Last week as I waited to be called back for an appointment, I browsed the magazines spread out on the coffee table in front of me. One in particular caught my attention, so I reached for it and quickly browsed several recipes, snapping photos of them to try later. Turning the page, a boxed quote jumped out at me.
As it goes, I was called back for my appointment and didn’t get to read the article. But the quote struck a chord in me so I returned to it later to ponder. You see, I have been known to try new recipes on Thanksgiving or other holidays. And that hasn’t gone over well with my family. And honestly, I didn’t like it either. There is something about the familiar that makes a holiday special.
One year in particular, I made sausage, saurkraut and mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. I hated every minute of that meal. The food tasted fine and my husband loved it, but what I really needed that year was connection with family and the comfort of traditions.
In an effort to grasp the idea behind this quote, I did what we all do and opened Google. And I was rewarded with an article in a similar vein. The article focused on the health benefits of social connection, both physically and emotionally. You can read the full article here.
The article emphasizes how to connect on a deeper level at traditional holiday gatherings. Spending less time on the decor and the menu and more time on what really develops relationship will yield a more satisfying holiday gathering.
It is not only possible, but likely, that some of you are dreading the holiday. On a recent outing with friends we shared our holiday plans. They confessed that their traditional Thanksgiving gathering is wrought with difficulty. Dysfunctional family behaviors and conflict abound, but as the saying goes, “as long as mom and dad are alive, we will get together.”
As I write, one phrase keeps running through my mind: SLOW DOWN!!
Perhaps a story will help. My husband likes to keep moving when he is driving somewhere. If he gets to the train tracks and there’s a train, he considers an alternate route. If he can’t turn left because of traffic, he turns right, going away from where he wants to be to make a left hand turn into a parking lot and then a right hand turn to go back the way he wants to go. Finding ways around obstacles is his specialty. I just say, “Well, we keep moving, but I don’t know if it will be faster.”
We do that in other areas of life as well. We keep moving to avoid facing an obstacle, like an uncomfortable family dinner. What if we would slow down, take a couple of deep breaths and prepare differently this year.
Here’s a few ideas I have tried before I launch into a potentially uncomfortable event. Taking time to reflect on the needs that will be present at the gathering makes a huge difference. Have there been significant life changes in the last year? Job changes? Children born or those who left for college? Death? Sickness? Just rehearsing simple details about the lives of those in attendance helps foster good, thoughtful conversation.
I ask God to make me more loving to those around the table. I extend forgiveness. Listen more. Talk less. Be attentive.
Perhaps you are feeling more vulnerable this year. Make a plan to take of yourself. Excuse yourself to step outside for a breath of fresh air if you become overwhelmed. Take a walk. Enjoy some deep breathing. Give yourself grace.
Sometimes what I am wearing makes all the difference. Recently, while getting ready for a social event, I reached for a really casual outfit. Immediately I started feeling insecure. What if everyone else is dressed to the nines? Will I feel out of place? I stopped right there in my closet and mentally pictured every person who would be there. I imagined them in their usual attire and asked myself, “Will I feel uncomfortable if I wear this? Can I be myself even if someone is more dressed up than I am?” And then I proceeded to put on my casual wear and never once gave it a thought after I arrived at the event. I believe it’s because I came to peace with it before I left home. I slowed down.
Your insecurity may not be what you are wearing, but you can still pause to reflect on whatever it might be. Choose to be yourself because that’s the person everyone is hoping will show up. You are amazing, interesting and beautiful just as you are. And they need YOU there, not some imaginary imposter who looks like you.
It doesn’t matter if the table is in your dining room or if you will be at someone else’s house. Take time to make true connection with at least one other person this year. And don’t worry about the new recipes because they don’t have the power to fix relationships or create meaningful connections. Only you can do that. The food will be forgotten, but a kind word spoken at the right time will go on forever.
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.Proverbs 12:25
Be the kind word this holiday season! And you will be pleasantly surprised how much kindness comes your way in return.
Or…you can hold your breath, grit your teeth and suffer through the day. It’s your choice and no one can make it for you!
Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
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