidays were always very lonely for me. Especially thanksgiving. All I ever aspired to be in life was a good wife and a good mother. I have one child who is eight, and she is growing quickly! I have been unable to carry more. My last miscarriage huants me to this day. I am very sad. I feel I have imposed our small family into his Thanksgiving affair. I won’t do that next year. Maybe we will go somewhere next year instead. Like a B&B or somthing. I don’t know. We don’t have a lot of friends and we pretty much keep to ourselves. I would love to be loved by such an abundance of family! Although my mother had 10 children, she was sick most of my life and my siblings, they constantly cut each other down. I have distanced myself from this, because of this. I have no family really. None to speak of. Nobody to turn to in times of trouble. ABSOLUTELY nobody.
    That wears on my especially in this previous year with the miscarriage. And mean mother in Law…vicious sister…it makes it hard to go on sometimes. BUT there is joy in every moment I spend with my daughter. Every moment I am so eternally grateful for. That she was entrusted to ME. I must say I do, wholheartedly wish I had a family like my friends’ – the loving kind. The KIND-kind. The kind who cares and gives emotional support. I would do anything to have something similar in my life. (well, almost anything.) ๐Ÿ™‚ So please do cherish your loved ones. You could be someone like me, who only feels cared for by her 8 yr old. (Who will grow up and go on her way…) Please pray for us who need consolment and healing during this thanksgiving. Thank you, all.

    1. I just stopped in to read Trina’s post; she is an amazing young woman of God. I don’t usually hijack a site because of a comment, but felt compelled to respond to yours, Karen. Bless you child, I was once like you. I had a family – whatever that name implies to most people was not mine! Fractured, living with grandparents, no contact with parents, and no siblings-not much of a family. I married into a family who all celebrated together at thanksgiving and Christmas. But a distant mother in law, a mentally challenged sister in law did not provide any more family than I already had. My husband’s grandmother was a love but she died when my oldest was 5. It was a command performance for the rest of “the family” every year. You have a rich gift in that precious daughter. Love her, bring her up the way you wanted to be brought up, but no strings please, just love her. When she grows up she will not forget you and you will be enriched beyond degree. Love her the way that God loves you. May you find blessing and comfort in God, His Word, His Healing. Cling to him the way you would have wanted to cling to your mom. He will hold you up and shelter you, precious one and if you want a surrogate mom- just email me- I’m good for an email hug and I’m a really good listener! [email protected]

    2. Oh, Karen…my heart hurts because I sense the depth of your heartache, and I know they are very real and very painful. I don’t have wisdom or advice, except to embrace the little one you have, your marriage and the few friends who love you and accept you, and who help you to see who you are in Jesus…a beautiful, LOVED woman. Praying that God will send you the family you never had, and give your heart comfort for the little one you lost. Remember you aren’t alone! <3

  5. Thank you. I needed this today. I was a little unhappy this week over the fact that most of my siblings won’t be here until Saturday. I won’t have them for at least 3 days on Thanksgiving like I’m used to. But I will get to see them, and I’m blessed to have them around. I appreciated this encouragement! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. You’re not alone Trina, there are others of us spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in non-traditional ways! Since my grandmother passed in 2000 my family and I have had to adjust to not going to her house for Thanksgiving, most years there have been friends to have dinner with, sometimes we’ve traveled to Colonial Williamsburg or Old Sturbridge Village. This summer we moved from Maine to Kentucky and we really don’t have anyone to gather with – we don’t really care too much about Christmas but it is especially hard to be thankful when you don’t have anyone to share blessings with.

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s encouraging to know that there are other folks out there that face the same things through the holidays. God has blessed us so much and we should be praising Him every day but it’s nice to have also have a day to fill with praises to Him! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Oh, Laurie–thank you for sharing your story! It really does help to know we’re not alone, doesn’t it? I pray that you have a lovely day tomorrow, and maybe start some new traditions or make some memories that will make this Thanksgiving stand out in your mind for years.

  7. I am so filled with gratitude for what I have- an amazing family, wonderful friends who have blessed me in many ways this year, our pets, work/jobs, good health, opportunities and so much more! And last but not least, an awesome God. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving, Trina!

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