"Did you see that?" I asked my husband. "Did you see the tight lips when she said that? I get so tired of the barbed comments all the time."
We'd been married several years but Hubs still didn't understand why family gatherings that should have been fun and festive always deteriorated into uptight and uncomfortable. My family wasn't the type to have obvious arguments. We excelled in subtle disapproval that, despite the fact I was well into my 30's, took me right back to childhood. And not in a good way.
For all the build up, I think many of our family holidays are like that. We go into the season with this expectation of smiling, appreciative faces around the table. Voices of gratitude and support sharing in meaningful conversation and hours of family fun, just enjoying one anothers company.
All too often though, the pressures of the preparations make us snappy, the troubles of travel make us tired and the unfortunate reality of the whole thing can be a big let down.
I posted one perspective of having a flawed family at Exemplify last week. I know that even if we learn to be thankful for the family we've been given, it can still be a trial to spend these moments of high expectation with them.
Here are a couple of tips that might help if your holidays are sometimes less than joyous gatherings:
- Resolve not to take the bait. My family made snide comments so subtle that casual observers would miss the dig entirely. I finally decided not only not to respond in kind, but not to react in the first place. The remark would fall on the floor and the conversation could carry on in a new direction.
- Rather than dreading the inevitable uncomfortableness, look for ways that you can bring new light into the situation. Find ways to serve from the heart--whether you are hostess or guest--busy yourself by making it a good experience for someone else. Play with children, get seconds or refills for others, find little things that will occupy you and remove you from the worst of it.
- Pray for the people who bring the most drama with them. The act of praying for someone--even someone who stresses us out or causes us grief softens our heart toward them. Your prayers might not change the situation, but they may change you.
I'll spend the rest of the day in preparation for our holiday with family. I'll be praying for you as you anticipate your own celebration of God's goodness to us.