Don’t Let Gremlins Sour Your Holidays

Ready or not, the holidays are upon us. The lines at our grocery store and the pungent evergreens in the parking lot herald the best time of the year—right? Despite the lyrics of the seasonal song, for many, this is the worst—not the best—time of their year.

I was reminded of this in a recent email. After writing about my disappointment over missing out on a larger dining table for the holidays, a man said he has the opposite problem. He wishes he needed a bigger table. But hurt feelings keep his family torn apart.

My heart went out to him. But his email reminded me of two gremlins that try to snatch away our holiday joy: expectations and comparisons. Here are a couple of suggestions to protect us from these evil elves.

Replace comparison with gratitude.

Where did we get our expectations for how our holidays should look? Comparison is an illusion. Have you ever left Facebook wondering what’s wrong with you? Everyone’s life looks so interesting and successful. Everyone else’s family seems so, well, cooperative, while my suggestions for holiday activities are met with eye rolls—not cheers.

I remarked as much to a friend about her Facebook photos. “Oh, you should have seen us earlier that day!” she laughed. It turns out Facebook told only half the story.

Comparing our lives with how others appear isn’t the only unproductive contrast. Comparing our present with the past is also unrealistic. Memories often idealize or denigrate the past.

Holidays were originally holy days. When we focus on what the day truly signifies, it’s easier to be thankful.

Thanksgiving is for thanking God for His provision and protection for another year. After limping through one holiday I no longer take the ability to walk for granted. What do you enjoy today that you’d miss if you lost it?

Christmas is about God sending His Son to earth so that we can experience a full life here and heaven later. Remembering the real reason for each holiday brings gratitude.

Replace unrealistic expectations with generosity.

None of us live in perfect circumstances. Healthy families have whiners. Good people have bad days. People we love die and leave holes in our celebrations. Family members won’t all agree on what makes a perfect gathering. Instead of trying to change them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can change our objective.

Proverbs 11:24-25 (TLB) says, “It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.”

Instead of clinging to our vision of how things should be, we can open our hands and receive what we have. We can open our hearts and give what we can.

This Thanksgiving the extras around our table won’t be relatives. A Muslim family displaced from their chaotic Pakistani homeland, a Taiwanese woman thousands of miles away from home, and another international woman separated from her family will fill the extra seats and enrich our lives.

When I dispelled my email friend’s myth of a big, extended, happy, family gathering, he quickly thanked me: “You hit the nail on the head…we see what ‘we THINK’ we should be experiencing. The other family has it better than…poor you. Thank you for illuminating that for me today.”

Let’s not let the gremlins of unrealistic expectations and comparisons ruin our holidays. Kick them out with gratitude and generosity.

Question: Have gremlins ever tripped up your holidays? What helps you fight them? Click here to comment.

Larry and I appreciate you.

Happy Thanksgiving,


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  1. Keita Ikeda

    Very well thought out post! Indeed, trying to “recreate” an idyllic past is not only futile because change is constant, it is very self centered in the end! “My standards and expectations will be met!”

    However God puts together circumstances for his benefit, such as placing the Pakistani family in your life. And for His glory you have responded graciously in His love for you and this family. This is fulfilling Deut 30 and Lev 19. Thank you for your fine example of Christian living!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Keita. It was my daughter’s idea to invite them. She and my husband are reading “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity” to help us better understand their culture. The author, Nabeel Qureshi, comes from the same peaceful sect as this family. We are learning why some Muslims kill and persecute others. May the Lord minister to this displaced family and reveal Himself to them. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. Earle Finley


    Great perspective! Happy Thanksgiving to you, Larry and all the family.

  3. Ann

    Those two things are very important to be aware of. I remember one of my neighbors who’d just found out her husband had left her with 4 children was at my home. She was feeling so ashamed on top of everything else because she said she walks on our street and looks at all the houses with happy families inside. I asked her how she knew what was going on inside. Things are not always what they appear and we can be masters at pretending to be and have what we wish for rather than grateful for what we have. Thank you for another beautiful post Debbie. I’m thankful for your insightful and uplifting posts.

  4. Debbie Wilson

    Ann, your question to your neighbor was perfect! It’s amazing how pain multiplies itself by planting false ideas in our heads. I’m thankful for you! You always add wonderful contributions.

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