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Not So Merry Christmas? Try This!


Mandy [00:00:01] Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris [00:00:10] Well, Lis, it's really fun to do these podcasts together. You know, this is a special podcast because of the time of year, right?

Alisa [00:00:20] It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Chris [00:00:23] Yeah. Time for holidays. People coming home. You know, you think of all the wonderful carols, right? Silent night, Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. And then I you know, I think about George Burns, the comedian. He's been around for a long, long time and has been dead for a long, long time, too. But he said happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close knit family in another city. And so I think it's so funny to think through it. All of a sudden in the holidays we have all these people coming over, Right? Burns was maybe half right. Right. Loving, caring. Close knit families are awesome. But having kids come back for the holidays, having family that, you know, arrives, it can be really exciting. But I think one of the things we have to be careful of this, recognizing that not everything is going to be perfect, right?

Alisa [00:01:18] I mean, you have crazy Uncle Mel, you know, who maybe brings too much drinking to the table or you have your sister in law that you don't really get along with or somebodies kids that drive you crazy. So it could really be any number of issues that really bubbled to the to the surface because holidays, they can be wonderful and they can also be super stressful.

Chris [00:01:42] Not everything goes as planned. I think some of the complaints we always hear, you know, is people just show up and they treat our house like a waystation. You know, they come in, it's a place to sleep, you know, get up, go and then go see other people Or, you know, we've also heard people say things like, you know, no one lets me know anything. They just show up whenever they want. And and but we need to have plans sometimes. And recognizing plans don't always work out. And I think to some of us, Lisa, worry a little bit about what what is going to happen. You know, who is so-and-so going to bring as their next significant other to the party this year?

Alisa [00:02:25] This year there's a new one every year.

Chris [00:02:27] Yeah. Gift giving, all of those things. So, Lisa, how do we find a happy place where all is calm and all is bright? And I think there's a couple of ways we can do this. A couple of suggestions for making the holiday something really fun and good with family and friends.

Alisa [00:02:42] Yeah. And I think the first place you really want to start is to have a conversation. You and your spouse, you and your kids even about what are your hopes and your expectations for the holidays. You know, you really want to this could be the holidays, It could be birthdays, anniversaries. But to really talk about what is it like if it could be a perfect holiday for you, what would that be? What would that look like? And then really listen to each other, because that not only helps you clarify what somebody else is thinking and what they're hoping for, but sometimes just articulating it can really help you figure out why is this so important to me? Why do I want to do it this way? Is this realistic?

Chris [00:03:27] I think Lisa, talking over your expectations is really important. And I know this about you. You look forward to decorating the house, entertaining, listening to worshipful music, you know, pine scents and sparkling lie lights, you know, and, you know, homemade cookies, you know. And I look forward to the Broncos beating the chiefs in the NFL. You know, I look forward to.

Alisa [00:03:54] And we just lost part of our listenership. Right.

Chris [00:03:58] So I want to watch games that are amazing. Right. And nothing spreads more joy for me than a major bowl upset or the Broncos finally getting into the playoffs. But, you know, that is important. It's important that you know that about me and you therefore make opportunities and create that. But you don't get upset or put out. If I'm watching a game, you know, and you're wanting to bake cookies or whatever, you know, I think that that's important for couples to talk about expectations like that.

Alisa [00:04:31] Yeah, I think so, too. And then not for couples and your family, but then to be able to communicate them to the rest of your family. Yeah, because I think one temptation for a lot of for a lot of younger families, newlyweds and younger families is maybe I think it's that the the temptation to cater to your parents what their hopes and wishes and. Expectations. You know what they are. And when you form your new family, you know those first couple of years, you can divvy up those those holidays because that's really fun. You have some traditions from each family that you like to to keep. But once you start having your own kids, then maybe it's time to start thinking about how you do holidays with your little immediate family before you start really incorporating the extended family.

Chris [00:05:31] Oh, that's a great point. I love that you take advantage of your newly married or you with young kids, you establish your own and then second would come. You may be the parents. Right.

Alisa [00:05:42] So let me ask you this, Chris. What would you how would you handle it if there if let's say you had that couple and let's say that he's really tied in to his family and wanting to keep his family of origin traditions and being with them, and let's say his wife is ready to start their own family traditions and maybe we don't go Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Maybe we wake up on Christmas morning just in our own house with our own kids, that he's really reluctant to do that. How would you handle that? Yeah.

Chris [00:06:20] You know, I would say that's where you set these expectations and that's where compromise comes in, too. And people should recognize that, you know, all of our past histories really are important to us. And we the holidays bring that out. So, yeah, learning to say, well, maybe we can compromise and why don't we try this? Our family together, you know, our small family on Christmas Eve, we'll open presents, you know, with the kids or or we'll do it, you know, first thing, 7 a.m., 8 a.m.. And then at 11:00, we'll go over to somebody else's house. You know, those are the kinds of things I like.

Alisa [00:06:55] Now.

Chris [00:06:56] You know, I think one of the funniest things we did, just if people are looking for fun, maybe, you know, ways of celebrating together, we one time took almost all of our extended family and kids and gave everybody $20. And it sounds expensive, but at the end of the day, it wasn't that bad. We gave everybody $20 and we said, We're all going to go to the exact same store, let's say a Walmart or a.

Alisa [00:07:22] Big.

Chris [00:07:22] Lots or whatever you want, and you have picked a name out of a hat. And so now we have 30 minutes. We all go into the same store and you have to buy something for that amount, for that is best. Like the person you picked the name out of the hat. And once you do that, you have this fun chance, Everybody's out, everybody's buying and everybody just gets one gift doesn't cost much. And that was fun.

Alisa [00:07:51] That was really fun. And in fact. Gosh, I remember one time when we were doing that and it was so funny because you're like, you don't want you want it to be a secret, kind of like a secret Santa. So the person that you drew their name, you don't want them to know that you drew their name. So you're running around the store and you're trying to avoid that person, especially if you've picked the gift out. You're like hiding it in your coat, but you're trying not to get picked up for shoplifting and check out at the front of the store without being seen. And then what we did is we got back to the house and everybody still, they got to keep their that gift wrapped just in the bag that it came in. But what we did is we went around and we took turns and whoever's turn it was, you told a little bit about the person whose name you drew, something that you really loved or value or you appreciate about them. And then you say, And so my person is this is what I love about them. And and my person was Chris. And then you get up and you give them the gift and they get turned wrap it and you know, it can be silly. It's fun, it's cheap. But, you know, really the true gift is not what you bought, but the words of affection and love and admiration that you were able to give. That's the biggest gift in the whole thing. That was a fun tradition.

Chris [00:09:16] That's fun. Hey, let's give another quick idea about some steps you can take beforehand. Yeah, I remember talking with Tim. Tim will have who, you know, is still is part of our center and, you know, used to be our co-hosts with us at least, but. You know, he he talked about at one point something that stuck with me, that a good Christmas holiday actually begins before December 25th. By investing in your relationships and in your own relationship with God. So he talked about, you know, taking extended time in prayer for yourself, you know, a little Sabbath, getting your own heart and soul in the best position to hear from God. And that's essential because this holiday rush comes in so fast. And then that allows you this opportunity to beforehand prepare your heart with God. And then you could share with each other things like we're talking about in that gift exchange, what you're grateful for and how you can support one another. And so he's talked about stocking up on grace and expressing gratitude goes a long way to helping you find that peace and calm during that, you know, very bright holy season of joy.

Alisa [00:10:25] Yeah, I love that. That's that's a good thought. Rarely do we think about that in advance. And so here's another one is as you're talking about your expectations and your hopes and dreams for the holidays coming up, you want to be sure and express talk to your spouse and agree like how long your you're going to stay at the holiday gathering and maybe you want to talk through any topics or family issues that you would really rather not discuss during your visit. You know, there are just some things that, you know, that that you have differences with people in your family. And so just, you know, avoid those topics. Just don't go there. And if somebody initiates that topic, you can just say, you know, I'd really rather not discuss that during the holidays. Why don't we do that? And you can suggest a different topic or move on. And you know, you have to make a big deal of it, but just say, you know, I really would rather not go there. Let's let's try something else. And then don't forget to let your family know in advance, in advance when you plan to arrive and when you plan to leave. That way they are clear about what you're able to do, what you're willing to do with your family. There's no misunderstandings. And that doesn't mean that they have to like it or that they will. But remember, your goal is to honor your spouse and to honor your children, your immediate family, rather than your extended family.

Chris [00:11:54] Yeah, I think, Lisa, that's that's a great point because we all have to recognize that even happy families have points of disagreements and unmet expectations. But that's all that's just part of being quote unquote, a normal family. But you hold them loosely, Right. And I think that's also related to the idea of this easing off, this need for everything to be perfect in another way. You just with sometimes we put so much weight on these few days or maybe weeks, you know, we want this to be this insta perfect, you know, holiday. But we have to be careful, I think just not set yourself up for her, you know, because there's going to be those things that you talked about, some simmering annoyances and stress. And I just remember those are okay and normal. You don't have to dive in and do deep, you know, psychological healing during these times. And like you said, you can put those aside, but. You're normal. If that happens, you just hold these expectations loosely. Take the pressure off. And as some people do, it has to be just like this. So I want to do just like this way. Like, yeah, let's make sure that we can hold those, you know, very kind of flex loosely, I guess.

Alisa [00:13:12] Well, I really like that that advice, Chris and I like it from for a different reason. And really it's from, from the perspective as a host of the holidays, there's a funny Instagram video, a real going around right now where it shows this couple, you know, getting ready to, oh, they're opening the door to their home, inviting their guests in and oh, hi, welcome. And their smiles, they're beautiful. They're all dressed in the it says five hours earlier and it cuts to the mom's hair's a mess. She's in her sweats. She's got flour over her face. Her has you know the husband and kids are are are like in hiding because she is losing her mind trying to get ready for the holidays. She's like, get over here and clean this up. What do you do to do that? I've got to bake this. And and and then you think back to the what they look like when they open the door. And I just thought, you know what? That hits a little too close to home. And and I actually I sent that video to our three kids and what I wrote with it was guilty as charged. And what I really had to start doing was to let go of that idea of perfection, of what I wanted very much for our holiday, what I wanted it to look like and sound like and taste like and and what I wanted them to walk away with this this grandiose experience of the holidays together and and be able to let go of that. I mean, it's one thing you want a plan, you want to make it nice, but when it doesn't quite turn out the way you wanted it to, I mean, we could have the most beautiful party in the world. And if I ruined my family's holiday before guests even arrived because my neuroticism with my insistence on everything being perfect, well, it's like I've run the holiday, the whole, you know, that whole benefit of coming together as a family. And so I've really tried to learn to hold that ideal loosely. And, you know, if it doesn't quite go the way I wanted it to, okay, that's fine. Really. The experience is the coming together and enjoying each other and they're really not going to be able to enjoy me if I've just been, you know, such a stinker all day, you know, maybe the 2 or 3 days before. And so I have that's a hard issue for me to take up with the Lord to help me let go, because I worry. I think I worry that truly that it's a reflection on me. And so that's when I have to sit with the Lord and say, okay, why is this so important to me? Lord, what is it? What lie am I believing? Where where do I have like a legitimate hope and dream and expectation? And how do I how do I navigate this in a way that honors you? It honors my family and it honors some of my hopes and desires, too. I mean, really, sit with that. Be quiet with that before the Lord and. And let him unpack that with me.

Chris [00:16:26] Yeah, No, I love that he's. I think there's so much there that, you know, we have all of us, these little things that seem to come out a lot during that time. And I think you're right just being able to it to. Step back. One solution I think that you have landed on and others. You know, here's just a piece of advice as I see you least taking time to work on quiet ness, to work on you with God to it, so that in the midst of busyness, you have this kind of wellspring, you know, built up of, you know, quiet solitude and recognizing how there's a lot to be grateful for, even if things don't go the way I want. And it begins oftentimes there, doesn't it?

Alisa [00:17:17] It sure does. And, you know, I think outside of that quiet and solitude, it cultivates my capacity to hear the Lord in the heat of the moment. Yeah, it softens my heart to the if the Holy Spirit nudges me that least your loosen it back off. Let it go. It's not that important that I've cultivated an ear to hear that voice and to recognize that when he's speaking to me. And then just really a heart of surrender, to be willing to listen and obey and abide.

Chris [00:17:55] Now that's good. I like that. There's there's so much there. Well, you know, I think one of the things is recognizing that the holidays are a great time for you know what a season and don't be surprised when these things don't always go the way we want and be ready, like you said least to do some soul searching. And and I love that. I think all these things you know establish these ground rules in advance, you know. Right. How are you going to have your own holiday tradition and talk about expectations and then.

Alisa [00:18:32] And put your spouse first before your mom, before your grandma. Chris [00:18:37] You put your spouse?

Alisa [00:18:38] Yeah. Just ask how do you want to spend these holidays? And really, if we if we all woke up with with the attitude of what can I do today. To make my husband my wife happy. And to make them happy that they're married to me. And especially when it comes to these holidays. And then do that.

Chris [00:19:03] Yeah. Well, at least I appreciate that you. You did that for me this season when you somehow magically worked out that Shohei Ohtani would become a Dodger.

Alisa [00:19:14] And you're.
Chris [00:19:14] Welcome. And, you know, he signed as a Dodger for ten years. I just appreciate all of the calls you made to.
Alisa [00:19:19] Coach.
Chris [00:19:20] Dave.
Alisa [00:19:20] And I know just give never take.

Chris [00:19:22] No. And I'm just grateful. Now, if you can do the same for the Broncos. You know, let's let's move from.

Alisa [00:19:27] There and see what I can do.
Chris [00:19:28] All right. You know, well, hopefully you all have a great, wonderful holidays. Merry Christmas to all.
Alisa [00:19:35] And to all a good night.
Chris [00:19:37] Yeah. I'll see you guys. Bye.

Mandy [00:19:40] Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going. Visit our website at cmha dot, Biola, dot edu and make a donation today.