7 Ways to Lovingly Prepare Your Marriage for the Holidays

7 Ways to Prepare Your Marriage for the Holidays

Drifting snow. Twinkly lights. Lovely gifts, woodsy garland, and a simple nativity scene.

Mystery and joy.

It was Christmas Eve and our very first together.

We were newlyweds living in those dreadful pink apartments and I was eager to have his family out to celebrate Christmas Eve with us. Everyone was invited over for “light snacks and a festive evening”.

(Did you catch that? “Light snacks and a festive evening.” Just wanted to be sure.)

I put together a platter of cheese and crackers, a large bowl of popcorn, and an assortment of Christmas cookies.  The doorbell rang and Matthew’s parents, his sisters and their families poured in and soon our tiny apartment was full to overflowing. Everyone was in good cheer and began nibbling on the goodies.

After an hour or two, however, something seemed wrong.

A slight tension.

I could feel it in the air, but couldn’t quite figure it out.

Finally, my sister-in-law softly whispered, “Um…..I don’t mean to be rude, but my children are starving! When are you going to serve the dinner?”

Dinner . . . ?

I’m quite certain that I had specified “light snacks” because, of course, that is what you do on Christmas Eve—saving your big, fancy meal for Christmas Day.

Yet apparently, that is not how they did it in his family. Not at all. So my “light snacks” were misinterpreted as merely a humble offering on my part.

Except that I had meant it.

Rather literally.

I suddenly realized that our small apartment was full of very hungry people who look forward to this special dinner every year. And I had unknowingly offered them a rather meager bowl of popcorn . . . .

So I did what one can only do in such a circumstance: I burst into tears.

Horrified. Embarrassed. Stressed. Upset. Even angry.

Why hadn’t my new husband thought to tell me that this was the tradition in their family??  The misunderstanding seemed so unnecessary. 

This was the first of many lessons I would learn about marriage, family expectations, and holiday traditions.

7 Ways to Prepare Your Marriage for the Coming Holidays

Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned some ways to help prepare our marriage for the coming holidays such as…

1)   Communicate your expectations: Often we assume our spouse knows what we value and expect over the holidays, but it’s usually worth a conversation or two. You might both be surprised at the honest answer. You also might find that these things change over time.

2)   Hold your traditions loosely: Traditions can be delightful – but they should never be held above your relationship. God cares more about the love and peace between you two than any long-standing traditions.

3)   Protect your marriage: His family is important. Your family is important. But your marriage is your first priority, so make decisions together that are in keeping with that priority.

4)   Keep it simple: I know, easier said than done. But if attending every event and upholding every tradition sacrifices the peace in your home? Is it really worth it? Probably not. Be willing to let go of some activities to lessen the stress.

5)   Stick with your budget: Often the holiday stress stems from financial pressure, so determine your budget and then keep to it. Cut back your gift list, decorate simply, and make things at home.  Debt is always a damper to celebration.

6)  Be considerate of one another: For instance, my husband is an extrovert and I’m the introvert. Basically he has more “party” in him than me. So we try to accommodate one another – each giving up a little for the sake of the other.

7)   Keep Christ at the Center. He is the reason we are celebrating. It’s not about the presents, cards, food, fun, or even family. It’s about rejoicing in the Prince of Peace, amen?

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  ~ Isa. 9:6

I hope some of these things help you both to enjoy a loving, joy-filled Christmas this year.

And now you know, if I ever invite you over for “light snacks” . . . well, I really mean it. ;)

Blessings on you and yours as we celebrate the birth of the Christ-Child and King!

*How about you? What are some ways you prepare your marriage for the holidays? Or what are some of your challenges? 

Addendum: So many people asked how this story ended, that I thought I’d share it here.

While I went back to the bathroom to blow my nose and clean up my mascara, my sweet sister-in-law rummaged through my cupboards and freezer and started cutting up miscellaneous items like summer sausage, some fruit, and I think even some leftovers! They all had the kindest smiles for me when I got back out (Did she say something to them??) and no one has ever mentioned it since.

And just so you know? It’s a HAM dinner this year! ;)

In His grace,
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100 Ways to Love Your Husband by Lisa Jacobson and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife by Matthew L Jacobson

 (This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)

*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

FREE Printable: 21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him

Free Printable - 21 Questions Your Son Wants You to Ask Him

You see this boy here?

He’s my quiet one. He’s usually got way more on his heart and mind than you would first guess.

I find that I have to prompt him a bit. To get the conversation going.

And I’m always surprised at how much goes on inside that young man—the things he’s excited about, the stuff he’s worried about, and the adventures he wants to go on.

You just wouldn’t guess.

I have to ask him about it.

To prompt him a bit with a few questions.

Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask HimThen there’s this guy.

NOT my quiet child.

Nope, this one’s a talker. He’s also got lots on his heart and mind. He’d be glad to tell you all about it – and more – if you’d like to hear it.

And you know what’s interesting about him?

Yes, he’ll be happy to chatter on and on with you. But if you want to know what he is really thinking and really feeling?

You guessed it.

You have to ask him.

And then you have to listen. Just listen

Either way – whether quiet or a talker – that boy of yours?

Your son really needs you to start the conversation. He wants you to ask him.

And he wants you to really care. 

21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him

As a follow-up to the recent post, 21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him, here is a FREE printable!

Simply click the link below the picture to download your printable:

FREE Printable - 21 Questions Your Son Needs You to Ask Him

Click here to download: Printable – 21 Questions Your Son Needs You to Ask Him

Blessings on you and your own sweet guy!

In His grace,
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P.S. Also:  21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her 

(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)
100 Ways to Love Your Husband by Lisa Jacobson and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife by Matthew L Jacobson*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

FREE Printable: 21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

So how do you develop a close relationship with your daughter? 

How do you get to know her heart?

That’s what I shared with you a couple of weeks ago (you can read more HERE).  It’s one of the ways that I’ve been able to grow close to our girls.

I ask questions.

It’s not so much that I have the answers —mostly I have questions.

And I ask these – and more – from our daughters and then do my best to listen with all my heart.

You can download this FREE printable by clicking the link below:

Printable – 21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

FREE Printable - 21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask HerBlessings on you and your own dear girl!

In His grace,
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P.S. Also:  21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him 

(This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure.)
100 Ways to Love Your Husband by Lisa Jacobson and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife by Matthew L Jacobson*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

Got In-Laws? One Great Way You Can Grow Closer

Got In-Laws - One Great Way You Can Grow Closer

If you go east on Reserve Street toward the Swan Mountain Range, you can take a left onto our street.

If you go west on Reserve Street toward the Thompson Lakes, you can take a right onto my mother-in-law’s street.

Living only 10 minutes apart you would think we would see each other all the time, but that’s not what happens.

She and her sister live together, and they’re busy with their Bible study ladies and serving at church. They go to water aerobics class and watch my little nephew play soccer.

And we’re busy over our direction, with Matt counseling and preparing sermons, me writing blog posts and Spanish lesson plans, and that 17-year-old who sleeps at our house always on the go.

So we pass my mother-in-law with a quick hug at church and an occasional dinner at her house, but I wish for more.

Well, this week some friends of ours were moving, so we offered them our house while they were displaced for four days.

We packed up and went to my mother-in-law’s and her sister’s house for a three-night sleepover.

It was so fun.

We felt like we were on vacation, with clean sheets and wonderful suppers prepared for us. We enjoyed a slow breakfast coffee and chatting together. One night I graded papers while we all critiqued episodes of Gold Diggers, and then the sports enthusiasts cheered on the Chicago Cubs.

We didn’t even have to take off time from work or spend money on gas and a hotel.

I think about when we visit my mom in Wyoming and how special it is when we go there because we’re all there. You know what I mean? We’re all the way there –not just popping in for an hour or two.

A different kind of connection and closeness happens when we live in the house together for a few days.

Got In-Laws? One Great Way to Grow Closer

I know I would enjoy my daughter and her new husband coming to have an occasional sleepover at our house, even when they live in the same town as us. (Did I say that loudly enough for her to hear? I SAID –I WOULD LOVE FOR MY GROWN KIDS TO COME FOR A SLEEPOVER.)

I’m all about subtlety.

On a sober note, my dad went to be with the Lord just eight months ago, at the age of 67.

Now I am looking at our moms and knowing time with them is precious. There is no promise of how long we will get to hang out with them on this earth.

Of course, I have no idea what your relationship is with your parents or in-laws, but if you have a healthy relationship that you would like to enrich, try pulling out the calendar and planning a few days to stay together.

*Your turn: What are some of your favorite things to do with your in-laws? Your best memories? Please share!

Christy FitzwaterChristy Fitzwater is a pastor’s wife south of the border (Canadian, that is.) She has two children –a newly married daughter and a son who is a senior in high school, although she is in denial about the latter. Christy is a librarian’s daughter and an English major who loves the smell of a new book and freshly sharpened pencils but who occasionally can be seen in a kayak as her one claim to athleticism. Living in Kalispell, Montana she teaches high school Spanish at a Christian school in the afternoons and spends the mornings writing her devotional blog, Off the Shelf. Her greatest desire is to help people know and understand who God is. You can also find her at Pinterest and Twitter.

*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him

21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask He is not exactly a big talker. 

That son of mine.

He is kind, thoughtful, and a man of action.

But not necessarily a talker.

More of the strong, silent type, if you know what  I mean?

And I don’t mind it so much that he doesn’t say a whole lot. I tell him that’s fine by me.

He doesn’t have to be a talker . . . but he does need to be a communicator. 

Not merely for my sake, but for the sake of his friendships and future relationships. Because even at the age of 12, this young man already knows he hopes to marry and become a family man someday.

Just like his dad.

And marriage requires communication.

And parenting requires communication.

And friendship requires communication.

So this sweet guy of mine is learning to communicate. We’re practicing now with our eye on the future.

And you know what I’ve found? I’ve discovered that what works the best is if I ask him the questions.

He needs me to start the conversation. 

21 Questions Your Son Needs You to Ask 21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask

  1. What would you say was the best day of your life so far?
  2. What was the worst day of your life…and why?
  3. If you could pick one meal for me to make you, what would it be?
  4.  What mountain do you wish you could climb?
  5.  What do you admire most about your dad?
  6.   What kind of music really moves you?
  7.   What is your favorite Scripture verse? And why that one?
  8.  What things does your sister do that frustrate (or encourage) you?
  9.  And what does your brother do that annoys (helps) you?
  10.   What do you think you’d like to do for a job when you get older?
  11.   Why did that (movie, song, conversation. etc) disturb you?
  12.   What’s the best thing about being a part of our family?
  13.   What’s the hardest part about being a middle child (or youngest, oldest, only) in our family?
  14.   What sorts of things in this world make you angry? Wish you could fix?
  15.   Can you describe what the perfect day would look like to you?
  16.   What would you say are your top 3 movies? And what is it about them that you like?
  17.   What skill do wish you could be better at? What we can do to help you improve it?
  18.   What kinds of things make you want to cry?
  19.   What character qualities do you especially appreciate in a friend?
  20.   What do you wish I understood better about you?
  21.   Do you know how much I love you?

So I ask the questions and then try to listen with all of my heart.

Because when our oldest son left for college and I asked him what was the most loving thing I’ve ever done for him as his mom?

His said it was that I listened.

I don’t want to ever forget that.

So ask your son what’s on his mind. What’s on his heart?

Then listen to what he has to say.

Communicate and build a close relationship.

He needs you, mom.

Sometimes more than he can say.

In His grace,
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P.S. Free Printable of These 21 Questions for Sons HERE
P.S.S. Also:  21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).

21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Close.

That’s how my friend described my relationship with our daughters. “She’s really close to her girls,” she informed the woman across the table. She said it as though I wasn’t sitting right there and listening.

Felt a little funny. That personal observation shared in my presence.

But it’s true – we’re very close. Those girls and me. We laugh and hug and talk about most everything.

Close.

So how did we get there? How did we grow so close?

I had to stop and really think about that one. And then this is what came to me . . . .

This closeness comes from seeking–from seeking their hearts and pursuing relationship. It comes from being interested in their thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams.

And it comes from asking questions.

I ask our daughters questions most every day. I wonder how they’re doing, what they’re thinking about, and how they’re feeling.

Because our girls need me to ask them about these things. They won’t necessarily volunteer what’s on their hearts and minds. They need me to ask and they need me to care about their answers.

Your daughter probably needs you to ask her too. 

21 Questions Your Daughter Needs You to Ask Her

21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask

Maybe you don’t know what to ask your girl, or where to begin.

If so, here’s a list of questions you might ask that sweet girl of yours….

  1. What’s on your heart?
  2. What happened in your day today?
  3. Why did that make you cry?
  4. What do you dream about?
  5. What would you do, if you could do anything you wanted?
  6. What kinds of things make you feel cared for?
  7. What is your favorite kind of food?
  8. What do you need from me?
  9. What makes you happy?
  10. What did you like about that movie?
  11. Which kind of music makes you want to sing?
  12. What are those things that make you angry?
  13. What would you like to talk about?
  14. Where would you like to visit, if you could go anywhere?
  15. What makes you afraid?
  16. What is your fondest memory?
  17. How does that (whatever the circumstance) make you feel?
  18. What makes you laugh?
  19. What have you been thinking about lately?
  20. What sorts of things are important to you?
  21. Do you know how much I love you?

So go ahead. Ask her.

Start the conversation.

And cozy up and listen to her answers.

Grow close together. Very close.

In His grace,

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*FREE Printable of these 21 Questions Your Daughter Really Needs You to Ask Her

*Also: 21 Questions Your Son Really Needs You to Ask Him

*If you would like these posts delivered directly to your inbox, simply subscribe below (and get the FREE eBook, The 7 Habits of a Highly Fulfilling Marriage).