Home for the Holidays

porch lightsIf you are a university student, this is probably your first week of holiday bliss: your own room, real food, and your laundry magically cleans itself. One of my professors told the class in early December that we looked dreadfully grey; we were to go home, sleep a lot and eat our greens for two weeks solid. Good advice for any hard working student.

But while you’re eating your veggies before an early bedtime (or your whole wheat toast after waking up late), it might be good to remember a few things.

1. This is your parents’ home. You have been living by yourself for several months. Oh yes, there were hundreds or thousands of other people your age around you, but you could decide when to eat, sleep (or not), study (or not), do laundry (or not), and basically ran your own life. During your break, you have to fit back into a household. Consider the family schedule, especially if you have siblings in the house. Ask your parents how things look for the next couple weeks and work your own goals and priorities around the patterns and events that they have already established, especially if you are hoping to use their vehicle. In other words, if they are in bed by eleven and up by seven, don’t be playing video games till two and sleeping in till noon. If they have invited Aunt Mabel over for dinner, try and be there so you can be a part of the family, instead of behaving like a hotel guest. Unless, of course, you are paying $150 per day for your bed and food. Try and use this time to reconnect with and be a part of the family instead of being an expensive appendage.

2. Your mother is not on holiday. She almost never is, and that’s especially true at this time of year, as there are often lots of guests to entertain, heaps of food to cook, decorating and gifts to organize, and lots of cleaning to do in between. She probably doesn’t mind – in fact, she probably loves seeing everybody and having you at the table again, but she’s probably tired, too. More tired than you are at the end of finals. So be thoughtful and serve. We know a college student whose goal when he goes home is to give his mother a break and spend quality time with his fiancee. He drives six hours to get home, throws his laundry in, goes to bed on time, gets up early to make breakfast for everyone, then drives his sisters to piano lessons so his mother can have some time to herself. It costs him something in thinking ahead and work, but this practice of self-denial is producing spiritual growth and personal maturity beyond his years. (His mother is crazy about him, by the way, and his fiancee is getting an amazing husband.) You don’t have to do “big” stuff in order to bless your parents. Do the dishes. Shovel the driveway. Entertain nephews and nieces. Try and see your Christmas break as a series of opportunities to serve others in a way that you cannot during the semester.

3. Being at university can make you spiritually dry if you are in a less-than-optimal church setting. Away from your family and church family and distracted by all the work and activity, it is easy to let devotions and prayer, maybe even regular church attendance, slip. Use your holiday to get back on track. Ask your parents to keep you accountable – into the next semester – for daily Bible reading and prayer. Be part of family worship. Go to whatever church services the rest of the family are going to. Find ways to strengthen your soul as you reconnect and serve.

So by all means, enjoy this holiday. Eat, sleep, go out with your friends. But do so in a way that honours your father and mother, strengthens your soul, and brings glory to your Saviour.