It can be opening a can of worms: the expectations we have of ourselves, of others and of life during the holidays!

So, I offer just a few thoughts that I hope will ease the pressure on your mind and bring peace to your heart.

On regular days, life (and family relationships) can be challenging, sometimes terribly painful, and most often require excruciating patience. So it’s no wonder that during special occasions, such as a month of holiday events, families can feel under incredible pressure!

There are money worries, time constraints, illness, the painful, faulty comparisons of our struggles with the always deceitful, perceived, relative ease of other’s lives. There are nostalgic or sometimes negative childhood memories and the poignant feeling of missing loved ones who are no longer with us. There can be the pressure of perfectionism, as if the “look” of our celebration will make it the loving experience we long to provide for our children.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider and use during the next month. I pray they’ll bless you if you feel drawn to learn and apply them for yourself:

1 Commit to holding onto, or creating a habit of connecting with God every day, preferably first thing in the morning.

We need this practice more during times of potential stress than any other time! Don’t be tempted to let it go because of so many busy things we want or need to do. Keep gathering love into your life each day through sincere prayer and scripture study. Holding this boundary will bless you and your family immeasurably!

Now is not the time to let go of our habits of spiritual self-care!

2 Recognize that what our family members need more than anything else is to feel loved.

Therefore, becoming more focused on extra-curricular things through the holidays can have the exact opposite effect on the people we are hoping to love and serve most! Time and loving attention are the currency of strong relationships, and both of these unparalleled gifts can easily be forgotten or neglected during these busy times if we’re not clear about what our families really need from us.

3 Since what our kids need most is to feel loved, burdening ourselves with the financial, emotional, and mentally exhausting task of spending x amount of money on our kids or feeling the need to give more than we have the resources to spend for the whole event, is a mistake.

Understandable, but a mistake nonetheless. If your shoulders are crunched up around your ears and tension overtakes you every time you think about money during this season, pray for clarity about your expectations and start over! What simple gifts of your time or talent or attention could you give instead of big-ticket items? What words could be written or spoken to a neighbor or friends that would be more meaningful than any tangible gift we could give?

One year, my mother-in-law received a baking dish with a note that her friend promised to fill the dish with something yummy each month for her. What a beautiful way to minister to someone throughout the year!

Over the last few years, we have spent a day with our children, helping them with projects instead of giving them gifts, and it has been a delight! We get to spend time with them and also accomplish something meaningful!

Would a coupon to make lunches for someone throughout the year or date times to jump on a trampoline or ride bikes or play ball with a child make the year (and the relationship) sweeter? Would our time and energy and effort be better spent on activities that would help our kids feel unconditionally loved?

4 Start (or continue) telling the truth about your own behavior every single day!

If you are in the habit of acting like a victim when things don’t go your way, or if you regularly attack your family members (possibly in the name of teaching or tough love or “they deserved it,”) or if you lie about yourself and your behavior or run from the people and situations that challenge you, tell the truth about it!

This one new habit will change your life.

It will change your family, your marriage, relationships with your children, your parents, siblings and pretty much everyone you know! This is the first step to honor God, repent and be changed! And it happens in large part because of the first suggestion: filling up with God’s love every single day! That is how we lose the hunger for imitation love (praise, power, pleasure and safety, when it is put in the place of unconditional love) and become the agent and loving family member we have always desired to be!

5 Commit to a friend or to a coach (through a coaching program), that you will dedicate time in the coming year to learn and to grow!

Growth may be the most liberating and positive thing we can experience, especially when it is the fundamental and lasting growth of learning to love, to be loved and become more able and responsible!

Bottom line is this: now is not the time to let go of the new habits and self-care and unconditional love principles you are learning! No, now is the time to hold more fiercely to your dedication to learn and practice the ways of love that will truly bless your family!

Think, less drama, pain and angst. Think more peace, love and harmony within yourself and within your home.

May God bless us all with the vision and desire to bring greater peace to the world by feeling the love of God more fully in our lives. Especially during the season of celebrating Christ’s birth, life and mission!

We can do this, and be greatly blessed in the process!

Merry Christmas with love,

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The mission of Lioness at the Door is to uplift, strengthen and encourage women of all ages to magnify health, hope and happiness at home. We do so boldly, with humility and gratitude for the opportunity.

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