Turkey dinners, desserts for days, decorating the house, planning for parties, and power-shopping until the wee hours of the mornings — yes, it’s that time of the year. And just as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve come at the same time each year, without fail every holiday season, the very people you’re supposed to be cherishing are the ones who seem to bring you the most stress.
Unfortunately, the picture-perfect family dinner we see on television is not something that always translates to our personal situations. With crazy relational dynamics that can test one’s patience and sanity, there’s a bit of dysfunction in every family — and it’s often heightened during the holidays.
While on the surface certain family members may appear to be the enemy, they are people to whom God has connected you for a reason, and they’re often the first opportunity we have to learn to “love your neighbor.” As the old saying goes, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” With that in mind, here are five tips to help you navigate family drama during this most joyful season.
1. Learn how and when to say no. You can’t satisfy everyone in your family, and the quicker you realize that the better you and your family will be. Set boundaries for yourself and your personal relationships. With pressure to shop for gifts, attend holiday parties and family gatherings, as well as your usual everyday demands of work and family, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You have to remember that you’re just one person, you can’t do everything. You may not be able to go to every party that you’re invited to and you may even have to make adjustments to plans for traveling to see different relatives. Set priorities and stick to them.
2. Accept your family’s differences. We all have that aunt or uncle who drinks a little too much and lets their mouths get them into trouble. Or there’s the cousin who always comes late with the main dish — so the family is waiting for hours to eat. Whatever your family scenario, remember that we all have our own idiosyncrasies that can be irritating — and honestly we all probably have a bit of crazy deep down inside. It doesn’t mean you condone or agree with certain behaviors, but you just don’t let it hang you up. Don’t sweat the small stuff that you can’t change.
3. Keep it simple. Whether it’s with gift-giving, hosting a family gathering, or cooking a dish for a family potluck — make it easy on yourself. While you may want to stick to traditions, it’s okay to make adjustments. Instead of cooking, maybe you can buy a prepared dish. You may want to do it all on your own as your mother did back in the day, but know that it’s okay to ask for help. Get other family members involved with planning and preparing holiday meals or gatherings. When it comes to gifts, stick to a budget. Be real about your financial situation; if you can’t afford to buy everyone — or anyone — a gift, it’s okay. Your presence really is enough.
4. Keep conversations light. Avoid hot-button issues during the holidays. Keep conversations light and focus on the good. Trying to flesh out unresolved conflicts at the dinner table is probably not a good idea — especially because of the spirit of the season. Try to find things that you have in common with your loved ones and bring those elements into your conversations. Often tension and angst arise from misunderstandings and miscommunication. Find common ground, which will help in the end to build stronger bonds that last beyond the Christmas dinner at Granny’s.
5. Take time out for yourself. Focusing on everyone else, it’s easy to forget about yourself. If it’s no more than 15 minutes or an hour, take some time for you. Do something you want to do. Seeing a movie, reading a book, journaling, exercising — whatever you need to do to tend to your mind, body, and soul do it. Even Jesus needed some time alone.
The Real Reason for the Season
When it’s all said and done, remember what the holidays are really all about. Taking time to be thankful for the blessings in your life, celebrating the birth of Christ and looking ahead to the New Year, it’s a time to reflect and put things in a proper perspective.
After all, Jesus had supper with Judas (who betrayed Him) and Peter (who would later deny Him). If He can forgive and show love, shouldn’t we follow His lead and extend grace to those special relatives who annually work our last nerve?
So how do you survive the stress that the holidays can put on family relationships? Share your thoughts and tips for coping below.
Yes, these are all great questions to ask anyone while dating. However, there are some key questions Christians often forget to ask. While not everyone desires marriage (Matthew 19:11-12; 1 Corinthians 7:7), marriage is often the ultimate goal for dating Christians (Genesis 2:24). Thus, our questions must be guided by our faith, wisdom and our intentions. So, in an effort to help you along your dating journey, we’ve included five important questions that we as Christians should be asking, but often overlook:
1) Is Jesus Christ your personal Lord and Savior?
This is a question that should be asked early on in the dating process. Believe it or not, many of us date non-believers or presume our potential mate’s salvation status more than we’d like to admit, instead of just asking. Putting this question out there helps us keep Christ at the center of our new friendships and relationships, forces us and our dates to truly examine our faith, and it shows our potential mates that faith is a priority in our life. Besides, asking this question immediately weeds out those with whom we would be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14).
2) Are we casually dating or are we “courting”?
Casual dating can be a fun way to meet new people, but it is riddled with ambiguity and emotional frustration. This can be a waste of time for those who truly desire marriage. Thus, courting is a Christian’s best bet. Courting allows you to focus solely on getting to know your date, pray for one another and to prayerfully seek God’s will for your relationship before marriage. After about three months of “hanging out,” it’s reasonable and fair to inquire about your potential mate’s long-term intentions. Are you two free to see other people, or are you two seeking God and a long-term relationship—together?
3) What are your physical boundaries?
We (should) know that sex and all related acts before marriage is a no go (Hebrews 13:14). Though it’s natural to desire to be affectionate toward your romantic interest, wisdom precludes any arousing physical contact – this can include kisses and hugs. Understanding your date’s physical boundaries (beyond sex) keeps you both accountable, honors personal convictions and, above all, honors God. Clarify each other’s boundaries up front and respect them.
4) What is your philosophy on debt and tithing?
Debt and tithing are only part of a larger discussion on money management, and this discussion should occur well before you and your bank accounts become one. Christians actually maintain varying degrees of convictions regarding tithing and debt. In fact, there are more views on tithing than we can count. While there are also Christians who view any form of debt – including mortgages – as a sin, while others believe some debt is warranted as long as it is repaid. However, having varying convictions about finances doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker (Romans 14), but these variances will require lots of conversation, and will greatly impact financial decisions and lifestyle choices in a marriage.
5) Who Comes First? Wife, Parent or Kids?
They say that how a man treats his mother is how he’ll treat his wife. This is a great adage to consider while dating. But God said – and Jesus Christ reiterated – that a marrying man must “leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5). Yet, some husbands not only put heir mothers ahead of their wives, they expect their wives to understand this arrangement. Meanwhile, some wives are guilty of putting their children before their husband, and they expect their husbands to just roll with it. These mindsets are clearly out of sync with scripture, as they can deal deathblows to the “one flesh” mandate. While dating, we often think of our needs or judge how our dates might fit into our world. But we must also assess our willingness to make them number one and our ability to be one with them – above all others.
Christian dating can be fun, but it shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Asking the right questions saves time, guards hearts and preserves godly intentions.
Now this may not be for everyone, but for me these are 10 non-negotiables that have led me to a pretty awesome relationship. I know some of you will immediately notice I didn’t put “faith” as a bullet point, but sometimes I think we spend more time looking for superficial religious clues than we do for signs of character and integrity. Yes, he needs to be a man who has faith in God, but the quality of his faith is more likely to be found in how he treats you and others rather than the church he attends. So, check out these 10 tips for finding a good guy, then let us know if you agree — or disagree.
1. He Was a Good Guy When You Met Him
Now ladies, please read this twice. You cannot make a bad boy a good boy no matter how hard you try. Every time you tell yourself that lie you should slap yourself and read this article. No, but seriously, stop trying. Please! Your happiness depends on it. Have you ever looked up and said what on earth am I doing here? I should have, would have, could have …! I’d bet my 401K that it had something to do with a guy … a bad guy.
2. His Kindness Holds Up Under Pressure
It’s easy to be a nice guy when you get your way, but the ultimate test comes when you have a right to “go there.” However a man treats the people around him, he will eventually treat you. You don’t want a man that is just nice to you, or disrespects other women but treats you differently. As soon as you tell him no, you’ll be on the bad end of his personality. Easy things to observe: how he deals with an aggressive stranger, how he deals with a family member he doesn’t get along with. How does his personality hold up when he disagrees with you?
3. He Offers to Help Others When There’s Nothing in It for Him
This is the best selfishness indicator. Does he help people simply because they need help, or does he look for ‘I Owe You’s’? When he does a nice gesture for you, does he expect you to return the favor? His motivation should be based solely on a desire to make you happy.
4. He Feels Honored to Be with You
So many men attempt to make women feel that they are lucky to be with them, but this should definitely be the other way around. I know some men would contest that statement, but it’s true. Honor me and I will honor you. When two good people get together, no ones needs are unmet; you both reciprocate equally. His manhood isn’t diminished by telling you how beautiful, intelligent, and strong you are – that’s what he loves about you.
5. He Inspires You to Be a Better You
His goals, achievements, and motivations encourage you to stay on track with your God-given destiny. He doesn’t hesitate to encourage you when you are down. You are proud of him, and he is equally proud of you. He challenges you to overcome your insecurities instead of giving more reasons for you to be insecure.
6. He’s Not in Competition With You
Do you feel like you have to prove yourself to him in order to earn his respect? Does he get jealous when men recognize your beauty? Some relationships can feel more like a competition than a mutual support system; you compete over careers, intelligence, or even physical fitness. Don’t let your competitive nature convince you that this endurance test is worth winning. A good relationship is not a competition; it’s a partnership.
7. He Has Personal Ambition
It’s far too easy to get distracted by income when looking for a good man. Many men have become pros at the illusion of security. The truth is, a wealthy man can lose his money and a poor man can stumble across a fortune. The best way to avoid superficiality and navigate these choppy waters is to make sure the guy has passion and a plan. You also may want to check his motivations; a good man will feel his destiny driving him, and will know that God has given him that vision. The proverb tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Consider this sound advice for romantic relationships as well. How can someone who is going nowhere and doing nothing inspire you to be anything? Usually, those men are only professionals at destroying confidence.
8. He’ll Do Something Just Because You Want to Do It
Let’s face it; sometimes we are selfish, and that’s okay. Sometimes he’ll want his way and you should give it to him. Why? Because he has treated you like a prize and he deserves it. The same goes for us ladies. We all know relationships are give and take, but unfortunately often when it’s time to give there’s often some person WITHOUT a significant other that is telling us not to. A good man could care less about peer pressure; he knows what he has and knows you deserve to have your way sometimes.
9. He’s Confident in Who He Is
You don’t want a man that constantly needs encouragement or is preoccupied with proving himself to everyone he knows. By this point he should have resolved the major issues (if any) of his past. If he’s still “complicated,” wait until you find something simple, because your relationship deserves peace! A good guy knew who he was before he met you.
10. You’re Happy!
I saved the best for last. One of the greatest indicators that we often ignore is our happiness and our peace. If you argue all the time, or you feel like things will get better in time, he isn’t the right guy for you. This is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s good medicine! Besides, what’s the point if you’re not happy? There are a lot of things in your life that you can’t control, but when it comes to a relationship this should not be one of them. Do yourself a favor and not only find yourself a good guy, but find the good guy that makes you happy.
We all make excuses and exceptions, but I would encourage all you single ladies to consider your past relationships and see if there’s a trend. It’s never too late to elevate your standards.
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach Dr. Minnie Claiborn is back with her latest, monthly column. Feel free to submit any questions on a topic of your choice to [email protected], and your question may be answered in a future column!
Hello Dr. Minnie,
My name is Lynn. I am in my mid- thirties. I really want to get married and have children. My friend said that I should be content because Jesus is my husband. Dr. Minnie, am I missing something? Is Jesus really my husband?
Many well-meaning people have said that to other people. It sometimes causes confusion and some people feel guilty because they don’t want to be unfaithful to Jesus. Let me just start out by saying, “No, Jesus is not your husband.” If you are born again, Jesus is your Lord and Savior.
Scripture refers to the “Church”, the collective Body of Christ, as the “Bride of Christ.” However, this is not for an individual adaptation. God instituted marriage as an earthly covenant between man and woman. Ephesians 5:25-33 presents a distinction between that which is natural and that which is spiritual.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is our provider, protector, and healer. He loves us, comforts us, and will never leave nor forsake us. Certainly, these are traits that we desire in a mate, and only Jesus can meet those deep longings of our souls—but not in the romantic sense. He does this for both men and women who seek him for true love and comfort.
My wife, Rita, has begun reading the first volume of the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy with her book club. Fifty Shades has been wildly popular because it features scenes of an unmarried couple’s explicit erotic sex that also includes elements of bondage. Published reports say the book has gotten a lot of wives excited about sex and their husbands are reaping the benefits. So, of course, that’s what grabbed my interest.
As my wife cuddled in bed reading her iPad, I asked her about the book. She was tight-lipped, as she shifted her body so that I couldn’t see the screen.
“It’s just what the club is reading now. I’m not really into this sort of thing,” she said. Then she cited some “confidentiality agreement” among her book club sisters, effectively ending our conversation.
Hmmm, more on that later …
The exchange reminded me of a talk I recently had with a Baltimore-based licensed pastoral counselor (who also happens to be my sister). Minister Pamela Bell of Serenity Pastoral Counseling & Consulting recently hosted “Teach Me How to Love You,” a conference to teach Christians how to develop healthy relationships. One of the topics included God in your sex life.
God and sexual intercourse?
Bell’s point is that God clearly created us to have and enjoy sex. One of the reasons why so many Christian marriages are in trouble, singles are fornicating, and pedophilia, adultery and homosexuality are common in churches, is because leaders aren’t teaching forthrightly about godly sex. Natural urges are suppressed and hypocritical and deviant behaviors are covered up. The church has allowed the world to turn into “the nasty” what God intended to be beautiful.
“According to most Christian teachings, sex is referred to in the context of procreation or as a marital duty,” Bell said. “I talk to people about making love and bringing God into the experience, instead of having some gymnastic event where orgasm is the finale.”
WELCOMING GOD INTO YOUR SEX LIFE: “While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” says Christian counselor Pamela Bell to married couples. “Making love is an expression of gratitude.”
At the conference, Bell, who has been married for more than 25 years to the same man (they have three children), said attendees seemed surprised when she asked how long they thought the average orgasm lasted?
“Oh, they got real quiet,” Bell said.
The answer is about 18 seconds for the average woman and 20 seconds for a man. Once intercourse begins it takes the average women about 12 to 14 minutes to reach an orgasm and about 2 to 3 minutes for a man.
“So we spend so much time and often make bad decisions about our sex partners over a few seconds of pleasure. When we talked about sexuality within the confines of marriage, that’s when people got comfortable and we got a lot of questions.”
Like, what do you do when your husband or wife wants to have more sex than you do? Singles asked question like, what do you do when your urge for sex is high?
“Particularly when you look in the King James Version, the word ‘know’ is used to refer to sexual intercourse,” Bell said. “God intended sex to be about intimacy.”
But for many people it’s hard (no pun intended) to think about a holy God, while having sex. Intellectually you know that God created and commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. But is a man supposed to be thinking about Jesus while he “knows” his wife?
Bell said it’s about a paradigm shift, adding that she often refers couples to passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:4.
“While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” she said. “Explore how your mate’s body is made. Each aspect complements the next. Making love is an expression of gratitude. You’re thanking God for the person He gave to you. Take your time, be present in the moment, and enjoy your spouse. Remember, love is patient according to 1 Corinthians 13:4.”
For singles, there are ways to feel God’s love without a physical partner, she said.
“It’s a better experience than conjuring up some dude or woman in your mind that you were with back in the day, or that you want to be with and having some counterfeit experience,” she said. “You can have an ongoing spiritual orgasm rather than a five-second deal, followed by feeling unfulfilled afterwards because you’re relying on a fantasy to give you pleasure.”
Bell said she felt led to host the conference because she sees too many Christians who are having major sex-related problems tied to church. As the church fails to deal honestly with sexuality, it is effectively leaving lambs to be slaughtered.
“It’s heartbreaking what is happening,” she said. “Many pastors simply don’t teach this.”
Not all pastors are afraid to “go there,” Bell said. There are Christian books on the topic. There’s even a biblical response to Fifty Shades called 50 Shades of Black and White. But in general, churchgoers seek information elsewhere, such as on cable TV, the Internet, or in erotic literature.
As for my wife’s reading of Fifty Shades, she’d rather not fantasize in that way — but she won’t judge others who like it.
And if I reap some added benefits from this month’s book club selection, I won’t complain.
A few more passages from Scripture related to godly sexual love: