May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
If you’re anything like me, your family is far less than perfect. There have been times when I’ve had experiences through the holidays that left me with a negative impression of them altogether. I bided my time until they were over and felt like I barely survived once January came around. Fortunately, things have gotten much better for me, but perhaps you’re still in a time where this season is anything but jolly and you simply can’t wait for it to be over.
It’s very easy to get stressed out by expectations of the perfect holiday dinner or dodging angry shopping crowds so you can get all of the Christmas gifts on your list. (I’ve almost been run over in the parking lot of the mall by someone who was that anxious to get a parking spot a few weeks into December. Don’t be that person.) Whether you’re feeling pressured to make Christmas the best day ever or you’re dreading seeing that critical aunt who always asks why you don’t have a boyfriend, there are some ways to deal with this time of year without hiding under a rock and waiting until it’s over.
Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful. (Proverbs 16:20)
Have realistic expectations. If you understand that some family members are bound to bring up arguments as soon as someone is done praying over the food, don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the negativity. You could be thinking, Just this once, can we have a peaceful meal?! However, if you know it’s coming, pray for peace over your household, but brace yourself for the explosion. When you understand that you have control over how you react, you won’t feel as helpless or frustrated when it happens. This too shall pass.
Come up with bonding activities. I’ve seen firsthand a room full of men watching sports while the women busy themselves in the kitchen. Once it’s time to eat, family members begin to gossip about anyone not in the room or pass disapproving glances at that cousin they’ve fallen out with. In order to cultivate unity, you can search online for fun icebreakers and games that bring a lighter mood to the room and lead to laughter. Sometimes people don’t get along because they’re bored and there’s really nothing to do besides eat and have small talk. If they’re distracted, it could help them to remember what a great sense of humor someone has or what common interests they share.
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7)
Offer to start a new tradition. Sometimes families have been doing the same thing for 20 years and—even though they don’t like to—they keep going forward with it because it’s a tradition. If your family is always stressed out when it’s time to go to the forest and chop down a fresh tree, discuss with them if they’ve thought of doing something new. Maybe a fake tree and less pressure to buy the load of presents you usually get would be more fun and less expensive for everyone. As a new tradition, you could all write a nice letter to each member of the family detailing how grateful you are for them and how they’ve impacted your year in a positive way.
Find a way to bring the family together in times of recent grieving. I understand it’s devastating when you’re coming up on your first holiday without a loved one. This can bring out the worst feelings at a time when you see the world celebrating. Pray about how you can bring hope and joy to this occasion despite the inevitable sadness that will come with it. You can set aside a certain time where everyone expresses their grief and pulls together instead of avoiding your feelings or allowing the entire day to be consumed in despair. If you all know you’re on the same page, it’s less isolating and easier to let The Lord give you hope during this time.
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. (Psalm 30:11)
I hope this helped put you at ease as the world around you may be in a whirlwind of to-do lists and holiday party invites may start to roll out. I’d love to hear of any fun traditions you grew up with or how you deal with your less-than-perfect family this time of year. Share in the comments section below.