This week I received a not-so-subtle reminder of how Christmas used to be around our house. It started out as an unnamed tension, a small inkling that something just wasn’t right between us.
Eventually, my frustration grew, and with it the realization that my husband and I were quickly heading down a path that neither one of us wished to revisit – the path of Christmas past.
In years past, unresolved issues often flared during the holiday season with the pressure of family functions and high expectations for extra quality togetherness.
Christmas expectations tend to create an unhealthy, doomed-to-fail attitude in my husband who struggles with baggage from the past.
Add to that my equally destructive tendency toward perfectionism (also heightened by Christmas expectations) and desire for magical family moments, and… well… you can imagine the disappointment when things don’t go as planned.
The Christmas Light Fight
It took a strand of Christmas lights for me to finally experience the “Aha!” moment we desperately needed.
Because every single year we argued over those stinkin’ Christmas lights!
Why, why, why?!
Why argue over something so silly and insignificant?
Because we’re different.
My husband is a get-‘er-done, looks-good-enough-to-me kind of guy while I’m a detail-oriented, slightly OCD perfectionist.
His goal was to get the job done quickly while mine was to get the job done right!
And at Christmastime, of all times, I felt we should be on the same page (which, if I’m honest, really meant I believed he should get on my page). 😉
One year, we found a way around the seemingly inevitable Christmas light argument. Somehow, we managed to work together to get the lights on the tree without losing patience with each other.
It was our very own Christmas miracle!
Not only that, but we also managed to discuss a plan for the outdoor lights that we both agreed upon, and my husband carried out to near perfection.
That Christmas certainly wasn’t perfect, but it demonstrated real progress.
Sometimes, friends, we focus so intently on the standard, on where we desire to be, on the relationship that we desperately long for, that we fail to see the small steps that have carried us away from where we were.
When that happens, when we fail to see the progress, we wrongly believe that we’re stuck, doomed to repeat patterns of failure that we’re sick and tired of repeating.
Like our annual Christmas light fight.
Christmas Expectations & The Enemy
The truth is that Christmas, for all of its joy and light, is also a season of added stress – financial stress, relational stress, physical stress, and mental stress.
It’s enough stress to downright break an already limping marriage relationship like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
For women in particular, we often expect our husbands to be even more family-oriented during holiday seasons.
I can’t believe he’s acting like this at Christmas!
Doesn’t he love me enough not to ruin my holiday?
Can we get just one day without his selfishness – for the kids?!
Our unrealistic Christmas expectations provide fertile ground for the Enemy’s seeds of discontent.
Believe me when I say that the Enemy is keenly aware of the opportunity that added Christmas expectations provides, and he is quick to pounce on every opportunity to grow bitterness and resentment in our hearts, even during, no especially during the season of light.
It must make him incredibly angry to see families working together to decorate their homes in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth.
It must make him seethe with hatred to see the love and joy we experience in the act of giving to one another in honor of the Greatest Gift.
He must burn with rage to see families gathered around to listen to God’s Word, His love story come to life in the babe called Jesus, the God sent to earth to be “with us.”
No wonder he attacks families during the Christmas season.
There’s so much joy that he is determined to steal all that he can, and sometimes… sometimes we let him.
Friends, don’t let your Christmas expectations diminish your joy this year.
The Setup for Christmas Success
Instead of setting yourself up for Christmas failure, set yourself up for success by:
- Lowering expectations. Be realistic! (will the Christmas light setup really matter in years to come? Or that perfect family photo – you know, the one where everyone is smiling but you remember the true feelings that reigned that day).
- Focusing on progress rather than perfection. (even baby steps are still steps in the right direction!)
- Recognizing the Enemy’s attempts to steal your Christmas joy.
- Keeping your mind stayed fast on the hope you have in Christ, the God who is with you!
Don’t let the sorrow of broken relationships or life’s hardships eclipse the light of the Savior’s birth.
After all, He came to be the God who is with us in all our brokenness, in all our sorrow and joy and love and frustration and messiness and wild beauty.
He came to be with us.
That’s the hope we have to offer you this Christmas season, that your God is the God who is “with you.” He never leaves you nor forsakes you, even when you disappoint yourself and your spouse by arguing over Christmas lights.
The God Who Is With You
He loves you with an everlasting love, even when you miss the first fourteen days of your advent plan.
He delights in you even when you fail time and time again.
He lavishes new mercies every morning upon you when you’ve spent half the night worrying about whether or not you and your spouse will make it.
He strengthens you to keep fighting for the healthy, abundant-life kind of marriage that He designed you to experience from the beginning.
He is the God who is with you.
And according to His word, nothing can separate you from his love, not even the prowling Enemy.
Believe in His promises today, friend. Cling to the hope that you are not alone!
When those dark thoughts and temptations enter your mind, just whisper His name – Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…
and remember He is the God who is with you, the ultimate, life-giving Gift!
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Hope for Wives This Christmas
Friends, we know the holiday season is rough on marriages, even healthy ones. But it’s especially hard on marriages that have nearly reached the breaking point. We know wives and spouses who are living unloved experience an intense loneliness and sadness during Christmas.
So, as a gift to you, my co-author Rebekah Hallberg and I have scheduled a special one-week Kindle countdown sale on our book, Hope for the Hurting Wife – a 30 day devotional for encouragement in your marriage. (UPDATE: This is last year’s sale and has now passed)
What better gift can we give than the gift of knowing you are not alone, and that real Hope is within your grasp?
It’s the only kind of hope that is guaranteed not to put us to shame!
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5
If you’re living in a broken relationship, if you are a wife who is hurting this holiday season, I encourage you to pick up this book, especially while it’s so affordable. Or maybe you know a fellow wife who is doing her best to fight for her marriage? Give her the gift of Hope this Christmas.
Please don’t delay because the nature of the countdown sale is that the price increases incrementally as time passes.
Our greatest desire is that no wife should go through this Christmas feeling alone and hopeless!
Whatever your circumstances, choose to celebrate the hope of the God who is with you.
Let’s share that message around this season!
P.S. My lovely and brave author friend Kaylene Yoder is also “birthing” these babies (below) into the world today. If you’re looking for more marriage and parenting encouragement, please check out her prayer journals! Harness the power of prayer to change your most important family relationships.
Thanks for the encouragement!! and the reminder to focus on Jesus instead of stuff, meetings, celebrations, plans, etc. He is all that is important!
Sometimes, friends, we focus so intently on the standard, on where we desire to be, on the relationship that we desperately long for, that we fail to see the small steps that have carried us away from where we were.This truth is so significant for me and something I’m working on myself. Merry Christmas!
I’m so glad to hear that it was meaningful for you, Crystal! Merry Christmas to you, too!
Timberley @ Living Our Prioritites says
Great post. Focus on progress rather than perfection is soooo good! Pinned to share with our Living Our Priorities community.
“Sometimes, friends, we focus so intently on the standard, on where we desire to be, on the relationship that we desperately long for, that we fail to see the small steps that have carried us away from where we were.”
This can be so me sometimes! I have expectation of where we should be and what our relationship should look like that I feel like I neglect to see the real progress that is being made. THANK YOU for this insight, Jen! Such an important truth I needed to hear!
Oh, man, Alisa, learning to see the work in progress is like my life story. 😉 I really believe it’s Satan’s most effective tactic in my life to get me to focus on some standard of perfection rather than recognizing the work God has already done (and not just in my marriage). So, I’m working on fighting back with God’s truth – letting Him be both the author AND the narrator of my story.
Ruthie Gray says
I love #3 especially! And I thought your second graphic said, “How to protect your marriage from Christmas” :0 :0 :0 I was like WHAAAAA??! That’s a GREAT title!! LOLOL.
You are an inspiration, my dear. Nothing says insight like experience. 😉
Haha, well maybe it should have been titled that! Really it could apply to any high-expectation holiday. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!
These words, I needed them so today. Christmas is so close and I still have no idea what its going to look like.