Healthy Relationships During the Holidays and Beyond

Relationships 1Holiday Relationships

Relationships lie at the heart of holiday activity. For Christians, that first and foremost means an individual’s relationship with Christ. But we cannot escape that Scripture also advocates for a right relationship with other Christians. We are to encourage and build up the body of Christ. We are also to set an example of love for unbelievers to see.

The holidays seem to amplify the state of relationships; unfortunately, that includes making bad ones worse and often causing good ones to struggle. So much strain comes from already struggling finances, unmet expectations and inevitable disappointments.

As with physical and spiritual health, relationships can survive and even thrive during the holidays if deliberately considered rather than reacted to and given band-aid fixes.

Healthy Relationships

Consider the following advice as you work toward healthy relationships through the holidays and beyond.

  1. Be committed to caring. A focus on building bridges and not walls in our relationships, especially during the holidays, leads us to show concern for others and to focus on what blesses them.
  2. Cultivate respect. In the spirit of 1 Corinthians, the onus lies with the more mature spiritually and involves choosing relationships over ego.
  3. Develop & live out family convictions. State convictions and then allowed them to shape traditions.
  4. Be flexible. Flexibility is required to maintain relationships as life changes. Purpose to adapt, and refuse to hold tight to tradition for fear of change.
  5. Don’t let assumptions kill relationships. Make a point to respectfully express feelings, and don’t take for granted that others know how you feel. Say it both verbally and physically (hugs and smiles).
  6. Share responsibilities. Ask what you can do to help but also ask for help too.
  7. Engage people and be fully where you are. Put down the technology and make eye contact. Make sure your loved ones know you don’t prefer your electronics over them.
  8. Don’t allow expectations to kill relationship. Be realistic and have fair expectations of others. Don’t set them up for failure.

Depression and family contention hit their height for many during the holidays. Most likely, these two realities are closely related to the loneliness and disconnect so many feel this time of year.

Fortunately, a deliberate choice by individual Christians can make a huge impact for health and wholeness, healing and mending. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, rely on the Lord to guide you toward healthy relationships during the holidays and beyond.

Relationships 2

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Managing Overload with Boundaries

overloadOverload Symptoms

Overload all to often flares up and disrupts life. For me, the symptoms include…

  • Productivity decline – Inability to focus. Jumping from task to task. Accomplishing little.
  • Short attention span – Nothing holds interest for long. Always seeking new and better.
  • Feeling overwhelmed – Too many projects. Too much information. Too much to do.
  • Feeling disconnected – Feeling forgotten, unimportant and alone.
  • Always on guard – Unable to relax. Tasks, goals & projects steal attention from relationships.
  • Think & speak in absolutes – “I can’t… because…” or “I have to… because…” or “I need…”

Obsessiveness covers all of these symptoms by amplifying their affects and creating a constant need to keep going and doing and thinking. Simply put, overload robs me of contentment and peace. Can you relate?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Creating Boundaries

Counteracting overload involves setting boundaries that then guide the creation of habits. Setting boundaries involves taking time to think by…

  1. Simplifying – Prioritize. Say “no” to good to be able to say “yes” to and go deeper with better and best.
  2. Seeking connection – Make face-to-face connections a priority over completing a “to do” list.
  3. Keeping truth in focus – This daily necessity not only helps with moral choices but with time and priority choices too by protecting the mind from the world.
  4. Stopping the flow – Stop reading for information & refuse to take in new information. Back off commitments and occasionally shut out the world. Allow thoughts to flow freely. Allow time to just be.
  5. Purging – What aren’t you reading that you can stop receiving? What can come off your schedule? What material items can you get rid of?
  6. Getting out – Find a change of scenery. Take a family vacation, short getaway or even just a day trip.

While creating boundaries, keep these two pervading rules constantly in mind:

Rule #1 – Relationships are the deciding factor. Choose relationship over tasks as much as possible.

Rule #2 – Limit overload by limiting information and commitments. Doing nothing means choosing overload.

When I consistently choose to live within boundaries, overload doesn’t exist. But, I also regularly need to reset my boundaries because overload always seems to creep back in somehow if I don’t give my boundaries regular attention.

So, I need to make setting and maintaining boundaries a habit, and I need to stay aware of the symptoms over overload in order to make necessary, regular adjustments.

DISCUSSION: What changes will you make to set information boundaries and protect your life from overload?

On a completely unrelated note, I also posted this week at my friend Dan Erickson’s blog Hip Diggs. If you are interested in landscaping, check out my post
Tips for Installing and Maintaining Landscaping.

On a related note, next month’s focus on balance will include more on the idea of creating boundaries along with taking a look at balance from a variety of perspectives.

2013 One Word 365

amplifyYear in Review

In 2013, I attempted a One Word 365 approach to goal setting. In previous years of traditional SMART goal setting, I achieved more than I would had I not written anything down, sure, but my goal reaching felt disconnected and unbalanced, kind of like having only part of my house clean.

So in 2013, my goal to amplify my life as a whole focused on taking what’s working well and making it better. (You can read more about it in Amplify, How to… Amplify and Vacation Reflections: Resolutions.) Not only did this change my approach in every area, amplifying became a part of what I do as daily habit.

Specifically, amplifying changed…

  • My writing life by increasing daily word count, focusing more in application and doing the actions on a consistent basis that make me a writer.
  • The way I teach. Instead of getting as much in as possible into a certain amount of time, I focus on a few important points and drive those home. We go deeper with a few rather than stay on the surface with many.
  • How I parent. I nag less & listen more. I pray for my kids as much or more than I talk to them about how and what (I think) they should be doing.
  • How I read. Instead of just getting from cover to cover, I reader slower and allow for healthy digestion of the material rather than wolfing down words and finding myself with nothing but indigestion.
  • My exercise routine. Instead of feeling like I need to be like others around me when it comes to exercise (especially biking & running), I focus on what works best for me, which means lots of variety and the goals of healthy and strong instead of skinny and competitive.

More progress than just that listed above existed in 2013, but these stand out as ones most linked to obedience to calling. These amplified areas of my life now fuel all the other areas, thus amplifying them as well.

What about you? Do you take a traditional approach to goal setting? If so, how do you feel about your success with that approach? Or, do you take a non-traditional approach such as One Word 365? If you do, what kind of success are you having? Please share successes, failures, wishes & dreams with regard to goal setting!

How to… Amplify

Choosing the Word

My family and I set goals together at the end of every calendar year. As already mentioned in Vacation Reflections: Resolutions, my husband and sons set their goals for 2013 rather quickly while I struggled setting mine.

After being drawn to the One Word 365 approach, I then focused in on selecting just the right word. As I am a recovering perfectionist, finding the “perfect” word seemed like a daunting challenge. Fortunately, and maybe because I was on vacation, I was able to sit quietly and notice God’s leading.

Just before going on vacation, I purchased a compact amplified Bible. While on vacation and soon after praying about a direction for my 2013 goals (it wasn’t an immediate “ah ha” moment right after praying), the word “amplified” on my Bible jumped out to me.

At that moment (and this was an actual “ah ha” moment), I knew I had found my focus for 2013. And as I studied the meaning and application of the word Amplify, my decision became increasingly solidified.

Connecting the Word

1-9-13 amplify beach 1

God had already prepared my heart for this focus. For about 6 months prior to purchasing the Bible, He drew my attention to reading the amplified translation during daily Bible study. I loved the depth this translation provided and continued reading it daily.

In addition to the spiritual application, the desire to go deeper made its way into other areas of my life as well. Physically, I felt like I was operating at 80% capacity and wanted to find out why and to do some tweaking to make headway into the remaining 20%. Socially, my weakest area, I had yet been able to truly make the progress I desired. I wanted to finally and fully know why. Other areas, as I note below, also called for amplification.

As I reviewed my 2012 blog posts, I realized that this desire to amplify could be also seen in much of what I was writing. Here are just a few examples:

So, when the word “amplify” came into my consciousness that relaxing day in Myrtle Beach, I knew that it was the focus I needed for 2013.

1-11-13 amplify

Applying the Word

When my family sets goals for the coming year, we focus in on 5 specific areas: Spiritual, Physical, Work/School, Social & Family. I knew what I wanted to work on in each of these areas already, so I then looked to key words that truly emphasized my intention to “amplify” in these focus areas.

The following resulted:

Spiritual – Generosity. Memorization. Transparency.

Physical – Posture. Stretching. Water.

Work – Projects. Crafting. Learning.

Social – Responding. Listening. Preferring.

Family – Individual. Relationships. Connections.

The key words in each of these areas reflect how I am purposefully choosing to amplify my life, and each involves taking what I am already doing in some way and adding power, detail, depth and quality.

This approach seems to leave room for change and flexibility and even spontaneity, not at all a natural quality for me, and I also find that these are the ways that I most notice the Holy Spirit moving in my life.

DISCUSSION: What would you list as important elements in how a person could “amplify” her life?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Amplify

1-11-13 amplify

Understanding the Word

To help understand the meaning of “amplify,” consider the purpose of audio amplifiers. They aren’t about adding volume; instead, they are about control. Through control of sound, amps give extra power, which leads to more detail and better sound quality. In other words, a sound amplifier produces a more powerful and detailed version of an audio signal.

To amplify in any way involves deeper analysis and further illustration. Amplifying also means increasing in amount and strength.

As I focus on amplifying in 2013, I want to create better understanding within each of my goal areas, which I’ll talk about in Monday’s post. I want to take my time to go deeper and create more detail. I liken this to becoming an expert in fewer areas rather than a generalist in many.

With amplification in 2013, I want to expand the basic meaning and purpose of what I am already doing and give them increased depth. I want to discover more power, power that is “immeasurably more” than all I could ask or imagine, “according to His power that is at work” within me (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Already Prepared

As I meditated on and studied the word “amplify,” I realized that the Holy Spirit had been cultivating the concept in my spirit for a while already. Let me explain.

Isaiah 43:18-19 has been a sort of theme verse for me for the past three years

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

After choosing “amplify” as my focus for 2013, I realized how well Isaiah 43:18-19 fits with that focus. When I choose to give control of my life over to my Creator, I know that I will experience increased power and depth in ways beyond what I can even imagine. In other words, He is the amplifier!

Another avenue leading toward my “amplify” focus came through a quote by Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Final Battle.

“Come further up, come further in.”

Another way to say it is to go “deeper down and further out.” (I was reminded of this quote after reading If You Started a New Community, Where Would You Begin? by Tom Tarver at A Curious Band of Others.)

My accountability partner and I have been talking a lot these past few months about application of “deeper down and further out,” which I now realizes can be summed up in one word – “amplify.”

So really, I started to “amplify” about halfway through 2012 but didn’t realize it until participating in my family’s annual goal setting. God prepared my heart for this focus, and His timing remains perfect.

1-9-13 amplify beach 1

What’s next?

On Monday, I will go into more detail on how I plan to integrate “amplify” into different goal areas for 2013.

For what it’s worth, I had no idea when writing Vacation Reflections: Resolutions that I would be writing today’s post going into details on the meaning behind “amplify.” I also had no idea before writing this post that I would decide to continue the topic in “How to… Amplify” in my next post.

Perhaps that illustrates well part of the process to “amplify” as I allow the Holy Spirit more control. In that, I realize that to “amplify” for me involves increasingly more of Him and less of me as 2013 progresses (John 3:30).

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts on the word “amplify”? 

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader