When my husband and I first started dating, holidays were incredibly stressful. Not only were we trying to figure out how to spend time with one another, we had obligations to spend time with both sides of our families, continuing the traditions that we’d grown up with for 17 years. There were Thanksgivings that had us at four different gatherings in two days, and Christmases that had us bouncing from house to house, checking visits off our lists without much time to actually enjoy the people we were with.
If I’m totally honest, I didn’t always want to be at some of those houses. And I wasn’t exactly disappointed when Madi was born and we had the chance to begin our own traditions – ones that felt slower, smaller, and easier.
Family gatherings are part of the holidays, and although the commercials tell us they should be the most wonderful part of this season, it’s often one of the most stressful. How do we balance what we want to be doing with what we feel pressured/obligated to do, and remain thankful? How do we teach our kids to be more thankful during a season where our attitudes and actions scream “stressed” not “blessed”?
When you all so honestly and thoughtfully shared what made it hard for you to remain grateful during the holidays, the list for “family” was by far the longest. Here are some of the struggles you shared:
- Dealing with ungrateful kids
- Planning the holidays to fit everyone’s schedule
- Wanting to create your own traditions but extended family won’t listen
- First holiday away from family, not sure what to do
- Family that forces you into a schedule you don’t want and won’t hear “no”
- How to bless kids without feeding into entitlement
- How to spend time with everyone without burning out
- Prodigal family members
- Being thankful for the family we have, not the family we want
- Simple decorating
- Living in our Christ-given identity around family
- Being the one who has to do it all, without any gratitude in return
So how to do we have a holy hustle holiday when we’re facing all of that? One of my favorite verses in Romans came to mind as I was reading all of the emails I received: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10). Or, in the Message version: “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”
If ever there is a challenging time to try to outdo one another in honor and practice playing second fiddle, it’s the holidays. We have great expectations in our heads about how our children will respond at the family dinner, their reactions when they open gifts, how our relatives will react to the food we prepare or the sacrifice we’ve made to be together. And when our holidays don’t look like a Hallmark movie and we find ourselves feeling disappointed, lonely, and on edge, it’s hard to be grateful for the things God has placed in our lives.
What if this year we removed all the expectations we’ve placed on others and simply chose to practice loving deeply? What if instead of being stressed about the agenda WE want to have, we ask God to show us how to see Him in the events and activities we attend, to sooth the rough edges of past conflict, to bring peace in the loneliness, and calm to the chaos?
- Spend some time in prayer taking all your holiday family worries and concerns to God. Ask Him to give you the strength to show honor, the courage to show gratitude, and eyes to see those in your life the way He sees them.
- Write down everything you feel like you MUST do this holiday season, and then prioritize. What do you actually have to do? What things are simply extra expectations you feel like you should do? Consider how you can simplify a bit this season.