How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

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Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

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Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind

Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.

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Pixabay

You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.

There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.

I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.

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Pixabay

1 - Pick and Choose

You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.

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Pixabay

2 - Set Boundaries

You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.

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Pixabay

3 - Take Care of Yourself

At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.

In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.

If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.

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Pixabay

4 - Be Grateful

No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,

These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.

Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.



Pow! Biff! Sock! Crash! Holy Trouble Batman!

I am foregoing my Walking With the Psalmist post for this month in order to bring you another amazing and trouble filled episode of life! If you have been following my blog for a while now, then you know last May, my hubby and I attempted to take a vacation to Maine. We only got as far as Rochester, NY when I gave birth to a kidney stone. Ouch! Not knowing for sure if the kidney stone passed, I ended up spending a night in the hospital and we made our way home, feeling down and discouraged. 

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Pixabay

Fast forward to May of 2018. Here we are again, planning a vacation, this time to my husband's old stomping grounds in various spots around Wisconsin. We were going to camp, hike, and visit with friends and family. Last week, I spent the entire week taking care of my grandson, who came down with whatever the going virus was at the moment for a week long battle with fatigue, fever, runny nose and loss of appetite. Guess who got sick this past Friday? Yup! Me. 

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Pixabay

I did my usual regimen of echinacea tea, Zicam and other supplements to try to quicken the down time and speed up healing. No such luck! Today, I developed a fever, though I think I may have had one earlier. Today, I took my temp and it said, 99.5. Now, as you know that is not a high temp, but it is enough to make one feel pooky and even make my skin hurt. In addition to that I spent the night on the couch, coughing. I have always been a cougher. I had childhood asthma and I still think my bronchial tubes get especially irritated when I am sick. 

We were supposed to leave on vacation Thursday, but I am thinking maybe Friday or Saturday. Ugg! I'm sorry. I feel like I am complaining all the time and I don't mean to. I just feel that real life is happening all around and it is not always pretty or easy. Maybe when you read my stories of woe I will help you realize, you are not alone! We are all struggling through this journey together and I want you to know, I get the hard bits!

So when I started thinking about this post, I couldn't help but think of the old campy Batman and Robin show. Those of you who are my age will remember the silly fight scenes with the cartooned in words, "Pow!" "Biff!" and "Sock!" 

The reality is, my life is more like that colorful show of the the 1960's, than what some people are going through. We know more than one person who is battling cancer, several who already know they aren't going to make it. People struggle with such hurts, illness and pain, that I cannot even begin to imagine, but I understand. Sometimes life just sucks! For reals!

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This morning, when I was standing in the shower, feeling like crud, I turned my eyes to Jesus. I went back to the basics. I confessed my discouragement and frustration, I praised His name, and then I thanked Him. I thanked Him that I had a comfy couch, a blanket and a pillow to spend the night on. I wasn't coughing and shivering in a box in some alley. I thanked Him for the hot water that felt comforting to my tired and achy body. I thanked Him that, although this morning I wasn't able to keep my shopping and lunch date with one of my daughters, I was able to lay on the couch and watch Netflix. 

in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NET)

I can't remind you (and me) of this verse enough! Even when we are getting struck down and beaten on all sides, it is God's will that we give thanks. I would make the distinction that it says, "in everything give thanks," not "give thanks for everything." I have heard people say you should thank God, even for the bad stuff, but I think it is more the case that when we are going through the bad stuff we continue to give thanks. That, my dear sisters, is what will keep us standing and keep us focused on Him. 

I hope that we will still be able to get away in the next few days, but even if we don't, I feel that once again, God is who God is and He is trustworthy. I hope you will find Him trustworthy as well.