It's so hard to not have expectations for the picture-perfect Christmas! We see the Hallmark movies, magazine spreads, Pinterest ideas, and see what other families are doing on Facebook...and we may be setting ourselves up for failure if we're expecting all of that and more! May I make some suggestions and point out some potential hazards to rid you of unrealistic expectations?
- When you get lots of people together who have different personalities, varied family traditions, and their own expectations, there may be conflict. In fact, expect it. This doesn't mean that there has to be an explosion...it just means you need to be prepared to GRACE one another! In fact, purpose in your heart ahead of time to grace, laugh with, and love those knuckleheads you love most in the world.
- When each of our children got married, we gave them the gift to be where they wanted for the holidays: "We bless you to be where you want for Christmas or any holiday. If you choose to come to our home, we'll be very excited. But if you want to create your own family traditions, we release you to do that. And if you need to be with other family, we totally understand. In fact, if no one comes home for Christmas, don't worry about us--we'll go on a cruise or something!" And they have. (You have to mean it when you say it!) There's not a better feeling than to be released to do what you want. And the less pressure your children feel, the more likely they are to come home for a visit. In fact, if you demand that your family come to your house, it's like you've put a stranglehold on them and your experience will be minimized. Give up any manipulation or control. Release them instead!!
- You may expect those you love to have listened all year long to the hints you've dropped and gotten you that perfect gift! What happens when they don't? It can ruin your Christmas experience. This is going to sound so simplistic, but...give your desires to God. One of my favorite birthdays was when I asked God to give me a birthday gift. I had absolutely no expectations from anyone else. And as I opened a gift from Andy (something I'd admired months before), God whispered to my heart, "Happy birthday, Becky!" God gave me a gift...and it was a thoughtful gift through my husband--who doesn't typically plan ahead. But I'd released him of any expectations beforehand which made it even more special.
- We may envision ourselves in the kitchen with all of our daughters cooking, cleaning, laughing, and having fun! The reality may be that their children make demands on them at that very moment. My advice is to keep things simple!! Don't create a lot of work for yourself or anyone else. My girls suggested sharing the cooking responsibilities a few years ago and it's made it so easy! And after one good meal of turkey, who doesn't want some pizza delivered??
- One of the best decisions we ever made was to never put any gifts on a credit card. I'm sure everyone is much more responsible than me, but it just wasn't fun paying for Christmas a month after we'd given the gifts--especially if some of those gifts were already broken. It's such a good feeling to not face debt after Christmas!
- Wouldn't it be amazing if we raised a generation of kids who had no expectations? It's fun to delight them and watch their eyes glow! And we need that...and they need to see us have the same heart as the Father Who gives good gifts. But I've had kids tell me this year that they really don't need or want anything. I think our culture is longing to learn how to give. Motivate your children to give. Do it as a family! Find a family with needs and help them. It will become a treasured family memory. I'm hopeful as I watch this generation!
- I've found myself trying to meet expectations no one has, have you? I've spent hours making candy no one eats. Or I've looked and looked for a special gift I think someone should want and it's tossed aside. I've invited a friend over for our celebration when my family would have preferred a simpler evening. I think the best advice I can offer here is: ASK! Don't assume.
- Don't feel like you have to have House Beautiful for your family get-together. In fact, I've found this to work best: Make a modest attempt at cleaning before everyone comes. Deep clean afterwards as you're putting up your decorations.
- Embrace the moments. Take time to soak up your children's or grandchildren's experiences. Don't be so busy or concerned with food or "stuff" that you miss it!
- Pray....and rest. Pray before everyone comes...and rest before they come. Find moments while they're all there to send up quick requests. If you're like me, you may need to escape a few minutes and just be with your own thoughts. (I never knew it had a name: stimulation overload!)
God wants to bless our families this Christmas. I'm praying each of you has your home filled with fun, laughter, love, and unity this year.
Merry Christmas from My House to Yours!