Thriving in Relationships at Christmastime: Extending Grace to Extended Family

design

Are you with me in admitting that relationship difficulties seem to be more prevalent during the holiday season? It’s probably because we’re actually spending time with people, trying to synchronize schedules, and interacting with one another! Communications aren’t always smooth. It takes an extra measure of grace to connect with people who are different than us. And often, the people who feel the most “different” are our own in-laws! 🙂 The wedding day may seem magical in joining two families together, but when the music has faded and the decorations are gone, real life may not be as magical. Things can get messy.

Like many fledgling marriages, my relationship with my in-laws had its ups and downs. Shortly after my husband and I were married, my dad passed away. Fast-forward a few months to the holiday season when we were trying to figure out where we were going to spend our first married Thanksgiving. To complicate matters, we were from opposite sides of the country and both families wanted us to be with them. Although it was likely unintentional, some words were exchanged between me and one of my new extended family members that hurt me deeply. Bitterness took up residence in my heart. Emotional scars from that conflict have taken a long time to heal. It wasn’t until years later that I repented of the bitterness and truly forgave. Through these rocky beginnings and the twelve years of marriage since, God has shown me truths from His Word and taught me more about His love and grace through my relationship with my in-laws.

What exactly is grace? It is free and unmerited favor. The ultimate display of grace was when God extended His riches to us at Christ’s expense on the cross. God sent Jesus to give us abundant life–THRIVING life. This Christmas, the acrostic THRIVE can help me remember how to show love and grace to my extended family.

  • Team
  • Honesty
  • Rest
  • Invest
  • Value
  • Expectations

Team

Remembering that my husband and I are on the same team lends perspective. We have a common enemy and that’s not each other! Compromising and coming together as a team is paramount to our success. One way I can “be on his team” is by loving his people, whatever that may look like. Maybe I’ll write a thank you note to my mother-in-law for raising such a great guy or carve out time to sit and visit with my sister-in-law and get to know her heart!

Honesty

God implores us to speak the truth in love. A simple form of honesty is enforcing boundaries in our family. When to say “yes” and how to say “no” is a critical component of interpersonal relationships and requires wisdom.  Boundaries show what I’m responsible for and what I am not. Honestly acknowledging I can only control myself is amazingly freeing! I’m not responsible for others’ actions. Enforcing honest boundaries may require me to say “no thanks” to someone’s late-night invitation to see a movie and instead spend quality family time at home during the holidays.

Rest

The definition of rest is “to cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength”. Many times, we feel guilty about resting because the world is telling us that we have so many things to do and places to go! Would it really be so bad to release some of those expectations and rest? I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired, I’m more prone to be grumpy with my family, in-laws included! However, even when things don’t go as planned and my rest is limited (as is often the case in the midst of travel and holiday activities), I must choose joy anyway, and ask God for strength to be cheerful. Let’s decide, tired or not, to have a joyful Christmas! 🙂     

Invest

The more time is invested into something, the more I am joined to it. Investing into my extended family is no different. What if I invested time praying for them? What if I prayed for my own growth through serving them? As I look for ways to serve others, I spend less time worrying about myself and my feelings and more readily notice the needs of others. Let’s face it: everyone loves to be waited on from time to time. Look for ways to love on your extended family this Christmas.   

Value

Realize that everyone in my family is valued by God, even when at times, they drive me nuts! (And I’m sure the feeling is mutual sometimes!) 🙂 God loves them and when I look at them through His lens, it will help me keep a right attitude. Think about what each family member may be going through in their own lives or the hurt they may be experiencing. Try to think the best of and truly value others as God does.

Expectations

Sometimes, changing our expectations can make the holidays less stressful. For me, this involves letting go of some of my expectations and personal preferences surrounding Christmas. My in-laws are generous gift-givers. Going through the piles of presents we bring home and deciding what to keep, return and donate is a full-time job for the days following Christmas! Over the years, I have realized that extravagantly giving gifts is one of the ways my in-laws show love to my children. When I choose to appreciate their love and generosity, I am able to release them from my own expectations and instead be thankful. Then I can wholeheartedly embrace my post-Christmas “job”! 🙂

As a summary to our THRIVE acrostic: As a husband/wife team, be honest about what we can and can’t do as a family so that we can carve out time to rest, choose joy, and enjoy a #simplechristmas. Then we can invest in and serve those God values and achieve healthy expectations.

God’s love is so much greater than my own. When I want to throw a pity-party for myself, I am reminded how much He has done for me. My hurts and burdens are small compared to what He suffered on the cross for me. “Lord, help me show Your supernatural love and grace toward everyone, but especially my extended family, this Christmas. Give me opportunities to serve them and give me the courage to THRIVE.”

 

Soaking in the Truth

Scripture to encourage you:

  • Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
  • Romans 12:18, NKJV: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
  • John 10:10b, NKJV: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
  • Ephesians 4:15, NASB: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” 

Music to inspire you:

Readings and Resources to come alongside of you:

Related Posts on Texting The Truth:

Living Out the Truth

Ideas to try:

  • Remember “THRIVE.”
  • Look for ways to love on your extended family this Christmas.
  • Go to bed early!

{These suggestions are ideas from novice moms. Sometimes our life situations need more. In that case, seeking out professional help is the right call.}

One thought on “Thriving in Relationships at Christmastime: Extending Grace to Extended Family

  1. What a great and honest post. I have often thought about the Manager scene and how the presents delivered were given to Jesus. There was not an exchange of gifts. So when trying to balance gift giving, especially with the expectations with the little ones, it’s good to remind them that gifts were given to Jesus – not exchanged, so any small amount of gifts should be appreciated since it’s not about us, but about Jesus. I think it makes it less of a burden to families if they view it that way. Less is more. Help them to focus on Jesus and they will not give in to the material things of Christmas. That’s just me, and I know nothing…lol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *