Redefining Family: My First Christmas Away From Home

What’s your favorite Christmas memory? I’m not sure where it all began, but for as long as I can remember my brothers and I have built tents to sleep in on Christmas Eve. Each year as anticipation builds for the next morning’s presents under the tree, we dig through our linens closet and grab as many sheets and blankets as we can find. Then we choose a room with the most floor space and get to work. My hair ties usually have the distinguished honor of keeping the tent hooked on doorknobs, lampshades, curtain rods and more. That’s my favorite Christmas tradition and houses one of my favorite memories. I could tell you about trying to snowboard in the backyard with my brothers one Christmas or hooking our sleds to the back of my step-dad’s truck…those were some great times. But my most recent favorite memory? It was a couple of years ago after my brothers and I had crawled into our makeshift home for the night. My younger brother passed out pretty quickly, but my old brother and I stayed up for hours watching one documentary after another. We brought out our favorite snacks and laughed at all the same parts of the movies. I was just happy to spend time bonding with my brother and appreciated hanging out with someone who gets it when I laugh at the wrong things and ask questions that may not make sense to outsiders.

These days I work eight hours away from the home I grew up in. I work at a church, which means lots and lots of Christmas Eve services. It also means that for the first time in 24 years, I won’t make it home for Christmas. It means no tent with my brothers, no baking with my mom and no enjoying the house full of Christmas décor that I’ve grown up with.

Things look different than they used to. Kids are encouraged to dream and when those kids grow up they move across the country to give their biggest ideas a shot. Fewer people are getting married right out of college, choosing instead to travel, grow up on their own and spend more time investing in friendships. There are a whole lot of other implications, but the changing times mean family’s changing. Home’s changing. That things look different than they used to.

So while I’m sad about not hitting the road to get home just in time to make new memories with my flesh and blood, I know I kind of asked for it. Six years ago I packed up my car to head to Nashville, all in the name of taking a chance on my dreams. A few years after that, opportunity came knocking and I took a church job, all in the name of the dreams God had been working out in me. Step after step led me right to where I am today, and as non-traditional as my Christmas may be this year, I’m definitely not the only one.

Rather than being sad about the change, I’m actually getting excited. Over the last two years that I’ve worked at Cross Point Church, I’ve been able to create lots of new memories. For example, making A Merry Music City Christmas (a free Christmas event held at Cross Point) available to over 10,000 people. That equals over 10,000 new Christmas memories and opportunities to know the love of Jesus for those in and around middle Tennessee.

This Christmas Eve I’ll be a part of my church’s Christmas Eve services. Then I’ll pack a bag, blankets and Christmas goodies and head over to a friend’s place. Each of us in the group will bring a childhood Christmas tradition to share. We’ll wake up on Christmas morning to find Santa still came and we and our families not only survived a Christmas away from one another, but also enjoyed it. You know that means? I’m still sleeping in a makeshift tent this year! There’ll just be different people by my side.

Change can be scary, but it’s not always bad. If you’re struggling this Christmas season because the holidays aren’t going to look like you hoped they would, choose joy in the place you find yourself. As old tradition meets new norms, you may just make some memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Author: Chelsea Jones

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