It’s that time of year…again. The holidays are quickly approaching; and while they are typically accompanied by joy, love, and laughter, there is also typically the added stress, anxiety, and craze of hosting our beloved friends and family. We see the date, set aside months ago for hosting that yearly gathering, pop up on our calendar, and we are initially seized with momentary panic. We think: “It can’t really be coming up that soon, can it?!” Once we collect ourselves up off the proverbial floor, we quickly hop onto Pinterest and raid the Home & Garden magazine rack at our local Barnes and Nobel to find some new recipes, décor, and other ideas for hosting a fabulous holiday party. Plans are formed, lists are created, and things are ordered. The next thing we know it is the day before the said event, and only about a quarter of our list is complete, six dishes have yet to be prepped, the house is not remotely clean, and half of the decorations and party favors still have not arrived! On top of it all, the kids will be out of school in two hours and will need to be shuttled around to their extra-curriculars before hustling over to the church to help out with the Kids Club Christmas Party.
STRESS. ANXIETY. FRUSTATION.
We are entirely on the edge of emotional eruption and are so internally distracted, that we completely ignore Suzy’s ballet instructor as we drop her off for lessons and then later we uncontrollably lash out at the trouble kid at church for something small…simply because he is the “trouble kid” and some steam must blow off at some point, right? We then go home, snap at our kids to get to bed ASAP, and give our spouse the cold shoulder. Our reasoning: “Things need to be done, and they need to be done now!” We proceed to stay up till 4 AM, prepping dishes and cleaning the guest suite. Three hours later, we rush the kids to school and then spend the rest of the morning in a state of utter chaos and frantic cleaning, decorating, and cooking, because, well, things need to be done! We are then so physically and mentally fatigued by the time our guests arrive that we can hardly enjoy the party we spent weeks preparing for, and instead of investing in our guests, we spend most of our time watching the clock, wondering when we can finally go to bed.
Why are we like this? Does every holiday season have to be a giant whirlwind of fancy parties and expensive gifts? Do we have to spend a month “on edge” running around like a mad squirrel trying to get all of our ducks in a row, just so we can collapse at the end of a party hoping that it at least looked good and the food was tolerable? What is the point?
While I may not yet be a mother, or even an experienced housewife, there are a few things that I have learned (and am still learning) over the course of my short adult life about hosting and loving on others. The most important thing I have learned thus far is to keep the main thing, the main thing. While that may sound cliché, it is something I need to remind myself of daily, or I begin to drown in the ocean of frivolous entertainment expectations and material consumption.
But what is the “main thing?” The main thing is simply this: We want to bless, love, and encourage our guests by sharing the many blessings God has given us.
Matthew 25:34-40 – “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
My hope is that the following five tips will help you to keep your focus heavenward and outward this Holiday Season.
- Don’t stress over perfection. As much as I want my home to look, feel, smell, and taste like something straight out of Joanna Gaines’ magazine, there is not any humanity or relatability in perfection. No one can relate to a perfect home – because no one is perfect. While it is good to do our best to present a clean home and yummy food to our guests, at the end of the day there will never be enough time, kids will be kids, and dinner will be, well, what it is. Don’t get caught up in the expectation of hosting a perfect home, because it will never happen…and your guests will internally thank you, because their life and home isn’t perfect either.
- Do think of others. When planning for guests, think about past experiences you have had as a guest. What has made you feel comfortable and welcome? What has made you feel uneasy and awkward? Think through the ideal procession of events as if you were a guest coming into your own home. What would you want to know? Where would you want to sit? What would you like to eat or drink? Are there any potential allergies or special diets?
- Less is (almost) always more. You don’t need a million choices of dessert or a hundred garlands hanging from every wall to show that you care. A warm hug, thoughtful words, and a genuine smile mean more than an elaborately decorated home or a fancy supper. While putting forth our best is an excellent way to show that we care, going over the top, simply to impress our guests, is not. Find the balance. If you find yourself becoming wrapped up in the all the fixings and trimmings, stop, pray, and ask the Lord to help refocus your heart.
- Set the mood – without breaking the bank. Some of my favorite pieces in home décor are those that tell a story or have a sense of meaning…the ones that have been passed down from generation to generation. The truth is you don’t actually need to have brand new décor items each and every year (as opposed to what Target may have you believe). Shop post season clearance and hit up Goodwill…you may be surprised at the treasures you find! The money you save can be invested in your gifts for others.
Simple Décor Ideas
- Use fresh greenery from the yard. Clip a branch or two from that pretty tree with golden leaves or use some fresh holly berries from your tree!
- Use wood slices and mini stumps to add height and interest to your centerpiece. This is ideal if you have access to timber and a chainsaw, or know a friend that does.
- Add a fun seasonal paper garland or banner to your mantle or china hutch.
- Make your house smell amazing for your guests by making some fresh apple cider on the stove or by having cookies fresh out of the oven when they arrive.
- Purchase or make a chalkboard or letter board to use for seasonal quotes and verses.
- Remember the reason for the season. In all of the hustle and bustle, remember not to lose sight of the reason for our celebration. We have been gifted undeserved eternal life through the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Keeping this blessing in the forefront of your mind will help your heart remain in the right place and enable you to naturally and lovingly host and share with others.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.