Boundaries: A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Last year I put up our 12-foot Christmas tree on the 1st of November and then awaited the oohs and ahs from my family. To my chagrin, my teenage grandsons, who I thought would be full of confetti praise, were not happy. And since we live in the same house, when it’s possible, we try to do what works for all. The boys thought the early appearance of Christmas was pushing Thanksgiving to the curb, like those annoying holiday commercials that pop up in August. However, I thought because it’s tons of effort to get the tree up and decorated we could revel in its beauty for an extra month.

My surprise for our household fizzled. Sure I could still enjoy it, and I did, but quite honestly half my joy in decorating is in their delight.

This year with only a few days until Thanksgiving there’s not a decoration to be seen on our premise. Honey, Nana learns fast. And today my son and his family left on a week-long cruise, which means, I can decorate to my heart’s content, while they are a-float on the boat.

I’m grateful my boys see Thanksgiving as worthy of its own day and that Christmas needs to be protected from a sense of commercialism. (Of course, the only thing I was promoting was an integration of two joyous holidays. Sigh. But it is my tendency to overdo. I own that.)

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

Quite honestly boundaries was a concept that alluded me for years, until I was an adult, and even then I struggled to put them into my life and to recognize and respect them in the lives of others.

My earlier statement about I learn fast, didn’t apply to boundaries. But today I’m so good at calling personal fouls I could work for the NFL with a whistle and a flag, announcing offsides, face masks, and unnecessary roughing. But beware, we don’t want our boundaries to become control for control’s sake, so don’t carry a big stick. If you need one you should change your guest list or your heart (Jesus will help, he did me).

I say all that to suggest boundaries are the most valuable decor
you can add to make holiday time a holy time. They are about sanity, respect, guidelines, and thoughtfulness. If Aunt Betty doesn’t want a helping of your famous mashed potato pie, don’t take it personally, and don’t make her refusal the table discussion. If someone waves off dessert, don’t insist. If guests historically stay too long, but you enjoy their company and want them included, set a timeframe on your gathering ahead of time. Then they can decide if they want to join you.

If you are always left depleted of your joy from taking on too much, You Are in Charge of You.

Do things differently. Simplify and ask for help. Different can be a lovely new tradition. Besides those around us may need an example of how boundaries can be lovingly and surely set in place.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for our many blessings. May we be generous toward others as we realize how bounteous you have been toward us. Teach us true hospitality and may we be certain, but not harsh, and merciful, but not indulgent. May we give out of love and not with return expectations. And protect those of us, from ourselves, who want everything perfect at the cost of conviviality and meaningful conversations. Also, those of us who have control issues, help us to grow in humility and trust in you.

We realize life is a journey of learning experiences. May you find us to be attentive, studious and joyous students eager to receive from your divine hand of love.



  1. Renee Smith on November 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Amen, Happy Thanksgiving Patsy to you and yours. Thank you for sharing bits of wisdom and delight.

  2. Jackie on November 22, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Happy Thanksgiving, Patsy!! For your wisdom that you so eloquently share, I am thankful!

  3. Elizabeth Strahan on November 22, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Amen! A great lesson for the day. Happy Thanksgiving! I better get up and set the table and finish cooking.

  4. Phyllis Malone on November 22, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Happiest of Thanksgivings! Great reminders.

  5. Amanda on November 22, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Love this! As a recovering control freak, I can relate. Sadly, what helped me relinquish control & set healthy boundaries is a season of life filled with loss & grief. However, I can totally see how God turned it to something for my best. Through the rehab portion of that season, I embraced a new tradition. The tradition of change. My family’s holidays now entail every year being a little different than the year before. We have learned to go with the flow & roll with the punches without losing our minds, our Joy or our peace. To God be the glory for teaching me the tradition of change. Every year is a fresh surprise!

  6. Terry Hardin on November 22, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Thank you! Hoping young women will read & learn this lesson early. I, too, did not get it when hosting family holiday dinners years ago. It’s not about the dinner & decorations & perfectly set table – it’s about the gathering itself! Family fun, conversations, listening to each other, & respecting each other’s choices are paramount. Letting go of being a Martha & learning to be more of a Mary is a process but sooo worth it!!😊❤️

  7. Ann King on November 22, 2018 at 7:43 am

    What a lovely lesson on this grateful day!🙏🏻💕

  8. Angela on November 22, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Happy Thanksgiving! Blessed by your message many times. Thank you.

  9. Mary Vela on November 22, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Sooo true and often soo hard to do! Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Brenda Wall on November 22, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I put up my tree early this year and my EX son-in-law ask me if I had skipped a holiday. I laughed!!! On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I go with a friend and her daughter to a quilting retreat in Mt. Calm, Texas – my relaxing after the hustle and bustle of cooking for my family. Putting the tree up early will give me time to enjoy it more this year. The rest of the house is still decorated for fall.
    One of the things that I am thankful for is 18 years ago I was told by Doctors that I would have only 3 to 5 years to live because of a heart disease. Praise God he had a different plan. I went to Women of Faith the year of HOPE and it drew me closer to God and his purpose for my life. The blessings have been many. Thank you Patsy and the other ladies who helped deliver that message from God.

  11. Karen Souza on November 22, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Thank you Patsy for your prayers & words of encouragement. You have been a source of strength to me as I struggle with my issues. Hope you & yours have a blessed & Happy Thanksgiving

  12. Louise on November 22, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    I am glad your grandsons still respect holiday boundaries as my family did. In my family no Christmas decoarations or music until St. Nicholas Day (Dec.6th).

    Thank you for the boundaries message, as that is something I have been trying to work on. Thanks for the encouragement.

  13. Pat Osterhouse on November 22, 2018 at 8:35 am

    A good reminder for the holidays. I miss the family gatherings that seem to have all but disappeared. We have not gathered with my brothers and sisters since my mom died in 2008. I struggle with holidays and really miss those gatherings… I have learned that it is ok to be home for the day, and am always blessed when my daughter opens her door to us for supper on holidays. Putting up a tree has become a quiet event to enjoy for my husband and I, as we know that none of our children will stop in. It reminds me of the old Crosby Stills and Nash song…. Today we are invited again for supper with permission to show up no earlier then 5pm. I am thankful that I get to see my grandchildren for a little while…

  14. Carolyn Holley on November 22, 2018 at 8:43 am

    A great reminder. I needed this this morning.

  15. Mary Beth Klick on November 22, 2018 at 8:53 am

    This is so good. I feel the same way about Thanksgiving, it’s a totally separate holiday from Christmas. Please don’t push them together!! Lol But the boundaries that we make are up to us. And it’s also up to us to really listen to others. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!

  16. Cyndy on November 22, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Thank you Patsy! I love your insight! I’m a control freak. I needed this reminder . God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

  17. Karen Kuntz on November 22, 2018 at 9:53 am

    “You Are in Charge of You”—I LOVE that! You are a wise woman! Hugs to you from Eric and me.

  18. Marcia Lee on November 22, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I needed to hear this today! We changed several thngs this year to make Thanksgiving Day less stressful. Steps that lightened the load (and atmosphere) that sometimes accompany the preparations of “gathering together”! Tomorrow…let the joy of the Christmas season begin! Then…the house will be filled with Christmas music 🎶 bins of decorations will be opened..but not today!
    🍁🍂🍁 Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!! 🍂🍁🍂

  19. Chris on November 22, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Thank you for the confirmation! This year we are being blessed with an early Thanksgiving, last weekend, with family & today, Thanksgiving with dear friends! We set boundaries around who we would spend time with while “back home” and we are enjoying our time so much more!! I started boundary building after a class from Dr Henry Cloud and my life has been SO MUCH better since!! Thank you for your wise words Patsy!! Blessings!

  20. Diana Pintar on November 22, 2018 at 10:36 am

    My friend, this is the “keeper” I copied into my “notes” to be pulled up for a quick reminder when holiday pressure pinches and I tempted to turn into the Grinch. “Boundaries are the most valuable decor you can add to make holiday time a holy time.”

    If my sole purpose as a Christ follower is to love God and love others, healthy boundaries are often the best expression of that love ( says a recovering enabler.). Thank you for the well-timed reminder. God’s richest blessings on you and your family! Hug Les for me 😉!

  21. Diann Milstead on November 22, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I totally agree with you! I never put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. It’s disrespecting there turkey and all this holiday represents!!!!! 😶

  22. Carol Scott on November 22, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Are you always trying to orchestrate Thanksgiving and Christmas to be a series of perfect “Hallmark” moments worthy to be one of their television commercials? I used to think if that didn’t happen I was a complete failure as a mom, a wife, a grandmother.
    Patsy, thank you for reminding us that we are not in charge of conducting the movement of our lives or those of our family and friends. We do the best we can and God will take care of the rest. And we can relax!

  23. Jeanny Laurie on November 22, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Wonderful lesson for today. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us and helping us move forward in love.

  24. Linda Collins on November 22, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you Patsy! Because I work at a homeless shelter for young moms and their babies and because people are incredibly generous all year long and especially generous at this time of year, Christmas decorations and plans start early for us. This year, I bought myself a Christmas mug about a month ago, so when I drink my daily coffee-I’m in the Christmas spirit. Have fun decorating!

    • Tracey Wigans on November 22, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Boundaries sure can be a blessing to all. Our big blended and oh so beautiful blended family (4 B’s-😁) started gathering last night. Since most boundaries have already been dinged or at least have a strong dent I am THANKFUL That the Holy Spirit will work overtime with me. Peace fills our space for now…
      God us soooo gooood. Your words always bless me Patsy. Bless you.

  25. Myra Adams on November 22, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Such insightful words shared from your heart. Thank you, Patsy! I also like things done the way I want them done – but am learning to let others help. It’s only taken 60 years to learn that! Prayers for a wonderful holiday season for you and your clan.

  26. Janna Peterson on November 23, 2018 at 8:02 am

    There is so much I love in this!! Years ago I heard a message on putting margins in your life and it was a game changer for me. And this is a fresh reminder of how and why we need to do this. Especially at the holidays when I always expected everything to be a Hallmark moment. “You are in charge of you” – oh so true. “Do things differently. Simplify and ask for help.” Nail hit on the head 🙂 Yesterday I could feel the old me crawling back in when I saw fb posts of friends with elaborate centerpieces on their table. For a brief moment I started to beat myself up because…well, mine didn’t look that way. But then I saw my husband making his favorite chip dip to watch football. And it was OK. And then my daughter was making some desserts and I remembered that not too many years ago she was critically ill and hospitalized and now she is home and healthy. And it was OK. And the centerpiece didn’t matter. Always happy to see my inbox has something from you – just makes me smile 🙂

  27. Melanie Long on November 23, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Patsy, you are so good. Thank you for sharing on boundaries. Everything about this year is different. May I embrace it and enjoy. Blessings to you.

  28. Melissa on November 23, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks Patsy. It’s good to remember to respect the boundaries of others (who don’t want to “indulge” in my veggie tray at yesterday’s Thanksgiving table)!
    I have a harder time setting boundaries when I need to, and sometimes I minimize the offense I feel — and it leads to resentment. But God is working with me.
    I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving. Maybe you’d want to wait until at least the first day of December before working on the tree?

  29. Kelli Cooper on November 23, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Perfect timing. I truly needed this today. We set up our Christmas tree (at the request of our girls yesterday)- which ended in huge disappointment for me as my 12 year old REFUSED to let me put anything on the tree besides lights and balls. That’s it. Sigh. This too shall pass.

  30. Charlotte Coffelt on November 23, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    I have done both…when my children were home, we usually did the tree etc on the day after Thanksgiving. It was a family tradition to decorate & make candy cane cookies. As the grands were growing, there were many presents to buy, wrap etc so having the decorating done freed me up to do all of that & baking etc. …now I have time after as we no longer buy for everyone; however, if my son & his wife come from Colo. I put up the tree etc as he always loved my decorations.

  31. Marilyn Landrith on November 23, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    I love this blog. I’m finally learning this and I just turned 70! Praise God for His patience. This Thanksgiving we had the men from a drug and alcohol rehab center over. They brought the turkeys! I made the trimmings. There were 27 of us, two other ladies brought a dish and together we celebrated. I set tables up and we ate, fellowshiped, and laughed. I for once just let it happen, it was a wonderful day filled with peace and Gods grace. We are part of God’s family, it’s alright to ask for help, even if it’s not done like I would do it.

  32. Jan J. on November 26, 2018 at 3:10 am

    At 59, I finally gave myself permission to put up all the Christmas decorations I wanted as early as I wanted instead of the week after Thanksgiving. It enhanced my Thanksgiving to have everything so beautiful ….to me, Christmas is about the savior and He is present in all expressions of sincere gratitude.

  33. Mary Stephenson on November 30, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    I just got a chance to read this and I am so glad that I did. It is so easy for us to have our priorities in the wrong places. With all the hussle and bussle of Christmas it is especially easy to momentarily forget the true meaning of Christmas and that the only gift we should really focus on is the love God sent down with his son for all of us. I personally have a hard time with the holidays because 10 years ago my 16 year old son was killed right before Thanksgiving and last year one of my neighbors decided to kill his little dog (who became mine after we lost him) right in my driveway just 2 days before Christmas. She was the sweetest little schnoodle ever and losing her was like losing him all over again.I still have 2 adult sons and my husband and I try so hard to do what my mom always advised us ” If you can’t make it; fake it” . It’s not always easy though. I hope you get to enjoy your decorations and that when your family gets back they are in awe. Thank you for being such an inspiration and blessing to all of us.

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