It appears that the day after Halloween officially kicks off the Christmas season.  Since I love Thanksgiving, I hate how it gets cheated!  I don’t decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, giving it it’s rightful honor.  Turkey is almost sacred at my house–ask my family. It’s a tradition that for me has wonderful memories from childhood family reunions and a closeness that will never leave my heart. Of course, as a child it was seen through very rose colored glasses, which is okay….and as it should be. 

 The truth hits home when we grow up! Family get-togethers can be the most tension producing times of the whole year. As a counselor, I have plenty of stories to back me up on this. Holidays, which are supposed to be fun, beautiful and bonding experiences, are usually filled with disappointments, financial stress, and unfulfilled expectations.  It really doesn’t have to be that way.

My offering to you this week is to encourage you to start now and do some pre-planning. I want you to do some serious thinking about how things are done, and some prayerful prioritizing to make it different this year.  Stop and spend one hour with a pen and paper (or of course, your ipad) and jot down the things that usually drive you nuts during the holidays.  Then list the things that bless you and that you love and enjoy.  I think it would be great to put the ‘love and enjoy’ list on your frig or bathroom mirror so you can be reminded when you’re having a bad day.  

Take the chaotic, frustrating list and begin to pray over it. Ask the Lord to show you ways to change those things. Okay, so you can’t change that Aunt Mildred shows up drunk every time.  But, you can pray if there are things you could do before the big day to help her relieve her own stress which might domino onto yours. Or…you could assign someone who it doesn’t irritate to sort of be her buffer to keep her out of the kitchen while you’re cooking. Do you get my drift?  You will be amazed as God works. Maybe Aunt Mildred will even bring a great dessert instead of fruitcake.

Finances are usually another major stressor.  Pray over your list of expenses and see what you could slash or ways to reduce costs.  Trust God to reveal things to you. Remind yourself daily that “things” are overrated and it’s the simplest gifts that mean the most. Maybe your family would consider handmade little gifts or foregoing gifts and giving a donation to some charitable cause. Discuss starting some new family traditions that are simpler, but more meaningful than buying expensive gifts. Have a family meeting to discuss it. You might be surprised at their responses.

Never underestimate the power of prayer.  If you start now, trusting God’s guidance, and continually praying over the to-do lists and the overwhelming preparations, you will be amazed at how He intervenes. He doesn’t desire you to be a worn out, frazzled wreck through these weeks. He wants you to walk in joy. Seriously consider simplifying it all. Envision yourself on New Year’s Day not being tired and dealing with mangled emotions, but joyful and peaceful. It is possible. (I’m convincing myself too, friends.)

Prayer, Pre-planning, Prayer, Positive Thinking, Prayer, Peace.  Take a long, deep, cleansing breath and Praise God for all the good things He has done this past year. He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Even in the midst of shopping, cleaning, cooking, dealing with a few difficult relatives, and financial tension. He is the same–yesterday, today, and forever. Right there with you. Make this year different. 

Scriptures for Encouragement:

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:5-8

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Resources for Further Study: 

Reduce Holiday Stress: 

Holiday Stress: