We were browsing the greeting card aisle at Target the other day, looking for something to send my parents for Thanksgiving. The more I skimmed the contents of each card, the more discouraged I became. Because it hurts to know millions of people all over the country will be sending cards that say things like, “Holidays are a time to appreciate loved ones…” or even better, “I’m so thankful to be spending this day with you…”

But I didn’t pick a card like that.

I was relegated to a small selection of cards that read more along the lines of “Hope your holiday is __________.” Fill in the blank with words like blessed, enjoyable, and joyful. These are the neutral cards meant for acquaintances, distant relatives, or coworkers. All of the formality but none of the tenderness.

I just want to talk about this. I want to speak into the hearts of the people who struggle during the holidays as much as I do. Whether you’re estranged, cut off, or alienated the endless routine of the holiday season can sometimes be too much to bear. We see commercials and billboards filled with images of traditional families, perfect and smiling. They laugh as they cut the turkey. They laugh as they toast to another great year. They laugh as they reminisce about that time that Uncle Joey did that hilarious thing back in ’95.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the holidays are stressful for everyone. I admire those special people who revel in organizing dinners, giving gifts, and hosting family members for the weekends. It’s tough work, and certainly not something I could do without having a complete meltdown. But for some of us, holiday stress is more than just worrying about the details and it’s more than a dysfunctional family.

For some, it’s having no family at all. Or having a family that doesn’t want you at their dinner table on Thanksgiving. It’s being “that person” who gets invited over to a friend’s house because they don’t want you to spend the holidays alone. But even when the Lord makes us struggle, he blesses us in equal but different ways. The difficulty is seeing those blessings, and letting ourselves enjoy them. So this year, like every year, I will give thanks.

Thanksgivings for the souls in my life who support and accept me.

Thanksgivings for the jagged rocks of disapproval and judgement, as stepping stones to who I will become.

Thanksgivings for my beautiful body, with arms that lift the camera to my eyes, eyes that see through the lens, and fingers that trip the shutter.

Thanksgivings for warm blankets and hot tea that keep my soul from freezing over.

Thanksgivings for the meal we eat today and the hands that prepare it. Because I love me some turkey and taters, seconds and thirds!

There will always be those of us who struggle through November and December. This year, I’m trying to remember that time with family is a gift, not a right. And though I may not be gifted in family right now, I am gifted in other parts of life. I hope you are able to give thanks too, even if you’re army crawling your way through the holidays this year. Don’t worry. We all are.

114 thoughts on “Estranged

    • Thank you for stopping by. Your comment has me reflecting on the idea that you never know the burdens of a stranger. You never know what they’re going through, so we should strive to be generous in our demeanor and empathetic in attitude.

  1. I have had years off and on where I am wanted, then not wanted, then wanted again. It gets so very tiring. So I can definitely see where you are coming from, and you describe the feeling of this so perfectly I couldn’t have said it better myself.
    Thank you for the great post, it was a wonderful read…I am sorry you are forced to deal with something so similar to what I have gone through. It definitely doesn’t make you feel all that great, I know that much!

    • I appreciate the empathy. Unfortunately, I can relate to the on-again off-again relationship with family. It so counter intuitive to what we truly need in family, which is a stable, lasting love. It’s a shame that it’s so hard to find in this world.

  2. Pingback: When your family holidays….aren’t | Broadside

  3. What a truly meaningful post, it’s hard to know what to say to anyone who has difficulty as Christmas. I’m lucky that I see my family, but because my husband and I both have separated parents and grandparents it makes for a stressful, logistically exhausting nightmare most years. I send my thoughts for you and to anyone who isn’t having the greatest of times this Christmas, I only wish I could host a huge Christmas dinner and celebration for you all x

  4. “Family is a gift, not a right.” I think I’ll be quoting you for a long time. Since I was old enough to write, I have always made handmade cards for my family on special occasions. At first, it was because I couldn’t buy anything without spoiling the surprise. Then I understood that handmade cards, no matter how hideous they may be, came from the heart and were not something money could replace. Even when I have a job and am earning, I fully intend to continue the tradition.

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