The Freedom of Flexible Traditions

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My mom is the original Martha Stewart. She has a great eye and palate, crafting lambs out of butter for a Spring table and stuffing huge globe vases with tulips overflowing and spilling out onto a precisely pressed linen tablecloth. I once overheard a guest in our home telling her daughter, “Pay attention to what Mrs. Hopper does. Her gatherings are just wonderful.”

 They really are. But what makes my mom’s mad entertaining skills so appealing is her ability to remain flexible, adding or subtracting guests according to their needs and scrapping traditions that feel more like a burden than a blessing.

Traditions can be a wonderful thing. In fact, there are many resources around for helping you start some of your own, but what I love about the traditions in our home growing up is that they remained in flux; they grew or shrunk with the reality of our home life and the needs of our family.

So when my mom created a gorgeous sit-down Christmas meal the year my oldest brother brought two kiddos under two years old to the table, she laughed about their inability to sit with us and dine. You know how it goes with a two-year-old — down from the table in 3.7 minutes. Next Christmas she created a casual buffet that allowed us all the freedom to pop in and out of the room to nurse a baby and put the toddler down for a nap.

Traditions become a burden when they cannot morph and change with a growing family. If baking your homemade cinnamon rolls with the dreamy cream cheese frosting for Christmas morning seems daunting this year because of morning sickness, a dying relative, a shocking life change, or for any other reason, then a can of ready-to-bake rolls will not be the death of your family life. Neither will buying them from the mall, popping them in the freezer, and warming them up after the gifts are opened.

Loving our families well often means learning to let go of our grip. Traditions that cause unnecessary stress or conflict amongst family members serve one thing: the tradition itself. And what good is that?

This year our family has swelled by one college-aged “big sister” who has been living with us, bringing our family total to 11. Add in-laws next door, family coming in from the Bay Area, plus a musician friend from Nashville, a lot of traveling and speaking this spring, and I’ve got a major recipe for overwhelmed.

Despite whatever the Easter traditions have been in the past around here, I had to choose to major on the most important one of all — Jesus. We talked about Him, read about Him, quietly pondered His gift and mercy during a Good Friday service, and then rejoiced with abandon on Sunday. All the other details were periphery. Whatever I used to make for Easter brunch doesn’t matter. This year, it was a picnic in our sunny California backyard where everyone’s happy to pitch in, making the menu even more doable.

The tradition of gathering and celebrating remains firmly in tact, but there is freedom in the details. Your joy and ease will be treasured for years by children who understood that your relationships always trumped the china and the table setting. 

In this season where God has reminded us with every new blossom and leaf that he makes all things new, how can we renew the heart of some of our traditions to fit the current needs of our families?

What did you learn from your celebration this Easter?

Blessings,

Kendra

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Children do not accidentally become righteous leaders or emotionally healthy and productive adults – any more than seeds thrown randomly to the wind grow to be part of a thriving garden. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouraging and correcting and teaching. Sally

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Comments

  1. says

    Right on and so well said! I’ve been learning the same thing in the last year. As for Easter, well, I forgot about the Resurrection Eggs until Maundy Thursday and we were going to be away Friday and Saturday. So that’s the day we opened all of them except the last empty one, which we saved for Sunday. The kids did not mind one bit, so I enjoyed the freedom of opening all the eggs at once too. :)

    • says

      Heather, isn’t that great? My experience has also been that the kids never notice “less-than-perfect”. My brain injured little 5yo opened all of the windows on the Easter countdown thingie we have so the rest of us just rolled with it. Aren’t those imperfections what Jesus came to die for anyway?

      ~Kendra

  2. Alicia says

    Kendra, as soon as I read the title of this post, I thought, now that’s what I need a little grace! So when I popped over and saw it was you I had to smile, because well…grace!! This was very timely & freeing. We are expecting baby 5 in weeks & I’ve been feeling the freedom to let some things just go. Your post went along with the whisperings of the Lord to my spirit lately about celebrating the real deal eternity lasting things of life & releasing other “expectations.” With 2 kid birthdays + 1 daddy birthday upcoming before The Birth day (: I could fall into overwhelmedness (not a word!) very easily. But I choose to love my people. Just love them. And celebrate the gift of their lives truly. Thank you Kendra.
    Blessings. Grace wins again, eh? (:
    Alicia from Tennessee

  3. says

    this was such a joy to read. I have been pushed into traditions for as long as I am alive. This gave me a blessing that I can’t put into words. I do believe traditions are important but I also would like to make some of my own with my family. I didn’t grow up in a close, loving, godly family. In society’s eyes today I would be considered neglected. I am not close to my mom. So starting my own traditions seem all more the better. I want my kids to want to come back after they grow up and leave the nest. I don’t want them to feel like me and feel it is more of a chore to return home. I try and tell my kids I love them as much as I can. It is so weird for me to say it considering I really never heard it that often growing up. So I make a point to say it every night before they go to bed and when they go to school. We just had Easter and my kids love hunts. Even my bigger kids. My oldest is 17. She enjoyed helping her siblings find their eggs. But it was such a joyous occasion to see them open their eggs and see what was inside. We haven’t done it in a few years due to my dad being sick and then he past. That was a horrific time of grief for me. During that time I realized how short and precious time together really is and want to make this life a great memory for my kids. My husband didn’t grow up in a great environment either. so we are learning along the way. Thanks you for this blog today. It meant a lot to me and my heart.

    • says

      Amy, I’m so glad you shared that. I know many moms feel as you do, and the pressure we put on ourselves! You are free indeed. Celebrate however it’s right for your family!

      ~Kendra

  4. Robin says

    Thank you for your encouragement! A previous pastor used to say, “blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape”!

  5. Michelle Clinton says

    What did I learn this Easter concerning traditions. That is really what they are…traditions. I bought the egg dye this year and thought how much fun we would have dying eggs together ( a tradition from my childhood). My youngest son had the “Do we have to attitude.” This has not been a tradition in our home. He was more excited about hunting the plastic eggs filled with candy. (A tradition started by a friend of our family for us.) :)

    We had guest for five days leading up to Easter weekend. All our our traditions that follow Jesus through the Holy week went by the way side. :( Friday & Sat we did it all in one swoop. The kids loved it. We had good conversations and turned our hearts toward forgiveness & freedom. On Sunday morning I did decorate & we did release balloons to remind us of Jesus rising from the dead. But there were a lot of “little” traditions left out. It was OK. “Martha, Martha…only One thing is necessary.” Thanks for this encouraging post.

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