Christmas is going to be different this year. In my last post I mentioned that we’ve been going to my in-law’s house in the country for 30 years. It’s in the small town where my husband and I grew up. I adore my in-laws and feel blessed that we have had the privilege of celebrating Christmas with them all these years.


But life has changed. It’s more complicated.


So this year plans had to change.


My daughter and her husband have a new baby and they didn’t want to travel even though this was the year they were supposed to go to Dallas to see Rik’s family.


Instead, my son-in-law’s family is coming to Denver. My daughter and her husband are hosting Christmas Eve dinner. They’re serving Mexican food after we all go to church. (On Christmas day they’ll all come to our house.)


So, we invited my husband’s parents to come to Denver this year. They said they would come and they wanted to bring other relatives to our house.


I work really hard to find my Christmas peace, but this afternoon I could feel it slipping away. So my husband and I went on a walk and we talked about what we each wanted and what our fears were.

My biggest fear was that in order to make my husband’s parent’s wishes of bringing other relatives to our house, John and I would lose our time with each other. I envisioned us driving back and forth across the city, in traffic with last minute shoppers, rather than spending time with our new grand-baby and enjoying the meal after church.


John and I decided we needed a plan. We needed to be conductors directing our play, and we needed to tell people the parts.


And of course others can tell us the parts they’d like us to play. We’ll try to accommodate. Boundaries are needed.

So is a map.




I pulled out my paper, tape, markers, menus, shopping lists, and agenda. I turned Zucchero station on Pandora and started drawing my map.


Dr. Phil says marriage is a series of negotiations.


It’s true.


Neither partner gets their way all the time, but everyone needs to say how they feel and what they want. Then we work to make each other’s wishes come true. Even if we get the most important things, we’ll probably still have small disappointments.


It’s up to each of us to deal with our disappointments rather than being angry, passive-agressive, or bitter.


What mattered most to me was that we didn’t lose our time with each other during the few precious hours that make up Christmas.


We decided we would let my husband’s parents pick up the relatives. Then we’ll all go to church. After that we’ll eat heartily. John and I agreed we’d pay for a driver to bring the relatives back to their house at the end of the night on Christmas Eve.


Hopefully it will be a good time for everyone.


What do you want most during Christmas?

Have you been able to verbalize it to your family?

Have you had to set boundaries during the holidays in the past?

How did it work out?


Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."