Anchors for Healthy Holiday Conversations

by Dec 20, 2016Courage, Cultivate4 comments

“You know, Dad, I think whoever shot the cherry pit likely isn’t even aware they did it. It wasn’t me, but I’m going to go ahead and pray for our meal now.”

We were already holding hands around the breakfast table at my Dad’s house. Evidently he had fumed all night and decided someone had maliciously hurled a cherry pit across the table at my stepmom the night before at dinner. That person was to admit it by praying a blessing over the morning meal.

I thought back to the incident the night before. When my Dad questioned everyone, I checked. My kids’ cherry pits were accounted for. Ten pits for ten consumed cherries. I didn’t normally count out cherries, but I was glad I did that time.

Now with heads bowed at the breakfast table, I fully believed it was simply an accident. A silly one not worth pursuing, and yet in the long silence I began to tremble with stirred up old emotions.

I broke the silence with my just-an-accident theory and prayed. Then I left the table and slipped into a nearby bathroom to let the tears flow. (I would later laugh.)

I loved my Dad but his words and ways so easily caught me off guard or pushed buttons—the raw, vulnerable ones I was aware of and others I didn’t remember I had.

Don’t we all have people in our lives like that—those we love but who for some reason quickly flip our world upside down? Or might we be people like that for others? (Yikes, probably!)

We dread, we question, we hope. Can it be different? I believe little by little, it can be, one small brave step at a time. Perhaps one anchor at a time.

What personal stories are stirring for you right now?

As you think of those and the powerful emotions attached, what do you most long for in your relationships and conversations?

A tool I like to use is what I call an anchor—a short grounding phrase that can quickly remind me how to be more graciously present or how to respond so that a relationship or conversation can move forward in more healthy ways. Here are three categories of anchors we can use for this season:

Be Brave.
Be Gracious.
Be Free.

For each of these I’ve pulled verses from Romans 12, the Message version. Take the following words in slowly and let them turn in your soul and do their good work. They are packed with simple but rich phrases you might choose to use as your anchors for an upcoming conversation or gathering.

Be Brave

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (v. 1)

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle (v 9-10).

Be Gracious

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good (v. 17-21).

Be Free

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him (v. 1).

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality (v. 11-13).

Did phrases stand out to you from these verses that you might use as your anchors?

Choose one or two that you can remember easily and consider them in light of an upcoming conversation or gathering. Memorize them, repeat them, use them in prayer. Consider what they look like lived out practically.

Allow God to use these phrases to transform you so the presence you bring into a room can’t help but change the conversation and dynamics.

The rest of the cherry-pit story? After breakfast we packed our car for our already-planned twelve-hour drive home. Everyone was silent in the car, partly because I was still whirling in emotions that went back a lot farther and deeper than that visit. I stared out the car window a long time, watching the scenery pass in a blur.

Finally I laughed out loud, and said, “It was a cherry pit!”

That released the tension for all of us and we laughed together. Something so small had turned into something huge. The moral of the story for me: Don’t let a little cherry pit grow bigger than it is. Keep perspective.

For this holiday season, I have no gatherings or conversations coming up that I dread. But any time loved ones gather, there’s the possibility of a misunderstanding. I think I’ll keep a few anchor phrases from Romans 12 before me each day.

Share which anchors stand out to you or other creative ways you’ve discovered that cultivate healthy holiday (or anytime) conversations. Or share your stories or struggles and questions and tell us how we can pray for you. Your voice and perspective is valued here!


  1. Shontell Brewer

    Oh I loved this. Deep in my guts I really love this. “Practice playing second fiddle” is such a great reminder for a daughter of a narcissist. It creeps up before I know it.
    Don’t hit back and discover beauty in everyone. Also great reminders for a girl who spins out words faster than her filter. If I go into a situation ready to see the beauty in that person, that’s what I’ll get.
    I would feel better if we lived closer. Any plans to move 😀 I’m speaking at a MOPs group near year at the start of the new year. I would love to connect!

    • Jan Kern

      Aw, Shontell, I love your heart, so real and honest, so open. My experience so far is that you do try to see the beauty in each person. I know, more ahead for all of us. Always deeper places to go. I wish we lived closer too. No, no plans to move, but let me know when you’ll be in the area so we can connect!

  2. Joy

    Jan, this was so good and practical and spot on! I needed this and very much appreciate you sharing these “anchors” for us. I so related to this paragraph, “Don’t we all have people in our lives like that—those we love but who for some reason quickly flip our world upside down? Or might we be people like that for others? (Yikes, probably!)” I’m tucking these anchors in for the season! Great gift. Thank you!

    • Jan Kern

      Thank you, Joy! I love the anchors we can discover throughout Scripture, but boy, isn’t Romans 12 packed with good ones for relationships! May our anchors, the gift they are to our soul, transform our holiday gatherings in surprising and delightful ways! I’d love to hear back if you find you have a story to tell about how they did. have a beautiful Christmas, Joy.

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