What thoughts come to mind about family holiday gatherings? Wonderful thoughts bringing smiles, thoughts of details, maybe thoughts of unrest? Ever thought about where some of these thoughts come from? I did and wanted to share this:
My husband and I love our families. We have kept it a priority for our children to know grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Since we have always lived away from where we grew up, many miles have been traveled. The thought of more travels was weighing on me. Continuing from Part 1 of Joy Within Reach. I was asking God what is with me and my attitude? Why do I have frustrations and how can I live joy filled?
One of the ways I seek to “talk” things out with God is by writing. I took out a blank piece of paper and began scribbling every thought and emotion that came to mind. I then prayed over these thoughts asking God to help me; to search me and show me my heart. Search me, God, and know my heart: test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23 NIV Here are a few areas I discovered during prayer which needed fresh perspective to live joy filled this holiday season.
1.The Struggle of Over Committing
I had not realized how I have over committed myself year after year during the holidays. Making “the list” (of over committing) of all the things I wanted to complete. Some of these over commitments included: house projects, decorating, hosting parties, special gifts to find, trying to make a special dish or cookies, or coming up with crafts to entertain the children, events to attend, packing and unpacking.
While “the list” itself isn’t bad, there was a huge amount of time and energy required to accomplish the items on it (like 6 months of work crammed into 2 weeks). This time and energy was not always available, which led to running around frantically trying to do the errands required for all this “stuff” and looking for extra hours to get “the list” done. Taking notice of “the list” many items were self imposed, and in all honesty prideful and self-centered, “be the Pinterest girl”. Then top that off with perfectionistic tendencies working like crazy trying to do “the list”, with perfect outcomes. This equals the perfect equation for guaranteed frustration, anger and exhaustion.
My day to day family life alone was quite full. I saw that adding so many extras was causing the frustration in my mind. I started thinking about what was really important. I found, I was quite upset about the time I feel I have missed with my children because of running non stop during holiday time. I was not being as loving and kind during holidays as I would have liked to have been. I had been consumed with people pleasing and putting so much pressure on myself to get “the list” done, I was not living or loving the way I am called to.
I discovered I could not live over committing and have a kind heart and love filled attitude. This led me to think about how I want to treat the people around me while I am preparing for a holiday and during a holiday celebration. The purpose of holidays are to celebrate and be with those we love. I want to be treating these people with love, sharing joy with one another. Not demanding they get in line with my list.
2. ‘The list” Boundaries
I am very aware I am human….most days….until I get all these ideas on “the list” and somehow I think I am going to get it all done. I don’t count the cost. I just start diving into the tasks and go full speed ahead, and this doesn’t ever end well. I end up mad at someone or something. What I have discovered is how I haven’t had boundaries when it comes to “the list”. God places our boundaries in pleasant places. Psalm 16:6 says, The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. NIV God has good places for me to be and good things for me to do in those places, like love the people around me. However, it is the things he has planned that are good. My ideas may seem good, but can actually be burdens God didn’t intend for me to take on.
I cannot do everything, be everywhere, be kind and loving. Only God can do that. I must look at my time and life stage and see what I can do and still be loving and kind. If I can’t, then I need to put a boundary on myself like, get the amount of sleep I need, say no to something that will cause too much stress, or take some things off the list, or make a boundary so I can be joyful. Ultimately asking God what he has listed for that day and do that.
3. People Boundaries
I also have learned I must have boundaries regarding relationships, especially during holidays as emotions tend to be effecting everyone a little bit more than usual. There are times when we are called to be around people that can be very challenging for us. God helps us in these situations. Jesus said, “I told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT Due to the many things that happen within families, gatherings can present a whole list of other challenges. Where there has been struggle, loss or pain, boundaries can be very helpful for joy to still thrive.
There are ways to set personal boundaries for family gatherings, to enable us to be at peace and have love to share. The first step is to take notice of any negative emotional reactions toward the gathering or people attending and then determine if a boundary or other solution would help. Be proactive, take time to reflect on this before the gathering. Definitely pray over the emotions that surface. Creating a strategy beforehand to handle or exit a situation can help maintain joy and protect personal boundaries. Use this in areas there have been relationship problems, logistic problems or any other relationship dynamic that has been difficult. Sometimes conversations need boundaries, setting time limits is an effective way to keep joy, they also help see others with grace.
You have permission to live within your boundaries, just because it is a holiday does not mean your boundaries don’t exist or don’t need to be respected. We are still human during these celebrations, we have hopes & expectations, we get tired, moms still have to tend to children, life stresses are still around. We want to have a way to navigate with much joy and make great memories sharing time with those we love. God is there to help us, to give us discernment on how to best handle some of these family dynamics. He desires for us to celebrate and have good relationships!
These boundaries enable love, kindness and joy to flourish in our hearts. When I know my limits I can then love within the gifting God has given me. When I push past my boundaries, I am setting myself up for failure or loss of joy. God never leaves us, he tells us to come along side him and walk in his will, which has pleasant boundaries. Praise Him for all the wonderful moments and seeking him in the really hard ones. He is all powerful to help, in every situation.
Ask God what is on His list. And ask what needs to be let go of.
Take the great ideas to God too and ask for his help in completing them.
Ask God where boundaries are needed for time, personal or relational.
Ask God to fill you with His love and show you how to love like he does during the holiday season.
The joy search continues! Moving forward in the abundant goodness of the Lord!
Onward in joy living,
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