As my mother-in-law was writing down the recipe for her crowd-pleasing breakfast casserole – the one my husband really wanted me to make for Christmas morning – no one realized she was angry.
Even though we had spent Thanksgiving with them and planned on Christmas Eve too, the fact that we’d wake up at my parent’s house on the 25th made her spittin’-mad.
And as my husband stood over her shoulder, he noticed she not only skipped a flavor-delivering ingredient, but also tweaked the measurements of the others.
I was being set-up for failure – a label I already wore when it came to all-things hospitality.
A label she wanted me to continue wearing.
Truth is I’m not a confident cook or baker, so I’d have followed the recipe to a tee. The result would have been one nasty casserole. And ruining the Christmas morning meal would have heaped guilt and shame on me for not being better equipped in the kitchen — tightening the tangle that said “I’m a culinary catastrophe.”
There’s something about the holidays that brings out the nasty in family and the insecurity in us.
… Maybe we step back into dysfunctional family patterns, the ones we’ve paid big bucks in counseling to overcome.
… Maybe we feel like mom is judging the way we celebrate the holidays today because it’s different than how she did it when we were kids.
… Maybe old tapes replay in our minds, and we hear the tangling messages from childhood of “You’ll never be good enough” all over again.
… Or maybe growing up in our home was so painful that spending time there causes us to feel oppression all over again.
In a season where we’re supposed to step out of hectic schedules, set aside disagreements, and gather together to celebrate the important things in life… we find ourselves tangled in the messy-ness of family.
And instead of looking forward to the holidays, we dread them.
So what can you do to make family-time be tangle-free during the holidays?
1) Be prayed up
If you don’t ask God to prepare your heart in advance of these self-esteem-draining situations (and people), you’ll find your tinsel tangled. Start now praying for grace … for peace… for perspective… and for God to tender your heart while He strengthens your spirit. Ask Him to remind you of all the ways He delights in who you are. It will make a difference.
2) Plan to step out
Instead of maxing out your time with family that maxes out your confidence, be clever. Find opportunities to regroup. Make a run to the store. Take an extra long shower. Take the dog for a walk. Find ways to step out of the insanity so God can replace those age-old lies of worthlessness with His truth.
3) Breathe grace in
Experts agree a fail-safe way to keep from unleashing your anger on someone is to take a deep breath in. I don’t know the physiology of it, but I know how many times this simple idea has saved the life of the person standing in front of me (#justsayin). When your self-worth gets dinged and your hurt turns to anger, take a God-sized dose of grace into your lungs so you can exhale kindness and mercy. You don’t want to be a tangle-maker.
My mother-in-law and I never saw eye-to-eye. In all fairness, I wasn’t always easy to love. But neither was she.
And while we made peace before she passed a few years ago, she was a tangle-maker through and through. Each time we got together, I asked God for help, I found pockets of time to regroup, and I inhaled grace.
Lots of it.
The holidays can get us all wrapped up in the wrong things because we’re around the people who know what buttons to push, and have often been the ones to hurt us the most. But this year can be different.
- Be prayed up.
- Plan to step out.
- Breathe grace in.
And never forget that the Creator of the world – the one whose virgin birth we’re about to celebrate – delights in YOU… stumbles, fumbles and all.
He created you to be a gift to the world… and you are.