How to Thrive and not Survive the Holidays: Expectationsposted on November 14th, 2012 / by Cassie Reid / 1 Comment
What are you expecting this holiday season?
The holidays seem to be a time of year that bring out the best and worst in all of us. It may seem as if I am writing this series solely from my own personal struggles during the holiday season but I find that many times, my struggles parallel those of many others.
One of my weaknesses during this time of year, and the rest of the year as well, is setting realistic expectations. I am the worst at this. I repeatedly create a scene in my mind and expect it to be played out exactly as I imagined it. This never seems to materialize for many reasons but mostly because people are involved. It is almost like I am expecting people to star in a play but have never given them the script. My husband, James, is great at keeping me grounded in reality as opposed to the elaborate scenes playing in my mind.
The media today does a great job of painting the “ideal” picture of what a family should look like. They show families gathered around the table with each person getting along beautifully. In the numerous “life censuses” (simply my terminology for an informal survey of people I know and trust to give me an honest answer) I have taken these families are very rare. There are always underlying annoyances, frustrations, and sometimes wounds that make the interactions a little less than television worthy.
I believe it is important to have realistic expectations, especially entering the holiday season. It is easy for me to get geared up for a picture perfect holiday season but there will always be something that happens that makes the picture look a little less like an ideal celebration. I have learned, with the help of my husband, to have healthier expectations so when things don’t go exactly the way I think they should, I am not as let down.
A few years ago during the holidays I failed to set healthy holiday expectations. We were planning on spending Christmas day with my husband’s family. His brothers were caravanning with us to the Wichita Falls area and I knew it was going to be picture perfect. On Christmas Eve it began to rain turning to sleet and eventually it became snow. The roads became covered in ice and the travel conditions were less than ideal, especially to the north of DFW. We decided to brave the elements and travel anyway. I remember starting the drive, all of the baked goods, presents, and stuff packed into the car. We drove for a while without any difficulty but then hit the halfway point and found the roads were ruts of ice. I remember thinking about how we could just keep going; it would be fine that we could make it. I had painted this picture in my mind of our holiday at my in-laws house and didn’t have an alternative “scene” to play out in its place. We ended up hitting bumper-to-bumper traffic while traveling less than 20 miles per hour. My husband decided it would be best for us to just turn around and head home. I was crushed, panicked, and totally uncomfortable because I didn’t know what to do instead. Long story short we all ended up at my parent’s house, we had a fabulous Christmas, and we were all in one piece. I survived the transition only because the Holy Spirit taught me flexibility.
Expectations can easily be used as a tool of the enemy. When they are not met there is an open door to disappointment, bitterness, and other negative thoughts. It allows room for the enemy to speak incorrectly about the situation and for us to not respond in the best state of mind. Honestly during my Christmas disaster I didn’t once ask the Holy Spirit what we should do. I became so determined to get to the Christmas I had created in my mind that I made no room for Godly wisdom and direction. I want to caution you this holiday season to always leave room in your expectations for the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to have grace for others and grace for yourself. If we are able to remain flexible and open to whatever we are directed to do it makes all the difference in the outcome. I am still working on managing my expectations but now around the holidays I am much better at leaving room for the whatever, wherever, and whoever. It is much more picture perfect this way, trust me!
So are there any expectations that you have this holiday season? Do you feel like they are realistic? You may answer yes to that question and if so, good for you! If not ask the Lord right now to show you how to let those go. Ask the Lord to show you how to have grace for those around you and for yourself this holiday. He is always there to meet us, even when we are driving in the ruts.