The holidays always make me think a little deeper than usual.  This has especially been true the past five years, throughout college and beyond, as I have experienced living away from home and being physically and emotionally distant from my family. I think I can speak for lots of people when I say that coming home for the holidays can bring up some emotions, whether good or bad, going home brings up stuff.

Growing up as a Robey I was a part of a larger group of people called the Lookers. My mom is the only girl in a family of four brothers. We came together at my grandma’s house for every single one of the grandkids birthdays (all 11 of them) and had huge blowouts for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We have our traditions of course, as all families do during the holidays. For Easter, from the time all us kids were little until just recently, we had a big egg hunt in the backyard. The eggs being filled with candy and such, with the occasional dollar bill in it. As we got older the bills got higher until one Easter the aunts and uncles put a $100 dollar bill in one of the eggs. It was a mad house. I didn’t find it 😦 For Thanksgiving we would all say what we were grateful for, pretty typical I would say, and then we would eat. And eat. And eat. The boys of the family would all go weigh themselves before and after the meal, each coming out from my grandma’s bathroom with stomachs pushed out and tough faces on, all wanting to be the heaviest. Then we would play Catch Phrase and eat dessert. For Christmas all of us grand kids had these stockings my grandma has made for each of us when we were born and all 11 of them hung in her living room and we would all tear into them. We would also do a white elephant gift exchange, a tradition that has become hilarious the past few years as the gifts have become more and more outrageous. Needless to say, my extended family’s traditions and holiday get-togethers have been memories all of us have held near throughout the years.

My grandpa owned an asphalt business most of his life. The business was passed down to my uncles when my grandpa died, and my mom also works for them. So do most of my cousins, my cousins friends, my uncle’s friends, and my brother. Our family was all about this business. It was their lives. Money has always been affluent in this family (the Robey side living a more simple life, which I have grown to appreciate, even though back then I was very jealous of the comfortable and spoiled lifestyle my girl cousins had). Money was always being discussed and debated. Money was very important to the Lookers. One day, about 4 or 5 years ago, we found out that one of my uncles had fired his brother, my other uncle, from the business. This was shocking. We were all broken hearted, devastated, angry, and confused. I can’t count the times I heard my grandma and mom say “Your grandpa must be rolling in his grave right now.” He would never have let this happen. My extended family was always close. My cousins grew up minutes away from each other, they all went to the same schools growing up, and many of them considered each other their best friends. But when this happened, all of a sudden people stopped talking to each other. Sister-in-laws wouldn’t be in the same room together, cousins got in physical and verbal fights almost monthly. It got to the point where some families would call ahead to my grandma’s house before visiting just to make sure there wasn’t a chance they were going to run into the ones they hated.

My extended family aren’t Christians, and while this has been a root cause for a lot of their greed, alcoholism, anger, and bitterness, it was never more evident than when nobody, absolutely NOBODY would forgive one another. My mom, a prayer warrior for her family for years, wept about this for so long. Well it’s been 4 or 5 years and it’s been a long, painful journey with thousands of “He said, she said” moments, gossip, run-ins with the enemy, formal sit down interventions from my mom to her brothers in the board room of the offices, physical violence, verbal abuse, and the deepest hurt our family ever thought was possible.

I set out to write this blog about the holidays. All of what I’ve written up until now is about to make sense. You see, everyone in this family has tried to be flexible, humble, and gracious when it came to attempting to keep things, like holiday family gatherings, as normal as possible. No one likes change. Especially the baby of the entire family (me) who has treasured her 24 years of beautiful family tradition. But it seems like everyone is just getting tired. Tired of the masks they’re forced to wear. Tired of trying to make others happy. Tired of the greed. And so it’s come to this. Thanksgiving is no longer a 7 hour day full of 40 people, board games. food, laughter, and love. It is now a 3 hour, maybe 10ish people event (the 10 people coming to my grandma’s house simply to make her happy) where people eat and run. Christmas will be non-existent this year. All 5 family’s will spend this holiday that is supposed to be about the love of our great God, grace, and giving….alone. It breaks my heart. I don’t want things to change. I want to storm up to my uncles fancy million dollar offices and put my finger in their faces and tell them to quit being so immature and greedy and to buck up and do the right thing, to forgive “those who have trespassed against them”, to think about what their father must be thinking, to look at the face of their mother and sister and try to feel a bit of the pain they must be feeling.

I am angry. But I refuse to be like them.

These holiday changes have forced me to think about what is really important about this season we celebrate each year. i want to remain thankful for the 24 years of great Looker/Robey family memories we’ve all shared. I want to remain optimistic, yet realistic about the future of our family. I want to make new traditions, with just my immediate family. I want to show my mom that the holiday’s can be just as full of love and merriment as ever before, even though she won’t be with her brothers and their families.

This season is about Jesus. That cold night in Bethlehem. Celebrating our King. Our Emmanuel. GOD WITH US. This shall be the song of my heart this holiday season.

I choose to love my family unconditionally, without expectation. I choose to make this Christmas one of life, not death of something we have been holding onto far too long. I choose Him.

I choose Emmanuel.