This Thanksgiving holiday was not what I expected. Our family had planned to go to my husband’s side of the family for the big dinner, and my side of the family for dessert. But my son had major problems with his braces and wasn’t in the mood to be with people. We couldn’t reach the orthodontist, so I stayed home with him for dinner, and my hubby came home so I could go have dessert with my folks.

 

Thanksgiving Was Very Quiet This Year

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Honestly, it was a good day despite the stress and worry, and it was not a great sacrifice to stay with my son. Any other parent would do the same for their child. But as I let go of what I expected Thanksgiving to look like, and instead embraced what it needed to look like for the good of my family, I learned some pretty cool things.

 

It’s About Your Heart

 

I always looked forward to Thanksgiving as a kid. It was one of only a few times a year that my mom made her famous ambrosia fruit salad with the coconut shavings. That is my all-time favorite food. So obviously Thanksgiving was all about eating.

 

I would look forward to the meal for days, and stuff myself till I couldn’t move. Then the whole family would fall into a food coma, watch movies, and revive in time to eat pie. In spite of all my parents’ efforts to make Thanksgiving more meaningful, that is how it always looked during my childhood.

 

As an adult, Thanksgiving has changed. It isn’t so great anymore because now I am preparing the food and it is a lot of work! But this Thanksgiving I didn’t cook much. My sister-in-law hosted, so I simply sent some food with my husband and he delivered it with a smile. They may have stuffed their bellies and enjoyed a food coma, but I ate a normal dinner—no turkey—and made soft food for my son. He wasn’t very comfortable because of the problem with his braces, so after dinner he retreated into his mini man cave, and I watched Christmas movies. It was a low-key, quiet evening—and even though I missed seeing people, I liked the low-key part of it. And my waistline liked that I didn’t overeat.

 

I realized my heart was still in a thankful place. I was thankful that I had food my son could eat. I was thankful that even though he was uncomfortable, he was able to relax. The fact that I got to see family when my hubby came home to switch with me really helped too. I saw clearly that we are very blessed. And having a warm, grateful heart made all the difference.

 

Holidays Are What You Make Them

 

This year, Thanksgiving wasn’t the big deal we usually make it into. But the stress that accompanies big deal holidays wasn’t there, either. I loved that!

 

I recently watched a movie where everyone got super dressed up for Christmas dinner. In my family, even getting dressed for church on Sunday is like pulling teeth! My son wants to be comfortable all the time and he really hates dress shirts. They have too many buttons.

 

As I observed this onscreen family, the small detail of dressing up for a family meal at home just seemed ludicrous to me. That one extra step to make the meal more formal made me cringe. I had to ask myself if there are similar stressful traditions in our family that I have been blind to.

 

Have I gotten so stuck on making something extra special at the expense of my family’s needs? I don’t need to tell you that we will not be dressing up for Christmas dinner this year, but I will be making some changes to make Christmas more comfortable for everyone in the family—because focusing on the spirit of the season shouldn’t be forgotten in all the extra things.

 

The Reasons to Celebrate Don’t Leave

 

This last week, when we were having our quiet Thanksgiving, I had to remind myself that the reason we celebrate is still there. Just because things look different this year doesn’t mean that it’s not still a time for gratitude and giving.

 

Several years ago, I was going through a hard time. I was a freshman in college, and life had been particularly difficult that year. I went with my dad to get flowers but was too depressed to get out of the car.

 

I remember sitting there in the parking lot waiting for my dad. It was snowing lightly and there was a Santa standing nearby. I remember that he saw me in the car and walked over. He handed me a flower and said that my eyes were too sad for this joyful time of year. Then he promised that things would get better. It was such a moving gesture that I still get choked up when I think about it.

 

I doubt that Santa remembers me all these years later… But I will never forget his kindness. In that moment, I remembered that at Christmas we are celebrating more than time off and gifts. We are celebrating the coming of the Son of God. We are taking time to remember all that He sacrificed for us and what it means for our future. Because of Him, we will live again with God. It’s a gift we can never repay.

 

You Can Find Joy Even If Your Christmas Isn’t the Same

 

To read more of Abby’s articles, click here.

I love being a mom to a young child, especially at Christmas time. It’s all more magical through the eyes of a child. Sadly, I know that as time passes and my son becomes a moody teen, he won’t see Christmas the same way anymore.

 

But as I spent time with him this Thanksgiving, keeping my spirits up no matter what his were doing, I learned something: finding joy and reasons to be happy all comes from inside. Happiness is an inside job, so to speak. I can’t let the fact that the season looks different, or feels different, change the peace this time of year brings.

 

I hope your Christmas is warm and wonderful and full of those you love. But if yours is looking a little different this year, I hope that my experiences can help you through them. Know you are loved and remembered by more people than you can count. And may your Christmas season be full of the love and joy that only our all-knowing, and all-loving, Heavenly Father can bring.

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About Abby Christianson
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism yourself, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. And you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.

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