As the holidays approach, there may be some among us who begin to panic a little. In many ways, the holiday season is a mom’s super bowl. There is work to be done, and there are memories to be made, and traditions to maintain, and we will all have fun doing it whether we like it or not!
So often when the season comes to a close and the Halloween jack-o-lanterns have long since rotted, and the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie has been eaten, and the Christmas gifts have been opened, and the New Years Eve champagne glasses have all been washed and put back in the cupboard, we may look around and feel a little breathless and defeated. Did we do it right? DId we do enough? Did we do too much? Does our family even still like each other? Do we feel like we have a lot of grumbling, and bad attitudes, and short-temperedness to ask forgiveness for?
I think this is not uncommon. But with a little pre-gamming, we can create a holiday season that brings Joy and Delight to our loved ones, ourselves, and our Father in Heaven.
The best way to do this is through a little organization. Think ahead. Start by asking the very simple yet important question: Who am I trying to please, anyway? And the first answer to that is of course, the Lord. All we have to do is read the story of Mary and Martha to realize that a holiday season full of preparation and activity, and no time spent at Jesus’ feet is not the way to go.
Be deliberate about what you want to accomplish or experience this holiday season. Is there a specific devotional you want to go through with your kids. Get it now. Does your family have some traditions that you loved growing up and you want to incorporate into your family? Plan ahead and get the needed supplies.
Ask your husband if he has any traditions that he would like to incorporate. He may say no, but investigate a little. Does he remember a book his mom used to read him around the holidays? A special dessert? A movie or TV show the family used to all watch together? Try to bless your husband by incorporating something from his childhood into your holiday planning.
Ask you children. This is something we often forget. We get so busy trying to create the most wonderful time of year for our children that we forget to ask them what they find wonderful. And again, you may have to do a little digging. A three year old is going to have a hard time telling you what makes them feel loved at Thanksgiving. But if you ask enough questions you may realize that the thing that is going to bless that little toddler is a few minutes on your lap watching the Dog show after dinner! Just because your 10 year old lists off 8 things that he must have for Christmas dinner does not mean you need to make them of course, but study your people.
Find out what blesses each of them specifically. You might be surprised to find out that the whole afternoon of cookie baking and decorating that leaves you with a giant mess to clean and sprinkles covering every inch of your house is really no one’s favorite activity. It might just be running to the donut shop in your christmas pjs and coming home to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. No cookie sprinkles needed!
Another way to be deliberate in blessing your people, especially your husband over the holiday season is to have a frank discussion about finances. Agree to spending parameters and stick to it. It took me way too many years to figure out creating the perfect holiday by overspending, does not actually create a perfect holiday for my husband.
In the process of organizing our homes and finances for the holidays we might forget another important area that needs to be sorted through and that’s our emotions and expectations. Unless we sit down for a minute and sort through them and think on them, we might not realize that we have some pretty unrealistic expectations. Just because it’s the holiday season does not mean suddenly we are all free of sin. Self-centeredness does not just disappear because we’re supposed to be celebrating a day based on Thankfulness. Thoughts must still be taken captive. Attitudes must still be checked. Temper-tantrums must still be handled.
I recently heard a speaker speaking on the expectation of reciprocity specifically during the holidays. How easy it is to fall into the attitude of, ‘Why do I have to do all this extra work?’ And her response was eye-opening. We are not just serving our family, when we serve our family we are serving God.
Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for man, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Blessing is not a circle. I don’t bless my husband so he will turn around and bless me. I don’t bless my children so they will turn around and bless me. I bless my family so they can, in turn, go out and bless others. All the effort and work I did to bless my little children is coming back to me now, by watching my adult children pour it into their children. Blessing does not go in a circle it goes through. It starts with Christ, goes through us to our people, so they can spread it out to their people.
After you have organized your plans and your finances and sorted through your thoughts and expectations, now you have the opportunity to make a choice. You can choose to grumble through the holidays, because let’s be honest, it’s not hard to find things to grumble about. We humans are really good at that. But we can make the choice to be joyfull.
We can deliberately, intentionally choose joy. We can decide to laugh when, during the special hot chocolate night we planned, someone spilled chocolate on the floor. We can choose to put on the Christmas music and sing along while we do the millions of Christmas dishes. We can smile and hold the door for the grumpy shoppers on Black Friday. We laugh as we re-decorate the tree that fell over because the cat tried to climb it. Even if all our plans to make this a special holiday for our family fall flat, we can still make it a memorable holiday because we laughed and enjoyed it despite the circumstances.
This is how you create family culture. You create something that your family wants to join into. Who wants to join a crabby, complaining mom in the kitchen? But who is interested in joining a silly mom belting out Miarah Cary’s All I Want For Christmas Is You? Actually, nevermind that one. That would make my family leave the house. My point is, we as the moms are the culture builders of our homes. When we have joy in the Lord and all his many gifts, it is contagious.
I want to end by saying, pray about this. Talk to your husband about this. We all have our individual sin struggles. If you struggle with feeling like you can never do enough and you stress yourself out every year trying to do it all, then maybe this year you need to dial it down. Rest. Enjoy your children and your husband and the wonderful blessing God has given you and eat off of paper plates! Buy pre made cookie dough. It’s okay!
Or maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum and maybe you struggle with apathy or lazyness and you think why go through all this hoopla, they won’t remember anyway. Maybe this year step it up a notch. Think of what little extra things you could do to bless your people. Get out the good dishes! Make the cookies with the kids out of real, fresh ingredients. This is between you and God. Ask Him to help you know if you need to dial it down, or turn it up. And then go forth and do likewise!
Finally, I want to leave you with this Exhortation that Paul gave to the Phillipians, which I think is perfect as we go into the holiday season.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:4-8