“Let’s meet for coffee.” We say this all the time, but is it really about the coffee? When you go to lunch with your best friend, which is more important, the food or the conversation? It doesn’t really matter if it’s McNamara’s or McDonalds, coffee or cabernet; something important happens in our relationships when we’re eating and drinking.
What could be more basic to everyday life than enjoying a meal together? Yet we keep ourselves so busy that sit-down dinners are no longer a family value but instead have become nostalgic. Many people today, spend thousands of dollars upgrading to gourmet kitchens, only to make the microwave the most used appliance. The dining room table has been relegated to folding laundry and Thanksgiving dinner.
Growing up, I always envied my friends who got to eat dinner in their living room on TV trays. Now I’m reconsidering. I grew up in a big Italian family. When dinnertime came, the whole family gathered for the meal and the TV was always turned off. Thanks Mom and Dad, for making sit-down dinners a family value. Our nuclear family has grown and changed, but to this day, here’s how family gatherings on holidays work: We start with a meal, clean up after the meal together, take a walk together. Throw in some Italian songs and dancing in the kitchen while we prepare the next meal together. Repeat.
Jesus knows we open up to one another in a unique way when we break bread together.
He said “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20) In the final hours before His crucifixion, Jesus had a meal with his friends, we call the last supper. It is interesting that after his resurrection, almost every time we see Jesus, he is eating with his friends.
When Andee and I got married, we decided in order to stay connected; we’d have breakfast and dinner together. At 6:00AM we ask each other, “How can I pray for you today?” And at 6:00PM we catch up with one another on how the other’s day went. We’d rarely see each other in between those times, but we were still “together”. As we raised our children, mealtimes were always the important touch-points when our family would connect. We’d discuss everything from schoolwork to politics, to interpersonal relationships. We often read a devotional book after dinner and discussed whatever lesson we could draw out of a chapter. Whenever we had company, they’d join in the conversation. Andee and I have maintained this practice for 30 years through all the different stages of life, and it is still working.
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:1-4
We hardly saw each other all day long, but we were together. It was the Saturday before Christmas, and our house was about to become the converging point for sixteen family members – most of them from out of town. Just the previous day we had hit all the stores for last minute items. We successfully filled a shopping cart with enough food to feed an army and test the shocks on our Toyota. Today’s lists were different. Today I had yards to clean, windows to wash, tile to scrub and furniture to haul to the garage. Andee’s list consisted of food to cook, cards to write, bedding to prepare, and a refrigerator to clean and organize. Today was not one of those days a couple walks hand in hand on a beach. But our hands were busy. Today we went our separate ways to accomplish our shared goal. Some days we work together on the same project in the same location. In fact sometimes quarters are so close we call it “small-room dancing”. But other days require us to be in separate locations. This was one of those days.
The bible says: Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. Ecc. 4:9
There is nothing greater than working together with our spouse to accomplish a goal. Conversely there is nothing more disheartening than feeling like you are the only one doing all the work. There is no job too daunting, and no task too large, when we know our spouse cares as much as we do; and is moving heaven and earth to help accomplish it.
As we checked things off our list, we’d offer quick updates as we headed for our next project. “I’m done with the tile and I’m off to work on the yard.”
Today our house is ready for company to arrive. But even more, we are ready to host them, because we’ve been “together” throughout the process.
There’s a reason it’s called Black Friday. Millions of people around the world are about to jump into the abyss. We like to make fun of lemmings, but every year we, who are supposed to have more gray matter and opposable digits, do the equivalent by taking the plunge off the financial cliff. The only difference is that lemmings jump into the deep blue sea. We jump into the RED, and spend the entire next year with those “easy monthly payments”.
So before we get too caught up in the holiday spirit, let’s consider a few words and phrases that are key to a healthy marriage: Communication, Unity, Like-mindedness, Consensus, Sharing, Helping, Togetherness, Agreement.
Now let’s consider who is out there strategizing for a GREEN Christmas: MasterCard wants to be your master. Discover card doesn’t want us to discover how much we spent until the bill comes in January. American Excess…..you get the picture. PayPal is only your pal when you pay. Target is targeting you! Best Buy wants what is best for them. Amazon wants to sell you down the river. And the Apple Store…well, re-read Genesis chapter 3.
The bible warns us how the world lures us in:
the lust of the flesh: This will feel good, or taste good…
the lust of the eyes: I didn’t want it until I saw it. Now I can’t stop thinking about it…
and the pride of life: I’ll be the first to have the newest version. I’ll be the envy of all my friends. 1 John 2:16.
All the displays and mood lighting are not there for your convenience.
As husbands and wives we need each other more than ever during the holiday season, to remind each other what Christmas is really about, so we won’t get caught up in the local mall’s definition.
So at the risk of sounding too much like the Grinch, I’m going to recommend we take a piece of advice from Santa, the jolly old elf himself. Make a list and check it twice. For those who don’t speak the language, that’s North Polish for “Make a Christmas Budget”. And do this together before you go out shopping. Some people write their list on an envelope with three columns: Name, Amount, What to buy. If you put the cash inside the envelope, at least you’ll know when you are out of money.
A word about surprises
The commercial said, “There is no substitute for that look on her face when she opens the box and sees it sparkle for the very first time.” What it doesn’t say is, “That is the look of sheer terror wondering “How are we going to pay for this?” We all love surprises when there are no strings attached. But husbands and wives should decide together on their Christmas spending, especially if you are going to purchase any big ticket items.
You may consider doing what we do. For Christmas we give each other a token gift costing no more than $20.00. Then after Christmas, if there is something our spouse really wants, we can buy it at the After-Christmas-Sale for about a third of the price.
The Ancient Word
There is a word that has fallen out of use. It is not politically correct and consequently is no longer taught in schools. Parents have forgotten it and children have not heard it commonly used. The word is NO. It is a word that, at one time, had a very important purpose. It is a word we are supposed to tell our flesh when it wants something that is not in our best interest. We are supposed to use it when our eyes deceive us or we are about to make an unwise choice for the sake of pride. It keeps us from heading back to the punch bowl or from giving too much attention to someone else’s wife. No is a word that needs to find its way back into our vocabulary as a possible option. It could keep us out of big trouble this Christmas.
December 26th can be a day filled with peace or a day full of regret . Many couples have experienced both, but it’s unanimous, we all prefer peace. So before we get carried away in the herd of lemmings, let’s decide with our spouse that this will be the Christmas that Communication, Unity, Like-mindedness, Consensus, Sharing, Helping, Togetherness, and Agreement will determine the color of our Christmas.
Many families have traditions associated with the holidays. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve, and the whole family gets together for dinner and presents. Some families invite all the relatives to celebrate Christmas morning, and stretch the celebration out all day.
When I’m doing pre-marriage counseling, I casually ask where the new couple will spend Thanksgiving. The bride-to-be quickly answers, “At my parents’ house, of course. It’s the only day of the year we get the whole family together.” I look at the groom and he has a troubled look on his face. With a little coaxing, he chokes out that his grandmother expects them to be at her table that same afternoon… and you don’t want to get on grandma’s “naughty list”.
Does the wonder of Christmas, turn into “I wonder who will be offended this Christmas”?
Most young couples face the challenge of family expectations early in their marriage. The bible says, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2: 24) When a couple gets married, the relationship changes between themselves and their parents. But change doesn’t always come easily. All their lives children have been told to obey their parents. Now as married adults, a new authority structure is established. Young married couples sometimes have difficulty with this. But guess who else has difficulty? It seems that well-meaning parents and grandparents didn’t get the memo. They sometimes put tremendous pressure on their adult children to follow the “family script”.
Wise in-laws will invite their newlyweds to family events, and will be very understanding if they are unable to attend. Ask them when it works for them to get together, and then enjoy the holiday. Some families alternate holidays; some split Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Wise newlyweds will decide together what is important to them. There may be some new traditions they want to establish for their new family. They should do their best to communicate their plans graciously to the people who love them. That will take the wondering out of the holidays so everyone can enjoy the wonder of Christmas.