Great Expectations?

Great Expectations?

I am not exactly sure how some of the images and expectations of what our holiday season should be like are formed, but I have some ideas: As a child, I remember retrieving whatever mail we may have gotten before Christmas and tearing into the holiday cards. And to this day, years later, few greetings are able to compare to the designs featuring Currier and Ives snow scenes, even though Bob Timberlake designs come close. I always thought it would be wonderful to spend Christmas and New Year’s in the Northeast (you know – enjoying time like that captured in the movie, “White Christmas”).

I remember that magazines would feature Norman Rockwell artwork on their covers. One stands out in my mind: I still see the family seated at the table all clad in their Sunday best (replete with ties, dresses, and fine linen). Dad, excuse me, “Father” was standing proudly as he carved the perfectly shaped golden-brown turkey. I am sure, too, scenes from “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Waltons,” and even “The Cosby Show” help solidify our expectations of family; these programs, as well as mental images of what “should be,” help us romanticize and even fantasize about how things should be, especially when we are still trying to set a time and date to meet and Christmas is about two weeks away.

Yes, harmonious gatherings around beautifully appointed tables can be wonderful experiences. But more often than not, at least one individual at one of our holiday gatherings is unkempt and runs in at “the last minute.” Turkeys are sometimes prepared with the giblets still inside (because no one thought to look for them before the bird was roasted). The soufflé may have fallen, the potatoes might have lumps, and the rolls may even be slightly burned. But these details are just that – details. They do not define us, nor do they lessen our love of others or ruin the joy of the season (or the gathering for that matter). They can even offer memories about which we laugh years later. “Perfect” holiday gatherings are not defined by the consistency of the gravy or the way participants are clad. They are not measured by the length or “quality” of our various traditions. Instead, smiles, laughter, joy, and even quiet moments shared with those we love are really what matter. They are what contribute to our memories and even concepts of families and self-worth.

So as you prepare to enjoy the holidays with those you love, extend grace to others and to yourself. Do not feel that you have to execute a perfect event or that your holiday will be ruined because you cannot give the most expensive of gifts. Perhaps you – we – should expect something akin to what might occur with the Simpsons, not plan for a Martha Stewart event. Try to remind yourself that television shows may be the only places where crises are solved in less than 22 minutes. Understanding this may not make for the “holly jolly Christmas” of your dreams. It may, however, bring some joy to your world (and help others relax too!). It might even help you bring worship and praise back to your holiday celebration, if they have somehow lost their place.

Blessings to you and yours throughout this holy season.

Bruised But Not Broken








The torrential rains falls for over 30 hours.  For much of that time, the winds howled and angrily churned as foliage of all sizes yielded to its ferocity and pull.  We watched as massive trees were tossed about and landed on and near roofs, siding was ripped from homes, and tin was peeled back from atop structures.  In the midst of the storm, two birds buried their heads close to their chests and sought shelter alongside the bird feeder they often frequented in our backyard.

Once Hurricane Irene moved north and her effects were no longer being experienced in our area, the path of her destruction became more noticeable.  Thousands were without electricity.  Many homes were damaged by trees that had lost their struggle and fallen, flood waters and debris were isolating whole communities, and the coastline of our State had once more been altered.  Neighbors checked on neighbors, individuals helped friends and even complete strangers with clean-up efforts, and the names and phone numbers of insurance agents rose to the top of lists as individuals assessed damage and began the recovery process.

Amid the flurry of activities and the prevailing edginess evident among many I encountered immediately after Irene, I was struck by the clematis at the front corner of our garage.  Outside through the entire hurricane, this plant had withstood the battering rains and wind.  Even though several limbs appeared bent, not a single one had been broken.  Many of its white blossoms remained intact.  Only a few even appeared bruised.

What made this plant different than many of the pines and oaks I saw in our neighborhood?  How had this vine withstood the storm?  Was it because of the trellis on which it was so intertwined?  Did the brick face of the garage provide
shelter from the winds and rain?  Was it because the tender plant did not resist the painful onslaught of the elements, merely yielding its limbs and flora to be tossed about?

While I fail to understand why, I know we all go through storms.  If – when– you are bruised and bent, there are clinicians at CareNet Counseling East available to offer support; they are trained and prepared to provide counsel, to listen and extend faith-integrated care to help you withstand the storms of life.

Blessings to you and yours!
– Janie Jones Taylor, PhD, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Clinical Supervisor