Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: Here we are close to the holidays and I’m always concerned about our family getting together because a couple of men drink too much. It’s our turn to be hosts this year and my wife wants it to be non-alcoholic and I think this will keep many family members away. In situations like this when alcohol is served, you just can’t say to guests, “You only get two drinks.”

This isn’t a major argument with her but, at several previous family gatherings, conversations became heated over politics. I blame too much alcohol. We’re both on the fence about this. Do you have any suggestions?

~ Thanksgiving Hosts



Dear Thanksgiving Hosts,

This is a dilemma that many families face this time of year unfortunately. Holidays, families, booze, arguing, politics. A toxic mix! If you have a non-alcoholic party and the family members you think won’t come are the ones you don’t care about anyway, then go ahead and don’t serve alcohol. However, if you want them all to come, you might serve a festive alcoholic punch with less alcohol than the recipe calls for and keep the hard liquor and wine locked away. Try a small holiday themed plastic cup. You might also send an email invitation that states that politics are out of bounds this year.

Happy holidays and good luck.

Carolyn Young, LCSW




Dear Thanksgiving Hosts,

Family get-togethers can be challenging – our hope is that the peace and goodwill of the season would override any inherent conflicts in political disposition or any history of agitation in family members. From your letter, it sounds like the challenge is made more complicated by the inclusion of alcohol.

My question for you to consider: Would you rather have family members present and behaving badly or not have them present at all? Either option is not ideal, so you must decide which of two unfortunate experiences you will embrace.

You might also consider a candid conversation with the offenders. Explain your conundrum: Our family would like you here but you misbehave when alcohol is added. Will they pledge to limit their consumption? Will they abstain for the sake of peace? If they are unwilling (or untrustworthy) to keep their pledge then perhaps the natural consequences of missing out will help them gain the wisdom they need.

My hope is that wise adults will establish and clearly communicate baseline commitments: no arguments, no over-drinking and no tolerance for those who fail to behave responsibly. As hosts, you have every right to welcome people (or ask them to leave).

Who among the guests will support you? Find an advocate who feels the same way and ask for their help.

My hope is that the spirit of gratitude and generosity will outlast any problematic behaviors so that your family can celebrate what keeps you together rather than what keeps you apart. 

May the blessings of the season be upon you and those you love!

Pastor Kyle Sears




QUESTION: Our only son, “John,” and his family are moving several hundred miles away because he has a great job offer that is a game-changer for the family. We’re happy for him but, at the same time, we’re sad about not seeing him, his wife and our three beautiful grandchildren on weekends as we have for the past several years.

We’re both retired. We’ve thought of selling our home of 40 years and move where they are moving but friends are telling us not to. We are very active in the community and have many, many friends. One friend told us of a person moving where her son was and then his job took him to another state.

The question is: Should we stay put or move? John has told us the decision is ours but he would welcome having us close to his family.

~ Can’t Decide



Dear Can’t Decide,

First of all, I want to tell you that you are both so blessed! You not only have a wonderfully happy and successful son, and his wife and children, but also a community of longtime friends who love you and are concerned for your welfare. How could anyone give a better testimony of well-lived lives?

You have had a comfortable status quo for a very long time but now the Universe has thrown you a curve ball. Your son and his family will no longer be with you every other weekend. And if you do not follow them to their new destination you will not be there to see your grandchildren grow up. But what about your friends who tell you that it is a bad idea to sell your house and move on to an unexplored new life? They say they know people who have done that, and it will not work out.

And they may be right. However, what if there was a way to test the waters before making a permanent commitment to the move? Have you thought about visiting your son and his family every two months for two or three weeks at a time without selling your house? I, personally, would never move to a new area without first checking it out. Perhaps your intention could be to see your grandchildren as often as possible for the next year without making the giant commitment to sell your home. In this way, you are testing the waters and discovering what feels right for you – not simply relying on the experience of other people.

I feel moved to share with you a story from my childhood. My family drove across America in 1966 because my dad wanted to be a TV writer. He was already a successful jazz musician in New York but he wanted to be a success in Hollywood as well. The station wagon was jam-packed and off we went … mom and dad, three kids, and two dogs. My two sets of grandparents were left behind – one set in New Jersey and the other set in Minnesota. I tell you honestly that the difference between my success and failure in life was the fact that my Mitchell grandparents refused to live life without participating in the lives of their grandchildren. Their love and support were the only thing that kept all of us fed, educated and spiritually connected.

My mother’s parents, however, decided to stay where they were and we were never close.

In the end, you need to ask yourselves how important it is to be a significant force in the lives of your grandchildren, your son, and his wife. What is your legacy? Where do you find your joy? What is your responsibility in the scope of their lives? One thing I know is that if you look within, love will always lead you to the answer.

Rev. Karen Mitchell




Dear Can’t Decide,

I don’t blame you for not being able to decide. The pull to be near the grandkids can be overwhelming so I’m told. But what a major upheaval! And what a risk! Do you really feel like starting all over? Have you thought about how dependent you’d be on your son and his family socially? How isolated at first? You’d be starting over with geography, a new space and place, church, driving, restaurants, associations, doctors and finding new friends, maybe even a new climate, too. Employment can be such a fickle thing. It’s several hundred miles away you say? Hmmm.

From what you’ve written, it sounds like John and family haven’t moved yet. It’s nice he wants you near him. Have you considered the added stress that comes to him with your move to be near him? This new job better work out or else! My advice would be this: For a while, at least until things calm down and all the moving dust settles, why not let grandma and grandpa’s house be a beloved and exciting destination? Somewhere over the river and through the woods! It’s always fun to go there! Everybody looks forward to it! Not so much if you see them multiple times per week. And you would indeed see them multiple times per week since you’ve said goodbye to all the other things you used to do back home that kept you so active.

This reminds me; would it be a good idea for your daughter-in-law’s parents to also move near her so they could spend more time with her and your son and your grandkids?   

And you know what? Sometimes your kids move back into town! I did. It’s not unheard of. And since you don’t know all the variables of this new job for your son (who could?), it seems wise to me to wait and see before making any big moves. There are lots to enjoy here in this life you’ve made for yourselves. You’ve been good parents for a long time. But you are more than parents. You’ve made a life for yourselves, here, for over 40 years. Who knows where John will go and for how long? John knows the way back home. Why not be there waiting for him?

Rev. Jon T. Karn