Taking Care of Business

Covenant relationship looks like this: if I give of myself to take care of my covenant partner, tending to what is important to them; and they give themselves tending to what is important and needful to me, we are both satisfied! We love well. We have mutual joy. There will be no no lack, no sorrow, no striving. We both have rest in the heart of the other and in all that concerns us. All expressions of rest — such as safety, provision, nurture, love — are met in this kind of relationship.

I’ve learned this more than once in my walk with God, but especially when we were needing to move to the Texas coast in 2013 to be near my parents to help care for them. We needed to find a new home, and I wanted to go out and spend all effort and time finding it NOW. Yet life kept happening, and getting in the way! People kept needing things that stopped us from going at our search full speed ahead. I stewed and fretted some, with the Lord occasionally reassuring me that he had already secured a home for us.

I believed, yet still, in all honesty, it was hard to focus my attention on anything but finding that new home, until one day the Spirit dropped these words into my spirit: “Be about my business, and I will be about yours.” The Lord has a way of saying the one thing that changes everything. He had things we needed to do for him, things with and for people. I wish I had a dollar for every time the Lord has revealed that it isn’t people I am pushing against, it is Him!

The Lord reminded me that I could REST concerning our great need, because He was at work securing it all for us. Meanwhile, He needed me to be about His business in a wholehearted way, tending to the people he wanted to love on through us.

I realized what a perfect relationship this is, this reciprocal covenant love and care. It nips selfishness and self-centeredness in the bud. Joy seldom fails to come when you give of yourself to someone else. One may find some pleasure in giving themselves what they need, but nothing like the pure joy of giving oneself for others.

So, as we waited for our whole lives to be moved and rearranged, tending to my Father’s business produced in me joy, and rest, and hope, and fruitfulness. It was a good season, and my heart relaxed into being fully present for the people in our lives. The Lord was served, the people on His heart were served, and He did indeed secure for us the most delightful, perfect home here on the coast. It all came together in just the right time, and I hate to think of what we might have “settled for” in our own impatience and striving! I am so glad we did not, that he gave us the grace to rest both in what He promised and asked of us in those days.

So be about the Good Lord’s business, and He will always be about yours. That is covenant faithfulness, covenant care, covenant love. That is taking care of business, God’s way.

Holidays: Down with stress, up with joy!

Relatives aren’t the only crowd coming for the holidays — also making an appearance will be all those expectations! Whatever we normally imagine and hope for with family becomes loaded at a whole new level when the holidays roll around, and the result is often stress, deep disappointment and occasionally broken or deeply strained relationships. Here are suggestions to avoid stresses and strains on relationships while keeping the joy factor high during the holidays:

REMEMBER THAT THE HEART IS A MOVING TARGET. Don’t assume you know what everyone is hoping for. Take time to discover from each family member what they want most want out of sharing the holiday together. In the case of Thanksgiving dinner, I always ask each family member, “What is the one dish without which it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for you?” The goal is not to please everyone, but to understand everyone’s hopes, which may not be at all what you’re assuming (and working so hard for). Also, the process of discovery is a great way to build or rebuild closeness with your relatives.

THE GOAL IS TO MAKE MEMORIES, not force everyone to keep recreating old ones. Traditions are precious, but can become a bully if they become more important than the hearts assembling for this holiday. Don’t let one or more family members get trampled on so some tradition can be carried out just like So-and-So used to do it. Traditions that are still a joy for everyone together are wonderful, but when they cease to be so, it’s time to make new ones.

ASK YOURSELF, WHY AM I REALLY DOING THIS? I used to prepare for a holiday to satisfy my “inner domestic diva” while telling myself it was all really to bless my family — but eventually got the message that they wanted less diva,  more of me having fun with them. It has been wisely said about the Biblical Martha, “Don’t prepare a meal Jesus didn’t order.” Ditto on family holidays.

SPREAD THE WORK AROUND, AND LOSE “PERFECT.” Perfectionism is a joy killer for both the enforcer and the enforcee. If you’re the host, have some of backup canned goods or snacks on hand to fill in for extra guests or to make up for the burned pie. If you have to choose between preparations and spending time face-to-face with a loved one on the couch, go for the face every time.

Scrabble

Who's the Scrabble champ in your family?

LESS IS MORE: less work, less food, less money spent, less structure — all will add up to a more relaxed holiday for everyone. If everyone is broke this year, set a new low limit on gift exchange costs. Give relationship “Gift Certificates” for one-on-one times such as a dinner, movie or coffee date. Don’t pack every hour with activities, but allow plenty of time to just “hang out” together. The best memories often come out of these times. If you’re tempted to do more of anything, let it be more paper plates, popcorn, good old bologna and cheese, decks of cards, old photo albums, fresh-air walks.

TEND YOUR RELATIONSHIPS YEAR-ROUND. It has been said that it’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas that ruins your figure; it’s what you eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving. The same is true for relationships. If you take care to maintain a spirit of grace and goodness with your relatives all year round you set the table for joy at the holidays and avoid the stress of wondering when that unfinished business might come up.
This holiday season, GO FOR THE TREASURE IN HEARTS.
May your holidays be blessed in every way under heaven!
Tonia