As this year’s holidays approach, I feel anxious. Without a doubt, I believe this year may be one of the hardest to face with the many changes that my family and I have experienced. So this of course makes events with large groups of people and festivities, and the expectations for all to go well, quite overwhelming.
I am pretty certain I am not alone in this sentiment. In fact, I find it a storyline in so many of my favorite Christmas movies where expectation are not met and everything seems to go awry.
Be it the most Christmas lights in the neighborhood, a vacation in another country or the “official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” – expectations can ruin family gatherings and deflate the spirit of the season for everyone. If we concentrate on expectation too much, we can blow our fuse – literally and figuratively. We can forget a child at home when travelling. We can stress over gifts so much that it takes precedence over the meaning.
At this time of my life I am asking everyone I will see for the holidays something different.
I will simply ask that they sit with me.
I want to know more about the people in my circle of friends and in my family. I want to have my stepmom tell me more about why she made all of her own clothes for so many years in high school. I want to ask my dad more about my grandfather and how he built his own plane in his backyard. I want to ask my mom’s best friend about her outings with my mom, and the things she remembers about her.
Outside of Minecraft and Nerf guns, I want to know what my kids look forward to in life.
Are you in the habit of really listening? Have you set your phone down for more than an hour to be intentionally present for another soul?
If you haven’t been, don’t be ashamed. I haven’t either.
You have a chance now to make that effort. Often people might give up talking when they know we will only listen to a point. Take the time to sit with everyone longer than your usual threshold. You might notice that they will relax, take a breath, and be surprised that you want to hear them share more. Hopefully, you learn something new about them and take away great memories.
You are serving their hearts
At my previous home church, the pastor once shared a message that has stuck with me. He was teaching us all how to really love a person and be less judgemental when they don’t meet our expectations. It is HARD work. I think this is especially true in our families with all the history.
In his message the pastor shared, “You earn the right to speak when you are able to serve the heart of that person.”
This hit hard when thinking about my children. I am often scrambling to get things accomplished or to get out the door. If I need help from my kids, they barely listen or take too long to do what I ask. If I am struggling with this, I ask myself if I have taken the time to be with them and hear what they have to share. More often than not when problems with their behavior arise, I find that we haven’t had enough time to connect.
I know for myself that if I feel heard, I feel loved. And if I feel loved, I am willing to do just about anything that the person who listened, needs. They served my heart by being willing to really hear me, and see me.
It all goes by so fast
During my Mom’s cancer battle, one of her biggest requests was that we come and sit with her. She specifically asked me to get up in her bed with her, and be by her side.
A month later, my Dad had major heart surgery and during his healing, he has only asked that we come spend time with him.
Even right now as I write this post, my 8-year old son is asking me to watch a YouTube video and I responded, “Ten more minutes.”
Remember when you were dating and you were more curious about your significant other? It was almost an intuitive mission in those early days and months to seek out every secret and solve every mystery of the person you were falling in love with. Why not start that over and strive to learn more again?
I know that no matter how much I did or did not do, I will regret so many things. I want to make that guilt-pile a bit smaller and remember that I don’t have forever. Before my children and I are older, and family begins to also age, I want to sit with everyone and hear their stories. Be it from their lifetime, the previous year, or that day. I have much to be grateful for and to show that sincere gratitude, I need to give my full attention to those I love.