Love Your Family As Yourself

Have you ever stopped to consider your family and extended family as “neighbors?” 

Where will the Christmas holiday find you? Practically speaking, that is.

Traveling to be with parents?
In your own home?
A quick drive to be with extended family?

“Love your neighbor as yourself” takes on a whole new focus as we consider our family to be our neighbors. In our neighboring ministry we speak a lot on being intentional, gospel-living neighbors. But how about during the holidays? How about in the homes we visit at Christmas?

A trash-talking visit: a reflection of one Christmas

Let’s have a serious conversation about trash. A wonderful family member we often travel to visit has – as the main trash can in the kitchen – a petite-sized, stainless steel, pedal-push to lift, trash can. One road trip in the car and our family of six can fill it to overflowing…twice! A few days in the home means taking out the trash three times a day. It’s silly. It’s a little thing, but it can leave me fussy and complaining. Though I think Jesus would recommend a larger trash can, until then we must live with this tiny irritation during the visit. 

Even as I type the words I start to laugh. Please laugh with me. As silly as it sounds, I know it bothers me. If I ask what possible irritations you might have, I am sure you might have your own little list. And perhaps we could laugh together. 

From fussy to focus, the importance of a pivot.

One particular Christmas visit, my thoughts took a pivot. I stopped to consider why she has a small trash can. She lives alone. For 360 days of the year her home is host to one person. My initial thought was to complain that the trash can was too small, it didn’t occur to me how much she valued our visit and looked forward to it. She anticipated the time together and was very excited to have her home filled with family. What did I bring during our visit? Beyond the gifts, beyond the overflowing trash, in what way did I practically love her during our visit? 

It was these thoughts that led me down a path to consider three types of gifts I could give during our visit. 

A gift of words

I keep “handy” five sentences I want daily to roll off my tongue. Yes, one daily. These thoughts are very well received and usually met with a smile. I really do understand that they can be difficult to say, but I would challenge you to try and see how it goes.

I am so glad to be here.
Your home is so warm and friendly.
It is so good to be with you.
I enjoy being with you.It is a blessing to be together.

The gift of time

If your visit permits, ask if you can share a cup of tea or go get coffee. Sit. Listen. 

I have one family member who loves to talk about daily life stuff: recipes, weather, sports, neighbor happenings. They want company. I am happy to give the gift of time.

I have one family member who wants to talk about God’s Word, church, Bible study and the like. She wants company. I am happy to give the gift of time.

I have another family member who wants to watch a movie together. No talking. Just being together. I am happy to give the gift of time.

The gift of service

Having a heart prepped for readiness is key. If all parties in the home are willing and able and have their heart prepped, this is best. But I know this is not always the case. Even so, our hearts can be ready to give this as a gift.

Doing dishes/meal clean-up
Help with laundry
Take out the trash 🙂
Cook a meal/meal prep
Run to the store

How about you? How do you show gospel-living love during the holidays?  In what practical ways have you discovered to love your family as yourself?