Love, Joy and Peace

 

holly-3852379_640

It’s Christmas. The season of twinkling lights, festive food, Carols by Candlelight and happy families. We’ve cleaned the house, decorated the tree, wrapped gifts for a never-ending list of family and friends, and slaved in the kitchen. Christmas is that magical time of the year when families get together to celebrate love, joy and peace.

And then I see headlines about

  • dreading Christmas
  • how to survive Christmas Day
  • the lonely who have no place to go

Dread, survival and loneliness doesn’t sound much like the Christmas spirit. It fills me with sadness and makes me wonder what we have done to Christmas that it is no longer a time to look forward to with excitement, longing and hope. How has love, joy and peace become fear, stress and isolation?

Family life is messy. The people who are closest to us and love us the most, are also the people who remember our every indiscretion, carry a multiple of grudges and know how to push our buttons. Well intentioned concern often comes out as criticism and judgement. Much as we love our families, sometimes we can also dread spending extended time with them.

family-2611748_640

Love is supposed to be at the heart of the family, but we all know that love and family life are hard work. My Macquarie Dictionary defines love as ” a strong or passionate affection for another person.” Affection? I don’t know about you, but the word affection seems a bit weak to me. I would describe love as one of the most powerful forces in the world. It is also one of the most demanding. Ask any parent.

Love is hard work at the best of times. It is even harder when we are tired and stressed. I wonder sometimes, if we make Christmas harder for ourselves than we need to. In our pursuit of the perfect gift, the perfect tree, the perfect roast turkey, the perfect Christmas, are we burdening ourselves with unnecessary expectations that end up making us tired and stressed long before the family even arrives. Are we forgetting the whole reason we get together in the first place – to celebrate the joy, love and peace of Christmas.

For some of my friends and family, Christmas will be hard this year. It will be their first Christmas without a loved one. It will be sad, but together they will laugh and cry, love and grieve. For them, Christmas will be about being – being together, being happy, being sad, being present in their love and grief.

dog-1115700_640

For us, Christmas this year will just be the four of us. The rest of my family will not be getting together – at least, not physically. It is always a challenge for my family to be together in the same place, at the same time. We are scattered across Australia, from Perth in the West, Adelaide in the South, the Central Coast in the East, to Toowoomba in QLD. Even though we might exchange gifts via the postal service and celebrate our joy over the phone,  we will still be together in heart and mind, for not even space and time can separate us from the love of our family.

Every family is different. Some families will be grieving. Some families will be far apart. Some families have special needs. There is no one way to celebrate Christmas. Every family needs to be free to find the way that works for them, to find the way that restores love, joy and peace to the Christmas celebration. If you are a family with special needs, or even if you are not, Kirsty from Positive Special Needs Parenting has some excellent suggestions about how to make the Christmas celebration right for your family. You can read it here.

In the busyness and stress of the coming celebration, I hope you find some time to be present and to experience the love, joy and peace of the Christmas Season.

Wishing you a Joyful Christmas

christmas-2869817_640

 

Advertisements

Miss You Too, Buddy

southbank-brisbane-1723365_640

Lately I have had to spend a lot of time in Brisbane. It’s not easy for country kids to move to the city to attend university. The city is a noisy, crowded, busy place. It is an unfamiliar place, teeming with strangers and unfamiliar sounds, smells and routines. Bec is a quiet kind of kid. She loves reading, music and needs to have her own space. So transitioning to university and city life has been challenging. Sometimes it just helps to have Mum around for a while.

Brisbane is not that far from Toowoomba, only about 125 km, so when we went down for Orientation week, Dan came too. It was just going to be a few days and we were staying with family. Bec was going to be attending the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and there were things that Dan and I could do at South Bank while she was at orientation sessions.

I love South Bank. It is the cultural centre of Brisbane, housing art galleries, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC),  the Conservatorium of Music and the Queensland Museum. It’s a well-planned area, perfect for families, with wide grassy areas, eating places and walking paths that follow the Brisbane River. The South Bank Grand Arbour runs through the centre, providing a bougainvillea covered walkway from the Griffith Film School at one end, down to QPAC at the other.

South Bank Arbor

We thought it would be a good to take Dan to the Science Centre at the Queensland Museum. We had been there before, when Dan and Bec were much younger and it had lots of fun hands-on science things to do.  Unfortunately, the Science centre was closed for renovations. So we tried to take a wander around the art gallery, but it’s hard to look at things properly when Dan just wants to go full steam ahead. I would have liked to go on the Wheel of Brisbane, a 60 metre tall Ferris wheel that gives a 360° view of the city, but Dan doesn’t like Ferris wheels either – the height and motion upset his sense of balance.

The Wheel of Brisbane

But Dan does love to walk. One day we crossed from one side of the Brisbane River to the over on the Goodwill pedestrian bridge. Dan doesn’t like heights so we were walking pretty close to the middle of the bridge and had to keep an eye out for cyclists. There was no chance at all of getting close to the side to check out the view. But he was happy enough to cross over- singing all the way. I don’t know if anybody else gets serenaded while walking over a bridge.

Dan enjoyed the time in Brisbane but it was hard work. He loved riding on the train. And he loved staying with family. But keeping him safe in busy public spaces is hard work and he gets bored. He needs his regular routine of attending Yellow Bridge, spending time with his mates and doing all the regular activities he enjoys. Fortunately, my Mum was able to come up from Adelaide to help out for a few weeks. She was able to stay with Dan in Toowoomba, while I spent time with Bec in Brisbane.

Now, I’ve been away from Dan for an occasional weekend and he has been away on school camps. But during these last few weeks, I’ve had to spend more time away from him than I ever have before. I know that he’s being well cared for and he loves time with Grandma. But it’s not the same. He looks for me.

Last week, when Dan came home from Yellow Bridge at the end of the day, he looked through every room. He looked outside. And when Dan couldn’t find me anywhere, he went to Grandma, rubbed his eyes and said, “sad”.

I miss you too, Buddy.  Be home soon.    cute-elephants-2757831_640