Engaging Expectations

Nov 18, 2019

If we could peak into your planner this holiday season, what would we see? 

We love this time of year, so apart from work, our planners tell a story a lot like this:

Celebrations — the more the merrier! 

Lights and more lights — deck ALL the halls! 

Church and time with close family and friends — a must

Special foods. Definitely! Why don’t we cook these more often?!

Moments of remembrance. Because we still love the people we’ve lost.

Family traditions. We treasure them all; even the ones we’d rather not do.

Coffee? Sure! It would be great to catch up. 

And, of course, there’s shopping. Amazon is our favorite elf!


We also save some evenings and late nights for Christmas and Hallmark movies. Then there’s time for wrapping gifts. And more than ever, we have a well-defined “no-phone zone” with family. This includes extra whipped cream on hot chocolate, games, and fuzzy slippers!

We know you enjoy the fullness of this season too. 

You’re generous with your time and resources. 

You make the most of every opportunity to be present with the people who matter most. 

You give of yourself, and give gifts out of the fullness of your heart.

But underneath all of the sparkle and excitement, we know (just like you know)… holidays can be hard.


When you’re hustling through the holidays, the hardest part isn’t all the work it takes to make things beautiful, the late nights celebrating with friends and colleagues, or the careful planning, cooking, and coordination behind the scenes.

The hardest part of the holidays is managing the expectations you place on yourself.

These expectations not only shape your reality, but also the way you perceive and interact with others. 

When they’re good, you are too! But if they’re misguided, your expectations of yourself can make you feel pressure instead of joy.

Here are some of the misguided holiday expectations we’ve heard in the past from others (or even ourselves).

Giving expensive gifts makes me a good ___________ (daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend). Giving lots of gifts makes me a good ___________ (daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend).  I have to attend ____________ (insert event).  My family won’t understand if I make other plans.  If everything in the house isn’t fully decorated, it isn’t Christmas!
Everyone in my neighborhood goes all-in on their outside lights. Our house can’t be left out!  I have vacation scheduled, but there’s no way I can take time off from work this year. There’s just too much to be done!

There may be some truth or tradition in each of these statements. A few may sound perfectly acceptable, even normal. But each of these expectations is misguided — not because the idea or practice is inherently wrong. 

They’re misguided because of the underlying motivation. 


We’re convinced that behind every misguided expectation is one that misguides them all.

It’s the expectation that says you’re the ONE responsible for making other people happy this holiday season. 

You may cozy up to this misguided expectation with the best of intentions. It can motivate you to do more, buy more, be present more, all to ensure your place in the process delivers happiness right on time.

But happiness is fickle. 

It’s a “right-now” emotion. People feel happiness when something good happens. And feelings of happiness are subject to change based on circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us in Lamentations 3:17 that people are quick to forget happiness

Just try to remember the specific Christmas gifts, parties, or house decorations that made you so happy two years ago. What about five years ago? 

Now try the same exercise with one of your kids or a kid you know. Did you get a blank stare, too?! 


If you’re feeling the pressure to be the one responsible for other people’s happiness this holiday season, we’ve got a suggestion for you: let it go, and choose to do things differently.

Choose to engage your expectations from a new starting point: JOY.

Joy isn’t like happiness. It’s not a feeling, and it’s not pressure based on what you give or what you do. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. And joy isn’t fickle.

Joy comes from relationship.

In John 16 (AKJV), Jesus makes this clear as He shares how life connected to Him produces joy that can’t be taken away (v. 22). He goes on to tell us that when we’re connected, we can ask and receive from God, “that our joy may be full” (v. 24).

Jesus experienced a joy-full life in every situation because He prioritized what mattered most.  

This always came back to His relationships. He lived connected. First, to His father. And then to the 12 disciples — really good friends who were a lot like family. 

You get to do the same. 

You get to align your heart and your schedule by choosing what matters most to you and your family. 

We’ve even created a tool to guide you through this process: the “Choose Joy Holiday Planning Guide.”

The next step is simple. Download the guide and get started planning for joy!

And in case you’re wondering… we’re planning for joy too. We love to be in this journey with you!

It’s time to build life well with JOY!


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