Last week I had Gayla Grace on Living Inspired – if you missed that show, you can listen to the podcast here or on iTunes for free. As we were chatting on the show I knew I needed to have her on the blog too!
“The news isn’t good. The factory will be closing in less than 90 days and my job will end. I’m sorry.” My husband’s unexpected words brought tears to my eyes as we began the holiday season last year. As plant manager of a manufacturing company hit hard by the declining housing industry, we knew his job was in jeopardy. But we weren’t prepared for the finality of closure. It was the beginning of a difficult season that carried over into the new year and beyond.
So, how do you create a peaceful holiday season when you can’t control downward-spiraling circumstances? How do you find peace in the midst of turmoil? How do you get along with those around you when you feel like your world is crumbling?
In our holiday e-book, “Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success,” co-author Heather Hetchler and I offer eight tips for unwrapping the gift of peace at the holiday season. One tip we suggest is offering the gifts of grace and flexibility as often as possible. “While most gifts end up in a landfill, grace and flexibility help create cherished memories that will forever live in the hearts of those who receive these precious gifts,” Heather writes.
When I learned my husband’s job was ending, I knew he would need extra grace and a flexible spirit from me as we explored new opportunities for him. It wasn’t easy for my always-have-a- plan character to not know what was around the corner, but with the Lord’s help, I learned to accept uncertainty and change as part of God’s plan for us. I learned to recognize when the job-hunting seemed tedious and discouraging for my husband, and he was in need of an extra dose of grace.
Through the holiday season, we have ample opportunity to offer grace and flexibility, particularly in blended families. It’s not unusual to have additional contact with ex-spouses and ex-in-laws, creating tension-filled moments and stress-filled days. But if we choose to offer grace at hurtful words and a flexible spirit when a stubborn demeanor shows up, we’re more likely to find peace.
Our stepkids often need additional grace too. Their routines change as schedules are adjusted for the holiday, creating uncertainty in their day-to-day activities. Emotions are heightened, especially in the early years of a blended family, as kids adjust to divorce, re-marriage, and strangers in their new family. Grace is the perfect answer when irritability, sadness, and frustration show up.
Flexibility becomes a necessary part of unwrapping holiday peace and can particularly aid blended families when co-parenting issues become heated. When our stepchild needs a gift for his teacher that the other parent promised to provide, or the costume required for the school play doesn’t show up with our stepchild’s belongings, or the agreed-upon schedule must suddenly be changed, flexibility is key to creating a peace-filled moment amidst stressed-out emotions.
After my husband’s job loss, we were thankful when the Lord provided another job opportunity without a long unemployment period, but it required re-locating to another state. Leaving three children behind in college, we reluctantly moved four hours away and began a new life. It has been a difficult transition, but maintaining a flexible spirit has helped us adjust to our new home.
The holiday season often includes new surroundings with complicated variables for blended families. It’s easy to get distracted and act out in anger or frustration. But if we choose Christ-like behavior we will find smoother navigation of our circumstances.
Grace and flexibility are not always easy to offer, but can be priceless gifts when extended during stressful periods. Will you choose grace and flexibility as part of your gift-giving this season?