If ever there was a season where your relational circuits could shut off it would be this one. Relational circuits are the part of your brain that help you see people as more important that tasks. Christmas is filled with so much good stuff, but too much good stuff can shut off your relational circuits because we are made to need rest. On top of the good stuff is the busyness, the pressure to remember to bring each present and salad to each gathering, the financial pressure of Christmas, the spending more time with family than some of you would like, the work parties, the kids in over drive because they get presents and too many chocolates everywhere they go! And when our relational circuits go off from all that, we stop loving. And really that is what Christmas is about, the story of God’s lavish love coming to us as a babe in a manager. We can miss that and ruin Christmas by not staying loving and kind and relationally connected to our kids, our family and our husbands or wives.
How do you keep those relational circuits working so that you can stay loving and kind over the holidays? I’m just going to give you two ideas. First, be still. Take time to be quiet in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Intentionally carve out tie to calm down, rest and relax during the Christmas season. Stop multi-tasking and just be still for a while. Listen to Christmas music and really listen to the words and just enjoy the song. Don’t wrap gifts and bake cookies and listen to music. Just listen to music. Sip hot apple cider. That’s it. Look out the window and watch the snow fall with your phone nowhere near you. Just sit and enjoy. Take some deep breaths. Be still.
The second thing you can do is practice appreciation for the people and things in your life. I say practice because this doesn’t always come naturally to us. Oh, we may all be able to quickly list off a number of things we are thankful for, but to truly engage our hearts we need to think about why we are thankful for that person or thing. And it’s in the WHY that we engage our hearts and keep our relational circuits working.
Now I want you to picture something with me. You are at your parents or your in-laws for the Christmas gathering and so far: your kids have not liked what was being served and are commenting loudly they don’t like it and are not eating. They are not sitting nicely and one spilt the cranberry ginger ale on herself.
Now it’s time to open presents but first Nana wants a picture of all the grandkids and they are not sitting still at all, not smiling or looking at the camera! And so finally present time comes and your oldest child does not get what they were expecting and melts down loudly in front of everyone and your crawling infant is eating the wrapping paper when you aren’t looking. So it’s time to leave and you are READY TO GO! Now the meltdown begins because your kids don’t want to leave or put on their jackets or their boots or get into their car seats! How are you going to respond? Are you going to be loving with your words and actions in that moment?
Family gatherings with young children tend to shut off our relational circuits and leave us snappy, unloving, unkind and focused on the task of shoving our kids into the vehicle rather than focusing on the precious children we’ve been given to love. In that moment I’ll admit to blowing it and ruining things with my kids. So instead of a happy drive home chatting about good times and new presents there is an all too quiet stillness in the car brought on by my anger. Have you been there with me? Please say yes to make me feel better! So here’s where the quieting and practicing appreciation ahead of time come in.
When you are in that overwhelming moment during the holidays (or any time really) try this: S.T.A.R.
Stop – don’t fix the problem. The real problem is that YOU are overwhelmed.
Take – a breather and pray!
Appreciate – go back to one of your good memories. Praise God for that memory.
Respond – in love.
Maybe you can work out some STAR signal with your spouse when you see each other ready to go all HULK on your kids. I’m going to have my husband tattoo stars on his knuckles and then fake punch me because I think that might get my attention! But you come up with your own plan.
Can you see why it’s important to spend time over the holidays practicing quieting? Why we need to building in periods of rest for ourselves and our kids? Your brains and bodies will be dealing with lots of busyness and emotional overload. Over stimulation. We are wired to need cycles of energy and rest. We are made to go high speed but we need low speed too. If we want to stay loving and relational this Christmas we need to spend time quieting ourselves and our kids. What does this look like?
- Do your devotions through the holidays and start with quieting and appreciation so you have practice and lots of good appreciation memories to draw from. When something good happens over the holidays write that down too so you keep track of the good memories. Some of my best and most powerful appreciation memories are from over the Christmas holidays.
- Try to block out some down time, especially for your kids. Look at your holidays as a whole and if it’s too crazy, slow it down where you can. Be intentional about it. Just because you love go, go, go does not mean your kids will. Most kids can’t handle that much go but we tend to push them to keep going because we like it.
- Find ways to quiet your kids in the midst of chaos. At a gathering how can you bring them down from a high and quiet them before they hit overwhelm from too much of a good thing. Take 15 minutes to read them a book? Lie down somewhere with them and listen to some music.
If the idea of slowing down and quieting is actually making you anxious, can I leave you with one thought? The point of this is to give us a better chance at being loving this holiday season. To give our friends and families a better picture of who Jesus is through our actions and words. And it’s also to give us a better chance to hear his quiet voice whisper words of love to us. So let’s be still and give the Savior of the world the peace and quiet He needs to work in us and through us this Christmas.