I read the following article by a colleague of mine (Jason Krafsky) and I thought it was great. It's focus is on navigating the first holiday season as a newly married couple, but it also speaks to those who have been married for many years as well! Perhaps it will remind you of some of those first awkward moments you had to navigate through :-)  You can check out Jason and what he has to say on his blog:

www.marriagejunkie.com

and check out his marriage website:  http://www.fullmarriageexperience.com/

May your Christmas season be simple and filled with love!

Pastor Monty

*********************************

Firstchristmasornament
During marriage prep sessions, I give every engaged couple the same warning when we cover expectations: “when you get married, take control of the holidays or you will feel like the Grinch stole your Christmas!”

The reason? With the first Christmas, too many people have too many competing expectations for the newlyweds.

Both sides of the families want to spend the optimum Christmas Day
time with the couple, brothers and sisters want their now married
sibling to be a part of the family traditions, and the new bride and
groom may even long to take part in many of their own family’s holiday
rituals.

As if the family expectations aren’t enough, couples also have to
juggle the demand of attending special church services, neighborhood
White Elephants, work holiday parties, decorating for Christmas, and of
course, shopping for presents on a limited budget … there is just too
much to do and too little time to do it!

Come December 26th, the new husband and wife can feel as deflated as Frosty the Snowman without his magic hat on a sunny day.

But don’t fret! Every Christmas story has a happy ending (Santa
invites Rudolph to pull his sleigh, the Peanuts gang find the true
meaning of Christmas, and Ralphie gets his Red Ryder BB gun). And your
Christmas story can too. Here are some tips to ensure your first
holiday season is “merry and bright.”

Decide on Your Holiday Season Festivities – As soon
as possible, discuss what each of you would like to do, experience or
attend over the holiday season. Talk about old family traditions you
want to keep and new rituals you want to start. Do you want to go off
and chop down a tree, pick up a live tree at the local store, or get a
fake tree? Are there Christmas shows,
plays or movies you want to see? You may want to make a list (and check
it twice) of everything you and your mate want to do to celebrate the
Christmas season.

Protect Your “Us” Time – Pull out the December
calendar and mark the dates and times of firm activities (such as the
work holiday party) and reserve times for other activities (such as
visiting relatives and friends). In the midst of all the festivities,
be sure to reserve dates for just the two of you to be together as a
couple. While your time together may or may not involve Christmastime
activities, it is important to protect your “us” time.

Make a Christmas Budget

Nothing adds more stress
to a relationship then debt. The fun and frolicking of December gift
buying can give way to anxiety and stress in January when the bills
start arriving. Set a budget based on what you can afford. Keep in mind
that gifts are just one part of the equation. Money is spent on
decorations, the tree, Christmas clothes, and Nutcracker tickets, etc.
Budget for all of it, and best that you can, stick to it!

kriskringleandwinterwarlockPrepare for Someone’s Feelings to Get Hurt

Now that you know what you need and want to do over the holidays …
you need to tell those closest to you what your plans are and how it
may affect their expectation for you. This is never easy, especially
the first time around, but it is a necessary conversation to have.
Because change is never easy, be respectful, listen to their concerns
and empathize with how they’re feeling. It may take a little time for
them to understand that your choices are pragmatic, not personal.

Keep in mind that every classic holiday story involves a conflict
that gets confronted (Kris Kringle deals with Burgermeister and the
Winter Warlock; Ebenezer Scrooge faces his past, present and future;
and Ralphie stands up to Scut Farkus). In the end, the hero, the
villain and everyone in-between benefit from a resulting greater good.

Start Your Own Traditions – A marriage is the
conceiving of a new family with the continuation of old traditions and
the making of new ones. Since you are a new family (that will likely
grow in size in the years to come), create traditions that are your
own. Whether it’s buying an annual personalized tree ornaments
, watching a recent or classic Christmas movie, attending a special
Christmas event, or serving the needy during the holidays, this is the
time to launch new traditions that are uniquely yours.

Don’t Try to Cram Too Much Family Into Too Little Time

I’ve seen some post-Christmasgrandma-got-run-over-by-reindeer-dvd-cover-art
newlyweds who look like the grandma who “got run over by a reindeer”.
Because everyone wanted to see the newlywed couple “on Christmas Day”,
the poor couple shuttled around from her parents place to his dad’s
apartment to his mom and stepfather’s house. The couple spends more
time in the car then with people. And when it comes time to leave, they
get guilt tripped about how little time there was to spend together.

To avoid this chaotic guest appearance schedule, spread out the
traveling, the visiting and the various Christmas celebrations over the
course of days rather then hours. Each year, swap which side of the
family gets you on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or the day after
Christmas. By taking a step towards sanity, everyone will benefit.

Being Santa’s Little Helper Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

One of the self-inflicted stressers couples put on themselves (not to
be sexist here but it is usually the wife) is to find the “perfect”
Christmas present. It’s really doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Here’s some links to some pretty cool gift ideas. There’s something for
everyone on a range of budgets.

Get a gift that…

>> Captures memories all year around with a Video or Digital Camera

>> Helps you communicate better with a Smart Phone, iPhone or Cell Phone

>> Reflects the strength of your love with Special Jewelry and Bling

>> Keeps the honeymoon going and going with Christmas Sleepwear for Him and Her

>> Makes your house a home with Personalized Home Decorations

>> Directs you to the right place every time with Precise and Exact Coordinates

>> Allows you to burn some calories with Activities for Both of You

Reflect on Your First Year and Plan for the Year Ahead

Spend some time looking back on your life together since the wedding.
What has surprised you the most? What has the transition to married
life been like? How do you think the rest of your first year will go,
and why? With Christmas being so close to the start of the New Year,
make some resolutions for your relationship. Commit to read a marriage
book together, attend a marriage conference, or download a podcast of a
relationship speaker. Do something in the upcoming year to invest in
the health and quality of your relationship.

Remember What Christmas is All About

In the midst
of the lights, the eggnog lattes and the familiar songs about snow and
chestnuts, take some time to read the original Christmas story in the
Bible (Luke 2). Read Matthew 1 and 2, and Luke 1 to get a broader
perspective before and during the time of Jesus’ birth. Look at the
story from the perspective of a couple and talk about the relationship
of Mary and Joseph and what they may have been going through during
this significant moment in history.

jesus-in-the-mangerWhile
the holiday season is a jumble of memories, traditions, expectations
and experiences, we shouldn’t lose sight that Christmas is about
celebrating God’s greatest gift to mankind: “For to us a child is
born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his
shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
(Isaiah 9:6)

Your first Christmas together as husband and wife should be nothing
short of fun, memorable and stress-free. And it can be if you take
control of it.

____________________________

K. Jason Krafsky is the author of Before “I Do” – Preparing for the Full Marriage Experience (Turn the Tide Resource Group – www.FullMarriageExperience.com).
As a marriage junkie, Jason supports his habit by training leaders on
marriage issues, writing articles and books on marriage and family
relationships, coaching communities, churches, and ministries on
marriage strengthening strategies, and teaching couples about
relationship issues (check out his blog at www.MarriageJunkie.com).
Jason’s ultimate fix comes from his wife Kelli. They live in the
foothills of Washington’s Cascade Mountains with their four children.
Contact him at kjasonk@fullmarriageexperience.com, MySpace (marriagejunkie), or Facebook.

Copyright © 2008 by K. Jason Krafsky – Permission granted to use and reproduce with proper source citation.

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