"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4 (ESV)
I loved holidays. Before marriage. Before the pull to be everywhere at the same time. Before most decisions left someone upset or angry or feeling left out.
As a newlywed, I struggled with a desire to be in my own home on holidays, to start my own traditions with my husband. We were the first to be married in both families, and thus the first to break "how it's always been."
Thanksgiving should have been a time to be thankful. All I felt was stretched thin. Christmas was meant to be joyous, but I was often frustrated from wanting to please everyone.
As we had children, I tried to mask my frustration with enthusiasm. But inside I wrestled. If my husband and I chose to celebrate the holidays at our own home, someone was bound to be disappointed. When we went to every expected event, I would be exhausted from packing up three young kids, diaper bags, food, toys, presents, and the list went on.
Fast-forward thirty years, and thankfully I once again treasure the holidays. But now that my kids are grown up and married with babies of their own, I understand the longing my extended family felt to be together on the holidays. An empty nest leaves gaps that traditions used to fill.
Yet with three sets of in-laws, there are other families in the mix now. My husband and I know the pressure our kids might feel to come home for the holidays, and we don't want them to have the same frustrations we did.
A few years ago we chose to put Philippians 2:4 in to action: "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (ESV).
We told our children it's not the date on the calendar that makes holidays special. It's the heart behind them. It's spending time with people you love.
So, sometimes we get together on Thanksgiving Day, or maybe the week after. Maybe it's Christmas only, while Thanksgiving is spent with other family members or by themselves. We remain flexible to our kids' needs and schedules. If they and our grandchildren aren't with us on a specific day, my husband and I fill that time with a new tradition with just the two of us. Last year Richard and I hiked. We had so much fun! Later, when we gathered to celebrate Christmas with our growing family, it was a blessed, unrushed time.
There was an unexpected gift. What we discovered is that by looking out for their best interest—and not our personal desires—our kids love to come because there's no pressure. They let us in on their traditions. Regardless of the date, when we do get together we have fun! It's a gift we give our family and ourselves.
Dear Lord, I'm grateful for so many things, and one of those is family who loves me enough to want to be with me. Help me share my needs with my loved ones, and to do it with grace and gentleness. Help me not to take it personally as they struggle with change. If I am the one that is inflexible, help me to bend and grow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you shared your needs? Articulate them on paper. Share them at the right time, in the right attitude. Don't take responses personally. Change takes time.
If you are the one struggling with change, are you willing to be flexible? Instead of focusing on a specific date, focus on the heart of the holiday.
Psalm 106:1-2, "Praise the LORD! Give thanks to the LORD, for his is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the LORD? Who can ever praise him enough?" (NLT)
© 2013 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105