by Tricia Goyer
“Thank Me frequently as you journey through today…When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining.”
Jesus Calling, November 25
The holidays ring out with jingle bells and the laughter of children. But too often they often ring out with something not so jolly: grumbles. As a mom of ten kids, the complaints and whines seemed to slide in with the season, until my husband and I decided to try something different. We invited our kids (and also my grandmother, who lives with us) to attempt a Grumble-Free Year. We knew our family’s grumbles pointed back to a serious heart-issue: discontent. It took a full twelve-months to dig out the roots of dissatisfaction. Along the way, I also discovered a few ways each of us can plan to go grumble-free this holiday season.
Plan to Be Aware.
We want the holidays to be a special time, set apart, but the truth is that hard stuff happens during the holidays too. In fact, during our Grumble-Free Year, my 88-year-old grandmother fractured her back from a fall on Thanksgiving Day and came home from the hospital just a few days before Christmas. It wasn’t what we expected, and I struggled not to grumble as I found myself at the hospital day after day.
There’s a reason people grumble over the holidays: our unrealistic expectations of a “perfect holiday season” set us up for discouragement. When we are aware that hard stuff happens—just like other times of the year—we can remember where to find help. We can turn to Jesus with our expectations, frustrations and our hardships, especially this time of year.
Plan to be Humble.
It’s easy to get frustrated when family members, especially our children, are more concerned with making their Christmas wish-list than understanding the true meaning of Christmas. Yet, when I’m truthful with myself, I admit that I get wrapped up with things too. I want the tree decorated a certain way. I want to find the perfect dress for my husband’s company party. And I even dropped a few hints around my husband about what I’d like to see under the tree.
It’s easy to point out my children’s shortcomings while ignoring my own. Helping our kids not to grumble starts with us confessing there are times we struggle too! It’s not reprimanding our kids when they get worked up about things or gifts. Instead, it’s sitting side-by-side and saying, “I understand. Let’s remind each other what the holidays are truly about.”
Plan to Be Prayerful.
When we started our Grumble-Free Year, we all tried hard, but we found ourselves failing often. I, more than anyone, would apologize and seek forgiveness after grumbling and griping over messes and attitudes. Things amplified during the holidays when we grew busier and became more tired and stressed.
We can’t expect our children (or ourselves) to be loving, joyful, peaceful and kind in our own strength. Galatians 5:22–23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (NIV). No wonder we were falling short over and over again—we forgot to seek God’s help.
As I became prayerful, God’s Spirit inside me changed my heart and helped me to control my attitude and my words. And as my children prayed for the Fruit of the Spirit, they noticed a change within themselves too.
Plan to Be Grateful.
The holidays are a time to celebrate family togetherness and to celebrate the gift of God’s Son, but we can also offer a gift to God in return. Our gratefulness is saying “thank You” to God. Over the holidays, stopping my grumbling was one thing, but turning it around to being grateful also magnified God within my heart.
Instead of just not grumbling about the holiday crowds, I started thanking God for the ability to shop for my family. Instead of just not grumbling about having to park at the end of the parking lot for the candlelight service, I thanked God that we have the ability to gather and worship. I grew in gratefulness for His provision and His presence. I also was able to model what “Happy Holidays” truly looked like.
It was over a year ago when we finished our Grumble-Free Year, and I’m so glad we took the time to strive toward gratitude and contentment. I have no expectations that the upcoming holidays will be perfect (none are!), but I do know that as we work on being aware, humble, prayerful and grateful, we’ll be much more joyful and full of holiday cheer.
Tricia Goyer is a wife, homeschooling mom of 10, and bestselling author of 70+ books, including The Grumble-Free Year. The Grumble-Free Year follows the Goyers as they go complaint-free and discover what it looks like to develop hearts of gratitude. For more information, go to: www.TheGrumbleFreeYear.com