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.