Family Traditions

With each life transition, I’ve learned to focus on why our traditions are treasured and that has helped me successfully find joy even in the presence of change.
Family photos and family traditions are different now. Can you relate? After we said good-bye to our son in the fall of 2018, we still gathered for our annual Thanksgiving lunch at MeMa and PaPa’s house, but it was different. That December, I hung the stockings in the same place, but the tradition of filling them and watching our children empty them Christmas morning was unlike any other year.
The very word tradition implies that things will remain the same, but in a world where things change how can we continue family traditions that we hold dear to our heart while we miss someone so special to us? 
This was the question that I found myself asking after I lost a child, but I could have easily asked it when my parents divorced, or when my husband and I moved away from home after marriage.
With each life transition, I’ve learned to focus on why our traditions are treasured and that has helped me successfully find joy even in the presence of change. A thoughtful survey of why I practice certain customs and attend time-honored events helped me remember that the value of our traditions is not derived from how we do things but rather why. I hang stockings, plan fun birthday parties for my children, and attend our annual family stew because I want to create and experience memorable moments with those closest to me. I want to shower love on “my people” and encourage deep connections. Many of my family’s traditions are an expression and celebration of our faith in Christ. None of these motives were eliminated by change or grief.

While continuing some of our treasured traditions felt impossible, I realized I could if I wanted to. You can, also.  Realizing I had a choice helped me take my right next steps. While your steps may look different, I believe we can continue to experience meaningful traditions when life offers turning points. We get to decide what we will do next.

Adapting a tradition is not the same as abandoning it.

We can choose what to modify, what to keep the same, what to eliminate, and what new traditions will be birthed from change. Adapting a tradition is not the same as abandoning it. But if you need to eliminate a tradition it’s good to remember that you are not saying it was never important. It is simply acknowledging that you can choose what is helpful and healing to your heart when faced with a turning point. You may find, like me, that eliminating an old tradition is exactly what is needed to make room for creating new ones that bring joy.

Our family photos continue to be difficult, but we choose to take them.  We’ve adapted a few things when we take our pictures. We stand in the same place at my in-laws’ home on Christmas night and line the children up with their grandparents in front of the tree, but now, someone holds a picture of our son so that he is with us in the photo. We have added a balloon release to our son’s birthday celebration and started an annual event in his memory. Both bring our family joy, draw us together, and are a testimony of our faith.
photo credit: Lymarie Jackson Portella of Lymarie Jackson Photography lymariepjacksonphotography.com
      

Consider asking yourself these questions:

If like me, your circumstances leave you wondering how to continue a family tradition, consider asking yourself these questions:
  • Why do I value the tradition? 
  • Will it be helpful or hurtful to continue the tradition? 
  • Is there a way to adapt the tradition? 
  • Is it time to eliminate the tradition, leaving room for something new that brings our family joy?

As you decide, know that what you choose this year can still look different next year. For now, I hang all the stockings at Christmas. My daughter picks out cards from her brother to be given to me on my birthday and Mother’s Day, and to her dad on his birthday and Father’s Day. I don’t know how long we will continue these things, but I am at peace knowing we get to decide.



Blessings Soul Friends,

Jodie

Remember

  • A thoughtful survey of why I practice certain customs and attend time-honored events helped me remember that the value of our traditions is not derived from how we do things but rather why.

  • Realizing I had a choice helped me take my right next steps. While your steps may look different, I believe we can continue to experience meaningful traditions when life offers turning points. We get to decide what we will do next.

  • Adapting a tradition is not the same as abandoning it. But if you need to eliminate a tradition it is good to remember that you are not saying it was never important.

Resources

Why not start a new family tradition? Praying together under the Christmas Tree.

Jingle and Joy is an advent study, sharing the story of prayer beneath the tree for all people. You will want to keep it by your tree, bedside table, or coffee table to read each day from now until Christmas. Daily prayer prompts will keep you kneeling beneath the tree, looking up to God, trusting he hears your every request.
Jodie Barrett is a speaker and writer with a passion for Jesus. Visit her at FaithfullyFollowingMinistries.org to discover more about finding joy even in the midst of pain.

6 Comments


Susan Ferguson - November 17th, 2021 at 5:59am

I love you, sweet Jodie! I am forever amazed by God’s faithful goodness when I think of you and your journey! Blessings!❤️

Jodie Barrett - November 17th, 2021 at 10:00am

I love you also, Susan. Thank you for helping me walk through times where I needed others to help me continue and modify our traditions. I am grateful for the army of support God sent our family.

Wanda - November 17th, 2021 at 8:16am

Jodie Jodie! How you do it ? Having the faith that Jesus wants you to have is Amazing! Though it all you still show that light of Joy 😊Love you girl and always in my prayers 🙏and ❤

Jodie Barrett - November 17th, 2021 at 10:01am

Even a mustard seed of faith can be enough! So grateful for the Lord and your love and prayers.

Cindy Wilkins - November 17th, 2021 at 10:14am

Oh Jodie, you remain and inspiration to me and to so many others. Our family is facing changes in our holiday traditions this year and your words are balm for my tradition-clinging heart. Thank you for always being willing to obey God by sharing, even when it’s difficult.

Jodie Barrett - November 17th, 2021 at 12:33pm

I trust His Word to be a balm form your heart even more than mine and I will be praying that He gives you peace as your family adapts in this time of transition. Your family has been faithful to shine a Light for Jesus in the last year!