As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I realize that these holidays can be stressful when visiting others, and I would like to encourage you with a few ideas to make the best of your celebrations, especially family gatherings.
- Communicate ahead of time what each person expects during the visit. What will you be doing? Who will you visit? Who will stay where? Who is going to pay for what? Who is providing food, and what kind? Are there any special diets or restrictions on treats? Are there any guidelines about acceptable gifts or spending limits? "The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:21, 24
- Prepare for conflict about varying lifestyles. Some people may criticize your decisions on how you raise your children. Or, they may be open about their own lifestyle choices that you might not approve of. I have found that the best approach to this is to be confident and pleasant about how we live and what we believe, and not get into unnecessary conflicts about how other people live. Smile! If a conversation gets a little too heated, change the subject or quietly leave the room. "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:5-6
- Be aware of the "emotional baggage" that each person might bring into a situation. Our past relationships with those we are visiting can affect our present relationships of those we bring with us. Do you or your spouse revert to old patterns when you go "home" to your family of origin? Is this a good thing? Talk about this ahead of time -- sweetly, of course! "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19
- Discuss ahead of time how you will deal with your children's misbehavior. First of all, you can prevent much of this with proper rest, regular meals, and advance training. If you are visiting a house that is filled with people, you may need to come up with creative solutions for privately dealing with an unpleasant situation. "The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools." Ecclesiastes 9:17
- Remember that wherever you go and whoever you see, if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you must seek to honor him in whatever you do and say. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." 2 Corinthians 5:20.
- Be flexible if things don't work out as you have planned. Your children might get sick, your car might break down, you may get snowed in. God is still in control! How you respond to challenging situations will be a powerful example to your children, for better or for worse! "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:2-5