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  • Gladys Childs

Simple steps for replacing chaos with peace this holiday season

Family gatherings, holiday parties, winter sickness, traveling, and missing loved ones who have passed away can leave everyone worn out and grumpy. Years ago, I would take one of my two weeks of vacation and spend most of it in the car driving from Texas to Alabama and then all over the state of Alabama to see various in-laws who refused to drive to us and honestly, were not even interested in seeing us. Fortunately, when my husband finished school and then only had two weeks of vacation, he decided we should not spend all of his vacation time on the road. (And, yes, I am rolling my eyes.)

To replace chaos with peace during the holidays we need to be mindful of what Thanksgiving and Christmas are about: to be thankful for our blessings and to celebrate the birth of Christ. Planning for Thanksgiving should always involve thankfulness and as we enter the Christmas season, we need to remember it is about Jesus birth, not about us and our loved ones. By keeping these two things in mind, it helps us set our priorities and encourages us to engage in activities which are intentionally thankful and about Christ. If we aren't being thankful or celebrating Christ, then why are we doing what we are doing?

Step one: Intentionally plan your holidays. There is no law which states you must see every family member. I know multiple people who split one day with 3-4 different family groups....why? My husband and I chose to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas with his. It made things so much easier.

When my son was born, my husband and I decided we would only do minimal gifts at Christmas. Our reasoning, it is not our birthdays, it is Jesus' birthday. So, ever since my son was little, he gets 2-3 gifts...that is it. Moreover, it keeps the expense down. And have you ever asked why we get presents when it is not our birthday? It does not even make sense. This year, we have decided we are only getting one gift each. Minimal presents keep the focus where it needs to be, on Christ. Moreover, we spend Christmas day with just the three of us. Then, we go visit my in-laws the week after.

So, think about what you want out of your holidays. Make intentional plans and watch your holidays transform.

Step two: Say "no" to busyness during this season. When you are making your intentional plans, decide which events and parties are non-negotiable and which can be skipped. If you do not know what will be coming up, then set a limit to the number of events and parties you will attend.

It may be hard to get the first "no" out of your mouth, especially if you are a people pleaser. Once you get the first "no" out, it is becomes an easier thing to do. I would also recommend you say something along with the "no" such as: "Thanks for asking, but we won't be able to attend, we are busy with another engagement." This keeps people from prying. It is okay if your other engagement is just staying at home with your family. You do not have to explain anything to the other person. Protect yourself and minimize the chaos by saying "no."

When it comes to your job, unless you have no other choice, say "no" here. You are in a mutually binding agreement with your company. You perform your job and in return you get benefits, one of which is vacation. If you are expected to do your job, then you should expect all of the mutually agreed upon benefits. So, take your vacation. Set your reply email to state, "I will be out of the office and may not have access to internet. I will be unable to reply to your email until I return on ____ date." Set your message on your work phone that you will be unable to return calls.

Then, do the unthinkable, do not look at your work emails. Do not listen to work voice messages.

Step three: Accept reality. Things aren't always going to go according to plan. 99% of family gatherings will have at least one toxic person present. People are going to get on each other’s nerves. Do not hope for a picture-perfect holiday season. When people are involved, things will go awry. If Uncle Henry is a jerk more frequently than not, there is a good chance he will be a jerk this year too. If you accept reality, then you can make an intentional plan on how you will maneuver the situation.

Step four: Set boundaries. If you meet grumpy Aunt Edna once every three or four years, just hold your tongue. However, if you must routinely spend time with an individual who repeatedly crosses the line, you need to set boundaries for what is and what is not acceptable.

My mom was a very difficult individual to be around, she was just plain mean. When I was 25, my mom was being obnoxious and I looked at her in front of my brother and sister and said, "If you don't stop your crap, I am going to leave and never come back." My siblings were horrified and said I could not do such a thing. I could and I would if mom did not stop. 25 years of her mess was enough. Setting boundaries with my mom changed our relationship for the better.

I meet so many individuals who think they cannot set boundaries with family, let alone parents. It is okay to to set boundaries. What is not okay is to be rude, hateful, and basically just unChristian when establishing your parameters.

The Bible is clear individuals are to treat each other with respect. Deuteronomy 5:16 states, "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (ESV) We are supposed to honor our father and mother. However, honoring our parents does not mean putting up with abuse or extreme nastiness. Also, the bible says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) Our parents are not to provoke us.

It can be difficult to set boundaries. However, I have yet to meet a person who was not thankful in the end for doing so. Jesus established boundaries all the time in scriptures. If it was okay for Jesus to do so, it is okay for you as well. So, take some time and think through your relationships about what is and is not acceptable behavior. Then, love yourself enough to expect others to to treat you well by establishing good boundaries.

Step five: Take a break. Walk away or leave the house. One of my in-laws was just nasty to me every time I was around. She even went out of her way to make snide comments across the room loud enough so I could hear them. Due to her nature and the situation, I was not able to confront her directly (which is my preferred way to handle most situations).

So, I came up with an intentional plan to ignore her and not be around her. Upon first seeing her, I would politely say hello and then walk away. I would not engage in conversation. Whenever possible, I would go into another room and talk to other people. Time to sit down for dinner, I would sit far away from her. It worked. Hallelujah, praise God. It is amazing what ignoring someone will do.

Another time, we were at my mom's house several days for Thanksgiving and one of my relatives was being beyond horrible. She literally went out of her way to try and disrupt our family time together. My husband looked at me at one point and said we are going out for lunch. So, we left and had a pleasant lunch. It gave us a break and allowed us to get out of a toxic environment.

Do not be afraid to leave and take a break. Be the one to volunteer to go the store. Go out to eat. Go for a walk or to a local gym to work out. If you have little ones, make a convenient trip to a nearby playground. It is a game changer.

Step 6: Keep up your devotional and prayer time. Connecting with God is often laid aside during the holidays. When you are setting your intentions, include devotionals and prayer time as part of your plan. Have your spouse or another family member be your accountability partner for this.

Just think about how you act and start to feel when you do not have your daily quiet time with God. If you are like me, you turn into a maniac. Little things set you off. People get on your nerves. You know it to be true. The holiday season is filled with chaos making landmines, this is not the time to ignore your quiet time with God. God is our Perfect Shield from explosions.

With this in mind, you may need to hide in your bedroom, the bathroom, the garage, or your car to do your devotional. Perhaps you can go for a long walk and do your devotional outside. Just get it done. Putting God first reframes the reality of your current situation.

In closing, why do we think we need to be with people and/or family members we cannot stand during the holidays? This is a standard of the world. Let me remove the misnomer the holidays have to involve rude and obnoxious family members. Go visit your family before the holidays or have them come visit you beforehand. Then, during the holidays, stay home and enjoy your peace and quiet.

It may sound harsh, but it is not. Why ruin limited holiday time. I had accepted reality about some family members years took decades for others to accept the reality which I had known. Once everyone was on the same page, we stopped seeing certain family members at holiday time. How awesome it is.

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