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relationship practices for the holidays

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Holidays. Family. All the gatherings.

Do you love the holiday season? I certainly do. The glow of the Christmas tree before the sun comes up. The retelling over and over of the story of Jesus’ entrance into the world. The snacks, the traditions, the music, the Christmas Wreath candles, the smiles over gifts.

Over Thanksgiving week, my husband and I spent every minute with family, close and extended, those who live in our town and those who traveled by plane. We engaged in a lot of meals and stories and celebrating. Since then, these practices (hopes, rather) have been rattling around in my mind. Already, I’m seeing how transformative they can be. Maybe one can be life-giving for you as well.

Love people exactly as/where they are.

We are all on different paths, maturing at varying paces, and interested in a gazillion different topics. Give those around your table the space and freedom to be fully themselves. Truthfully, this is sometimes challenging for my helper-fixer (enneagram 2w1) tendencies, but it produces a much lighter and enjoyable atmosphere. God is sovereign, I am not. God is Redeemer, I am not. God changes hearts, I do not. God is Lord, I am not. Because He is everywhere, I don’t have to be. I believe He is enough, so I don’t have to be. This is the environment for real joy and love, supporting others in who they are. (I confess, this is where I find myself praying, Holy Spirit, help, every other hour. #truth)

Speak truthfully, but graciously.

It’s healthy and normal to disagree or admit an opposing thought, and in my recent encounters, the key is to speak as graciously as possible. I’ve also found it beneficial to be a little vulnerable before I share a disagreeing or concerning opinion. Not only sharing why you might disagree, but the path that led you there (not just facts, but stories), can ease the tension and give the other person an authentic glimpse into your perspective. J and I have been practicing the art of interjecting Jesus into a conversation. Most often, He comes up because that’s what we’re most often thinking about, but sometimes particular situations feel more intimidating or awkward. Hallelujah, we can ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage, and He helps us.

Ask intentional questions of (although not exclusive to) those on the fringe. 

And let them talk 90% of the time. You know who I’m talking about: the family member you only see once a year, or a quiet friend, or the person who seems super stressed. Presence is often one of the sweetest gifts, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or overdone. Sneakily help with the dishes and ask your aunt about their childhood Christmases. Practice making your grandma’s favorite dessert with your cousin and ask what they’re hoping for in 2019. I have a few standout question askers in my life and I always leave them feeling a little more known and loved.

Be faithful with what is in your control, and release what isn’t to God.

This, my friends, should probably be #1 for me. My husband and I have this running joke. When he makes a suggestion aloud he’s simply brainstorming to the room, and when I hear it I seal it in my mind with an expectation. Then when the situation doesn’t happen like I thought it would, I’m bummed. This month, among the ins and outs of holiday plans and gatherings, I not only want to share with God particular hopes, but ask for help to reflect Him in the moment, and release the pressure of the outcome.

Partner with the Lord and be generous.

Time, chores, a phone call, the purchase of a gift, cooking a meal, sweeping the kitchen, all these things can be an extension of God’s love to our family and friends. We can ask the Lord to guide us, to reveal someone’s heart to us, to be our joy and energy, to give us words to encourage someone. Look for Him in the embrace of a family member, in the laughter of a friend, or even in a delicious meal. Inhale God’s presence, exhale pleasing everyone. Breathe in deeply His goodness, and breathe out gratitude. Rest in Him as your All, and cheerfully give.


I always feel a little extra delighted to be a child of God at Christmastime. So if we can treat others in a way that introduces them into a deeper life with Him, I pray we will be faithful in it. It looks different for everyone. (And He promises to help us.)

Let’s love our people in a way that causes them to think about Jesus.

P.S. 2011 family photo to make you smile. 

A Letter To My Best Friend’s Newborn Son

Posted in relationships

Little man,

Even before I met you I loved you… because I love your mom. We met in 2nd grade. She got me. And I got her. We became best friends, hetero-life partners, and pretty inseparable from that year on. I’ve stood by her more times than I can remember, as we graduated from college, and on her wedding day.

I know a great deal about your mom: how she’s diligent with anything she sets her mind to; how she seizes the moment and enjoys it to the fullest; how she’s smart and cares deeply for those she loves. I’ve watched her grow as a woman, friend, wife, and daughter. I’ve cried with her, laughed with her, pondered life’s confusion with her. I know the moments that strung together as she fell in love with your dad, all the emotions she felt the morning she married him, and how excited they are about you entering their lives.

Almost 20 years from the day we created our secret handshake, here we are, and you’re here — one of their greatest adventures.

Your mom is, to put it plainly, the best. I am unashamedly biased, and I know someday you will be also. She is strong, beautiful, and brave.

I’m one of your “adopted aunts,” meaning alongside your parents I will pray for you, cheer you on, and do my best to always point you to Jesus.

Your mom will listen to you rant and ramble about Legos and firetrucks, then famous athletes and music, then your college major and who you choose to date.

She’ll make your favorite snacks, sing loud your favorite songs, and enjoy your favorite movies with you.

She’ll champion your strengths, and love you in your weaknesses. She will want what is best for you, and while it might seem annoying at the time, know that she does what she does because she believes in you.

She likes life to be organized and put together, but she’ll do her best not to be crazy about it. Be patient with her. You are her firstborn, and every day as you learn something new, she’s learning too.

She’ll spend hours re-reading you your favorite stories.

You will disagree with her, saying she doesn’t understand you, and y’all will argue, but try to remember she’s always in your corner. Do your best to love her back, even when you think she’s bonkers.

And in moments of frustration, I’ll remind you that she genuinely does know what she’s talking about when she gives advice about difficult teachers, making new friends, and how to treat girls you think are cute.

She’s not perfect, no one is, but she’ll spend her days joyfully teaching, loving, encouraging, and counseling you.

But you should know, you’ve come into a pretty amazing family. Your dad is smart and fun and loves your mom well. You’ll grow up surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles who will play with and support you.

Together, your mom and dad will teach you how to grow and love in this world. Listen to them, respect them, trust them. And give them as much grace as you can muster when they make mistakes, because mistakes are a part of being human.

And even though we’re not close right now — you’re only a week old, and sadly I live 2 hours away — I know we will be. You can count on me too.

Your mom is special to me, I carry her in my heart. And now, I’ll carry you there also.