Holiday family gatherings are right ahead! Are you ready? Even those who anticipate them with uncomplicated joy still ponder the wrinkles involved in merging family units with unique habits and rhythms of life.

Starting to navigate this sometimes complicated season, I wrote down my top five family-gathering aims, as a believer in Christ who is a wife, a mother of grown children, and a relatively new mother-in-law and grandmother. Perspectives will differ, of course, according to different contexts and situations in life. Perhaps others might add good counsel to the list, from whatever stage of life in which you find yourself.

1. Pray in advance.

So often, holiday gatherings happen in the midst of such busy schedules that we’re consumed simply with the practical arrangements—of travel, menus, house preparation, and so on. We can be sure God loves to answer our prayers as we take time to ask in advance not just for physical order but also for the ordering of our souls as we come together.

I know it makes a huge difference to visit my children’s homes or welcome them into ours buoyed up with prayer to find ways of encouraging them in the midst of their busy lives . . . prayer that we would find time to talk about important things as well as just have fun . . . prayer that Christ our Savior would be honored among us . . . prayer for tongues to speak not too much and only profitably.

 2. Pray for God to set a guard over my mouth (Psalm 141:3).

I’ve already blown it a number of times in just three years with married children and two years of grandmothering—not to mention the years with grown single sons. This involves prayer in advance and during and after visits (and phone conversations and emails!). Among those we love the most we can sometimes be the least careful with our words. One couple who also has grown children and growing grandchildren told us that they often look at each other and simply say, “NORTH.” What on earth does that mean? Their response: “Not Our Row To Hoe!” My husband and I have used “NORTH” now and then. It replaces a lot of other unnecessary words!

The wisdom of the Word teaches us to pray for “gracious words . . . like a honeycomb,” words that bring “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24). Ultimately, these are words controlled and flavored by the Holy Spirit who dwells in those belonging to Christ Jesus and who produces good fruit in our lives—including the good fruit of good words. Lord, set a guard over my mouth, by your Spirit. Flavor my words with gospel grace.

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