I pray you and your family have a wonderful celebration of Christ’s birth.
As you join together with extended family members, I want to give a few last thoughts on enjoying a peaceful holiday. I’m including an article I wrote a few months ago, “Offer Gifts of Grace and Flexibility for a Peaceful Holiday Season.” You can see the published article in BCParent here. Merry Christmas!
“The news isn’t good. The factory will close in less than 90 days and my job will end. I’m sorry.” My husband’s unexpected words brought tears to my eyes as we began the holiday season last year. As plant manager of a manufacturing company hit hard by the declining housing industry, we knew his job was in jeopardy. But we weren’t prepared for the finality of closure. It was the beginning of a difficult season that carried over into the new year and beyond.
So, how do you create a peaceful holiday season when you can’t control downward-spiraling circumstances? How do you find peace in the midst of turmoil? How do you get along with those around you when it seems your world is crumbling?
May I suggest two important attributes? Grace and flexibility. As a mom to five children, I’ve endured too many non-peaceful holiday seasons. Days full of out-of-control emotions, hectic schedules, non-cooperative kids, and a host of other stressors. After a particularly difficult year, I evaluated the details of the season and determined what could be done for more peaceful days the next year. The missing ingredients to our holiday season? Ample doses of grace and flexibility.
Heather Hetchler, mom/stepmom to six children agrees. She says, “While most gifts end up in a landfill, grace and flexibility help create cherished memories that will forever live in the hearts of those who receive these precious gifts.”
When I learned my husband’s job was ending, I knew he would need extra grace and a flexible spirit from me as we explored new opportunities for him. It wasn’t easy for my always-have-a-plan character to not know what was around the corner, but I learned to accept uncertainty and change as part of the journey we were on. I learned to recognize when the job-hunting seemed tedious and discouraging for my husband, and he was in need of an extra dose of grace.
Through the holiday season, we have ample opportunity to offer grace and flexibility to our children, our spouse, and others we come in contact with. If you live in a stepfamily, it’s likely you’ll have more contact with ex-spouses and ex-in-laws, creating tension-filled moments and stress-filled days. But if we choose to offer grace at hurtful words and a flexible spirit when a stubborn demeanor shows up, we’re more likely to find peace.
Many families have other unique challenges that emerge during the holidays. Addiction seeps into some homes, creating havoc and dissension. Mental illness rears its ugly head during periods of stress, resulting in confusion and uncertainty. The loss of a loved one creates a sad reminder that holidays will never be the same. Grace is the perfect answer when irritability, sadness, or frustration set in.
Flexibility becomes a necessary part of unwrapping holiday peace when schedules change or the unexpected happens. Illness, job loss, marital disharmony. Unexpected events like these create heartache that can disrupt the possibility of enjoying holiday peace. Flexibility becomes the key to creating a peace-filled moment amidst stressed-out emotions.
Jan Gull, stepmom to three, says she incorporates flexibility during the holiday season with “more being, less doing.” She works to maintain a schedule that allows time to create memories as a family through baking cookies together and making gifts for others instead of spinning the web of excessive spending and gift-giving.
After my husband’s job loss, we were thankful for another job opportunity without a long unemployment period, but it required re-locating to another state. Leaving three children behind in college, we reluctantly moved four hours away and began a new life. It has been a difficult transition, but maintaining a flexible spirit has helped us adjust to our new home.
The holiday season often includes new surroundings with complicated variables. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness or stress of the season and act out in anger or frustration. But we can intentionally choose to make different choices that allow for a more peaceful season.
Grace and flexibility are not always easy to offer, but can be priceless gifts when extended during stressful periods. Will you choose grace and flexibility as part of your gift-giving this season?”
For more holiday tips, purchase our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.
When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy
Are You Celebrating the Beauty of Your Stepfamily This Holiday, Even if Yours is Imperfect?
Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally