A Note from Chris Adams: How many of you long to show women how to have that perfect family Christmas? I’d have to raise my hand for sure. But I’ve come to discover that there is no perfect Christmas because there are no perfect families. Much as I want to create a perfect scene, I have to allow Christ to do His work. This article by Dr. Deb Douglas (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) is one we all need as some point. It certainly is one that many of the women you lead and serve also need to see.
Christmas movies about dysfunctional families are funny and entertaining. By the end of the movie, the main characters resolve to see the good in each dysfunctional member, and everyone realizes the love they share. Christmas becomes filled with gooey, warm fuzzies and all is well. From dysfunction to a Hallmark Christmas in 90 minutes. It’s a Christmas miracle in technicolor.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works in real life. The dysfunctions of family members become even more noticeable under the stress of the season. It’s a Christmas pressure cooker waiting to explode, making for a very messy Christmas.
How do we solve Christmas family messiness? We cannot take out a handy spray bottle and cleaning cloth to clean away messy family relationships during the Christmas season. Oh if only it was that easy! But unfortunately, it is more complicated than that.
During this season, I get drowned with women who are struggling with unhealthy family relationships.
Here is some of the advice that I give to them:
- Do not spend every second of the season with toxic people. Build in time to focus on the meaning of the Christmas season. Spend special moments with the ones you love the most. Schedule in time alone to meditate on the sweetness of the season.
- Sometimes, you have to focus on your immediate family rather than the extended one. Why? Because toxicity spreads like an oil spill. In order to protect our children, we have to cordon off the toxicity, putting a barrier in between our children and the poison relationships.
- Be honest. Trying to make a toxic family into a healthy one does not happen overnight. And there’s no such thing as a Christmas magical moment when everything transforms into a wonderful life. It took time for people to become toxic, and it takes time for healing.
- Be prepared. When a lot of messy toxic family members get together, a big ol’ mess with explode eventually.
- Be real. There’s no forcing a toxic family into a “normal” Christmas. Some people love/crave drama. If there is none, then they will create some.
- Be real, for real. Hoping year after year that this will be the Christmas where everyone behaves, loves each other, or is at least kind is unrealistic. Change doesn’t happen without work. We cannot force others to work toward change, especially toxic people.
- Get prayed up and ready spiritually. Realize that hurtful things will be said. Emotions will be brutally attacked. Put on the spiritual armor and be ready for the attacks. Understand that we are all human and capable of hurting others out of the hurts of our hearts.
- Understand the stress of the season that adds to messy toxic family Christmases:
- Always being the ones who have to travel to the family
- Stress over buying the correct gift for everyone
- Juggling personal family Christmas celebrations with extended family events
- Not being at home for Christmas. It’s not just explaining to the children that Santa can find them anywhere. It’s more about not having a private space or time to celebrate with the immediate family while being away from home.
- Financial stress
- Busy schedules as you try to do everything
- Competition for the perfect Christmas. Trying to have the best photos on social media can drive us all insane! We slip into the competition without realizing it. The perfect Christmas is not in a magazine or on someone else’s page. It’s in the quiet moments when we realize the love that God has for us to send His Son.
- The expense of Christmas travel adds to the expense of gift giving
- Lack of sleep is a major stress builder during Christmas. Christmas is busy, so take some time to relax and rest. Be sure to exercise and eat right to prepare physically for Christmas!
December is exhausting. Taking that exhaustion into a toxic family environment sets us up for disappointment and failure. Being physically, spiritually, and emotionally prepared will turn a messy family Christmas into a more pleasant one.
Merry Messy Christmas!
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.