Exchange Stressed for Blessed This Holiday Season

It’s that special time of year again, and like so many of you, it is one I look forward to all year long.  The warmth of home. The love of family. The joy of friends.  As a self-proclaimed “celebrator,” I love everything about preparing for—and celebrating—the holidays that fall between November and January.

But with all the hustle and bustle surrounding the season, how can we keep our homes and our hearts a life giving place?

We don’t have to be stressed, overwhelmed, or hurried. So here are five things I’ve learned along the way to share life with those I love through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  As you gather with your friends and family today and in the weeks ahead, I pray they encourage, inspire, and challenge you to relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of year.

Check in with God before checking your list.

Wherever you are right now, whether on your first bite of grandma’s homemade pecan pie or fixing to tackle the dishes, take a moment to stop and lift up a prayer. Go ahead-do it. As women, our to-do lists are long and full this time of year, no doubt! But let’s make it a habit starting right now to check in with God before checking our lists. When we invite God into our moments-especially the busiest ones-He has a way of helping us fix our eyes on Him, prioritizing His will, and letting go of the rest.  Go ahead, give it a try.

What’s your plan for my family today, Lord?

Create experiences rather than controlling outcomes.

I love to plan gatherings for my family, but I’ve noticed over the years that I also plan how they should react to said gatherings! How selfish of me! Just a few weeks ago I planned an outing for my niece who was to be in town. Our plans were washed out by the rain and we traded a day of outdoor adventuring for an inside picnic and painting session. I confessed to my sister how sad I was that our day was ruined because I had built up in my head the “perfect day!”

But instead, my sister pointed me to the happy little girl sitting at my dinner table enjoying every stroke of navy blue paint on her construction paper masterpiece. I encourage you to walk into the holidays with plans loosely held in your hands.  As life happens, whether that snow storm comes earlier than expected, or the oven blows a fuse, or your pie doesn’t turn out like momma’s, take a breath, say a prayer, and see how the interruptions bring bonding, life, and laughter (even if it takes a minute or two or three).

Lord, help me to create a place that breathes life and makes room for interruptions.

Choose grace over chasing perfection.

There is a difference between pursuing excellence and chasing perfection. One honors the Lord and one brings unnecessary condemnation to you and those whom you influence. Choose grace instead.

As you plan, prepare, and gather together, extend the gifts to others that the Lord extends to you—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).  When we choose to welcome those as He does, we show believers and nonbelievers the life-giving message of the Gospel.  Don’t strip the life from it; choose to pursue excellence in all things and lace it with grace.  You will see the rippling effects almost immediately in your home, children, and your circle of influence.

Lord, I’m choosing grace today.

Craft a grateful spirit everyday instead of cherry-picking for 30 days.

I’m a fan of the social media gratitude challenges in November.  Ever since I committed to post something I am thankful for each day for the month of November with another friend, I’ve seen the dramatic effects it has had in my life.  There’s a reason Scripture encourages us to come before Him (Ps 100:4) with shouts of thanksgiving (Ps 69:30) and make ourselves known to him (Phil 4:6).

When we do this consistently – day after day – God sows a grateful spirit in us. And how does gratefulness affect us? We complain less. We recognize His active presence in our lives. We worry less. We are more effective teachers. We are grateful for what we do have, and our perspective on our season is solidified in Him and His promises. Take the gratitude challenge—start now—and don’t stop when December rolls around.

Lord, I’m so thankful for…

Celebrate the Gospel and make it the center of every gathering.

If there is anything you take away from this, remember this one thing: biblical hospitality welcomes people to meet Christ. Whether you’re hosting or visiting or traveling or staying in, let God’s goodness be on display. I have to remind myself somethings, “Melissa, it’s not about the table linens, sister.” As you gather around your table for leftovers, or curl up on the couch by the fireplace, or bundle up for a trip into town for hot cocoa, seize the moments to share with others what God has done in your life.

Talk about His faithfulness as you grieved a loved one’s death. Share of his goodness during a hard move to another town.  Put on display His power in your weakness through a recent trial.  Speak of His peace that came when you called on His name.  Make Him the center of your gatherings, sisters.  Oh, do celebrate the warmth of home, the love of family, and the joy of friends!  Do celebrate with pie and all the trimmings! Oh, do! But don’t miss the moments to celebrate Him during this season most of all!

“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!” Psalm 126:3

As you break bread and bundle up with those who share your heart and homes this season, don’t let the hustle and bustle reign. Choose life-giving moments, and keep choosing them.  And when you mess up, choose grace and keep going.

From all of us at BW, Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours!