The Most Wonderful Time of the Year



I was watching a video of Barbara Brown Taylor recently, and she said something that really caught my attention. When asked what she thinks the world needs more of, she responded with this:

“What the world needs is more people standing over the red X under their feet and saying ‘What is the BEST I can make of […where I am] right now?'”

What is the best I can make of where I am right now?

What is the best I can make of where I am right now?

While this question is fantastic any day, right now seems like a particularly meaningful time to take on the answer. We’re headed towards the darkest day of the year, not to mention what is for many a dark season emotionally: the holidays.

Bright, twinkly lights and cheery Christmas music announce to us that “it’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiiime of the yearrrrrrr!” But the truth is, the twinkle lights and festive music can be more jarring than happiness-inducing. Sometimes, they do nothing more than highlight the season’s difficulties: the losses we’ve experienced, the people we miss, the brokenness in ourselves or our families, or perhaps a lack of family altogether.

I’m no amateur when it comes to maneuvering challenging holidays. My family has had our own unique set of challenges for the past decade-and-then-some. Our gatherings are made up of a six-person entourage, and though the family has both shrunk and grown over the past decade, that number has remained pretty consistent. Our other consistent factor is that generally one third of us have been significantly handicapped, though that role has shifted hands a few times.

For many years, we collectively worked very hard to have Thanksgivings and Christmas days that seem standard and comparable to others around us. It worked because we made it work, and more power to us for working around wheelchairs, nursing home commutes through rain or snow, good health days and bad health days. Preparing a full turkey dinner with sides and pies in the midst of all those factors is no easy feat, much less the seemingly simple act of getting everybody to the table!

More recently, my family has looked at each other and said, “To heck with this. We’re EXHAUSTED. What matters is not the full turkey meal or using the good china that isn’t dishwasher safe, but rather us, in the same room, making memories.” We’ve had hard conversations. Honest, good, hard conversations. And we’ve let go of the need to hold on to the same old traditions. Some have stayed, some have gone, and holding expectations lightly has been a life saver.

Letting go of the expectations has brought us room to learn how to celebrate together anew. This Christmas, we’re going to pour champagne and cranberry juice into cheery glasses, then gather around the twinkling tree. The effort it takes to get everyone around the tree? That’s a challenge embedded into our gatherings, but it’s not going to stop us from lifting our sparkling red glasses in celebration. Together.

The holidays bring a different set of challenges for each of us. So what is the best you can make of where you are this holiday season? I hope you’ll find a way to look at the red X under your feet and ask yourself that important question, too.