Note: this is a repost from last year. It’s hard to look at this picture, but as I read it over, it strikes me that in this season of loss, these questions may be more important than ever for us. Maybe for you too.
It’s three days before Thanksgiving and Christmas is just a ho-ho-ho away. For most of us that means more family interaction during a season when we’re often physically, emotionally, and spiritually stretched thin.
As I look back on our early days of marriage, there are things we could have done to set ourselves up better for success. We could have used a plan!
Yesterday I shared the following with a young married couples community I shepherd at our church, but these guidelines for a holiday plan apply whether you’re married or single…
1. Talk ahead about expectations.
Ask: What’s ONE thing you are most looking forward to and ONE thing you fear (or dread)? If you’re married talk about these with each other and then make sure to find a way to communicate with family members you will be spending time with. Same thing goes if you’re single, but in either case, make sure you ask others about their hopes too. Just knowing ahead of time what others are thinking helps you to adjust your own expectations.
2. Acknowledge and make allowances for different wiring.
This was the text from my pastor husband this morning: People are so over-rated. I don’t see why Jesus likes them so much…they keep wanting to talk! 🙂
The holidays mean throwing together introverts like John who get energy from alone time, with crazy game-loving extroverts like my relatives.
Early in our marriage when 25 of us were crammed together at my parents’ cabin for Thanksgiving we’d look around and John would have disappeared. We’d find him huddled in a dark corner of a bedroom reading a book. At first that felt unacceptable! Rude and crazy! Why would anyone not want to spend every festive minute together with my wonderful family, playing Monopoly (loudly) and putting on talent shows??
Ask: Who in our family needs space and alone time?
3. Be aware of what joys and sorrows, and hot-button issues family members are bringing to the table.
Are there people in your family struggling with infertility and others who are newly pregnant? Someone celebrating a new job and another dealing with loss? Are there ways to be sensitive and honest about the elephants in the room – rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and mourning with those who are mourning?
Are there issues where our family has differences? In my family, thankfully we’re on the same page on most of the hot topics like religion and sports 🙂 , but we have differed some in our parenting styles. We need to be aware of communicating mutual respect and support and reserving judgment in this area.
Ask: What are the topics that might lead to tension or pain?
4. Consider what needs to be reconciled or reframed.
Unfortunately, for many families, the holidays are the only time during the year when everyone is in one place. This can lead to misunderstandings that can fester with lack of proximity. Someone says something or does something that hurts our feelings and because time is short we withdraw and let the wound deepen during the year.
Ask: Are there any relationships in my family where I need to ask forgiveness, or do I need to talk about hard things in order to reconcile?
This might mean setting up time to go out for coffee to have that “crucial conversation.”
Ask: Or, are there ways I need to protect myself from toxic relationships that are abusive or bring out the worst in me?
This might mean reframing your view of a relationship, or limiting your time together.
Really, each of these questions is just a way to ask “How can we love each other well this holiday season?”
Does one of these four suggestions or five questions resonate with you?
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.