Don’t you just love those friends that come over and don’t care if your house is a mess? I have several friends and family members who are so gracious about coming to my house even when it is covered in dust. My bible study group meets in my house every once in a while. I clean off the kitchen counters and pick up the family room, but I don’t get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors. They recognize that I have 3 kids and I probably was toting them around to some sort of practice just minutes before I rushed into the door to prepare for bible study and throw something in the oven for my family’s dinner. My bible study girls recognize that life is busy, and the important part of our weekly meetings is that we spend time discussing God; not have a clean house. I just love that! Unfortunately, when the holiday season approaches life becomes exactly the opposite. Peace is not the word that necessarily comes to mind when I am preparing for the big events of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wish it were like bible study, but it’s not because I am always afraid I am going to let someone down. Somehow, I feel that I won’t prepare or make something that gives them that “Thanksgivingsy” or “Christmassy” feeling. You know that warm, cuddly Martha Stewart-like event. I can honestly say that I am no Martha Stewart and this is a huge catastrophe waiting to happen.
As the holiday season is approaching I find that my anxiety encroaches on my life. It just seems like between musicals, sports, Thanksgiving Feasts at school, shopping, and birthdays (we even have a birthday at the end of November to celebrate); I just get a little tense. During Kate’s most intense moments (when she was really struggling with her anxiety and depression), I found that the holiday season just vamped it up a new notch. The chaos of Thanksgiving and Christmas just flew her into a complete mess. We have been on a mission to lessen the load that she carries during this holiday season (and maybe by default lessen my load). The last several Christmas seasons, we have found that going on a little family vacation during Christmas seems to help her find a little peace. It is a wait-and-see process, but we have found that a little less overload helps her tremendously. Overload to Kate is: enormous amounts of presents, people and chaotic situations (anything out of her routine that causes her to be the center of attention). So when we take our family trips, we downsize the amount of gifts (we all get $20 and go to the store to purchase one gift for a family member, then I of course do a little stocking shopping too). Because there is not so much action under the tree (except for baby Jesus’ birth), overload appears to be lessened. We try to find time to spend with our extended families before the big day, and this way they can share their presents with our kids before Christmas. It is not an “all-in-one-day” big event. What we have found by doing this is our kids appreciate Christmas more for what it is: a day to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why in the world am I telling you all this? Because I have seen too many people lose it over holiday preparations. Don’t get me wrong, some people love the holiday rush – my sister Jenny would be a perfect example of this, but for those of us who don’t we must minimize the chaos. Jesus doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed during this time of celebration. Can you imagine if your family got so upset and anxious over your birthday that they all ended up fighting and crying and throwing tantrums? How would you feel every year that your birthday came around if you knew this was going to occur – because of your birth? My guess is you would feel pretty depressed on your birthday knowing the destruction it was going to cause. Do you think Jesus truly wants us to be so upset and anxious about cleaning our house, preparing food and buying gifts that we don’t have time to really just embrace Him and love Him for who He is? Christ was born for us on Christmas Day. It is a time to show love and appreciation to Him. If you become anxious about the holidays, then you are missing the point. If all you can think about is cleaning your house, preparing the food, and making sure everyone has a fabulous time; then you are in grave danger of not being fulfilled. Don’t get caught up in the details of the holiday. Here are my own guidelines for having a peaceful holiday season:
• Find time for God each day during this Advent season (prayer, devotionals, bible reading)
• Pray for God to show you a new attitude and maybe a new way to handle the holidays
• Celebrate Jesus’s birthday like it is your own birthday. Think about how you would act on your birthday, let others help you do the work, and enjoy the day because it is your day too.
• Set boundaries for yourself. Do this by past experience. What has worked for you and what hasn’t worked. When do you say “no” to too much?
• Make up your own holiday schedule based on what is good for your family. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THIS NEW SCHEDULE!!
• Enjoy the holiday. If you aren’t enjoying the preparation and the day of, then you have missed something in the process. Remember, it should be like your own birthday. A time to feel loved unconditionally.
• If all else fails wake up each day saying to yourself “Peace in my heart. Peace in my heart. Peace in my heart.” It works wonders for me.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful – Colossians 3:15
I would love to hear all of your holiday traditions to ease the worry and anxiety!