The holidays are upon us. With our homes feeling cozier by the day, does the anticipation of gathering with friends and family in your home excite you, or fill you with dread?
You can enter this holiday season with a heart ready to embrace special moments while maintaining a sustainable pace, purposely honoring your unique needs and capacity to engage, both now and throughout the year.
You can offer the best of you to those dearest to you by keeping healthy boundaries around your commitments and expectations.
Choosing quality over quantity of events will leave you feeling more connected, satisfied and refreshed. Identify your needs and goals, cast vision and strategize for what is important to you, instead of being pulled into what everyone else expects of you.
Honoring rhythms of nurture and rest over pressure-based hustle and bustle creates long-term health and prosperity. Resist the urge to pack your schedule at every opportunity so you can say yes to the things that matter most.
If exhaustion, family dynamics, grief, or your current mental and physical health feel overwhelming, let's look at some ways to make a safe space for meaningful connection.
What is your Capacity?
Capacity and Capability are two different things. A meeting room that has a max capacity of 120 people is capable of fitting many more into that space, but it is not safe or functional to do so. You are highly capable of accomplishing many things. When you honor your capacity, you can do it with excellence and joy. If there is a challenge you want to meet, and it is life-giving to you to try it out to test and expand your abilities, go for it! But if it is draining, overwhelming and burdensome, stop. You do not need to prove that you are capable when your capacity to function with excellence is suffering. If you don't have peace about it, don't commit to it.
Identifying your physical, mental/emotional, time, and living space capacity will help you know what you can do.
"[Wisdom's] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her."
Do you have a Margin for More?
Maxing yourself out is the path to burnout, but neglect also leaves you empty. Maintaining a rhythm of investment in your priorities with a margin for more gives you valuable pockets of time and energy to extend to the new, different, and unexpected. Consider the following criteria:
Personal. Do you have time to privately process and debrief your thoughts and experiences? Activities packed together make dynamic moments but blurry memories. Take time to allow your mind and body to rest and reset in between activities. If you have learned something new, take time to practice it. If you are in shock, take time to process. If you are confused, take time to sort it out and gain clarity. If you are hurting, take time to grieve and heal. If you are inspired, take time to explore and experiment. If you are happy, take time to celebrate. While much of this cannot be dealt with entirely without interruption, it is necessary to make space to interact with life in layers. Physical rest, solitude, prayer, quiet time, counsel and time to practice what you have processed nurture healthy living. Taking care of your inner world helps you to be present with the outside world.
Family. Does your family have enough quality, constructive time together to maintain a stable, healthy state? Do you have time to process and connect together? Making space to live, learn and grow alongside each other creates bonds of affection and security, as well as priceless memories. Beware of dysfunction that indicates lack of connection and care, and take prompt and consistent action to invest in a healthy home life.
Friendship. Are your friendships mutually constructive, with sufficient attention and investment for meaningful connection and growth? If this is lacking, busyness can temporarily distract us from feeling lonely, but cannot replace the long-term health and quality of life enriched by deep friendships.
Extension and Renewal. Do you have room for new people and experiences? Are fresh faces coming through your door and leaving as friends? Experience the joy of social generosity by making space for strangers in your time and at your table. When you have stewarded your personal and relational health wisely, you have the capacity to be stretched into new spaces and experiences.
Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.
You cannot control circumstances, people's choices or expectations, but you can control your commitments. Don't overbook yourself only to follow through with resentment. Give realistic consideration to your commitments, so that you can be wholehearted in your fulfillment of them. Before you can give an honest "yes" or "no" to others, you must first be honest with yourself. Will it drain you? Overextend you? Do you have time to recoup between events? Will it be emotionally, physically or spiritually unhealthy for you to participate in specific activities or with particular people? You have permission to kindly, firmly say no to such things, with no guilt. If you want to say yes to the person but no to the activity, suggest an alternative that would work for both of you.
If you have been in the habit of saying yes to the pressure of others' expectations only to secretly meltdown behind the scenes, now is a great time to start a new path. You do not need to convince anyone of your reason for saying no. You don't need to explain. Your determination to maintain peace and wellness in your own life is sufficient. Be prepared to meet resistance and misunderstanding, but once your friends and family begin witnessing the peaceful pace you have taken, they may just want to follow your example.
What's Your Goal?
What do you need during this season of your life? Connection with your family? Healing from a trauma? Celebration of a fresh start? Whatever it is, the following points can help you build a strategy for success.
WHO you want to connect with.
WHAT TOPIC you want to connect over.
WHAT EXPERIENCE you want to remember.
WHAT ATMOSPHERE you want to set.
If you can identify this, you can figure out where and when that can happen (and it is not dictated by holidays!)
Gifts and Limitations.
What gifts and talents do you offer? What activities do you enjoy the most? What boundaries must you honor to maintain physical, mental and relational health?
How many people does your home space allow you to comfortably host? How many extra people do you like to squeeze around your table?
Are you a more cheerful host with paper plates and takeout or fine china and a 5-course meal?
Do you feel like time was better spent with one or two guests, or with a crowd?
Can you be a present host to serve the food, make your guests comfortable, and lead conversation or do you prefer that another family member or trusted friend take or share that role? Good teamwork can make hosting a breeze!
We Are Not Static. When there is a life change, sometimes we forget that we change with it. As wonderful as time-honored traditions are, we must be willing to adjust to present needs. After the birth of my 4th child, I struggled to adjust my expectations for myself and recognize that my energy being poured into nurturing a new life (and three other children) would consequently reduce my capacity for other things. I fought to hold on until I chose to trust God enough to let go. I became so much happier for it.
Seasons Are Not Forever. A few cycles around the sun and the autumns and winters of my life feel less threatening. I have discovered there is little need to fear loss or dormancy, because spring will come again, and every season is full of purpose. Finding grace to let things go and answer the call to stillness, nurturing deeper roots, grounded in present needs with trust that the future holds new treasures, I have learned the secret of building strength through quiet seasons. Take delight in the hidden shelters of your life! There is a purpose to be accomplished in each chapter if you will honor it.
How Do We Bend to the Seasons? Embrace the idea that your activity does not define your identity. You know what your gifts and talents are. You know what you enjoy doing most. When you can do it, seize the moment! When you can't, release it freely without regret. A tree in winter need not prove that it can grow a leaf.
Changing Times. These days, hospitality continues to be a core value, a sacred service of the soul. Beautifying spaces to refresh and inspire is still a priority. But a 30-minute chat over coffee while the children play, a pot of soup shared by families around the table, or guests contributing food is the current norm. Elaborate meals on fine china are reserved for when I have the energy to do it with pleasure. What determines my offering is not what I am capable of producing, but what I can do with joy, in such a way that all the people in the picture thrive.
Think about it! The holidays are not the only chance you have to gather with loved ones. Seek out time throughout the year to connect with the special people in your life. Our family maintains a peaceful holiday season year after year by scheduling quality time with friends and family in November and January, outside of the holiday rush, which fills our hearts to the brim and gives our family room to soak in the treasured, chosen moments of December.
May your season be bright!