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Category Archives: Meaningful Holidays

Part 2: How to Make Holidays More Joyful

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyful-2Last week, I listed five very basic, non-festive ways to find more peace and joy during the upcoming holidays if you’re dealing with loss or a difficult season of life. This time I want to focus on how to get through the celebrations, parties, gifting, and busy schedule on the low energy you may be feeling.

1. Simplify your calendar.

Another way of saying this is: Choose your events wisely.

Do not overload your schedule. While this may be great advice during any holiday season, it is especially important when you are feeling depleted, sad, or stressed. You do not have to see The Nutcracker, attend your neighbor’s open house, or participate in five Secret Santas or white elephant gift exchanges just because you have in past years.

You also do not need to focus on anyone else’s expectations or worry about letting people down. If they are true relationships, they will have grace for your “free pass” year. Introvert or extrovert, you only have so much energy to go around when your strength is spent right now getting through the day to day.

While some people may not understand because their expectation levels do not match your reality at the moment, this is a good way for them to learn to respond with grace to those who are hurting. Or maybe you need space from people with inflexible demands right now. Either way, do not carry the extra weight around of pleasing other people.

Because I’m introverted, I limited my holidays outings to two occasions last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas: an open house at a friend’s house and a women’s Christmas tea. I also cancelled my involvement in Small Business Saturday at my church and a meal at someone else’s home. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had the enthusiasm for a few events, even though they were difficult because my father’s passing was still fresh.

I remember wanting to return home after the first five minutes at the open house because I met some very outgoing people who wanted to engage at a high intellectual level when I really just wanted to sit in the comforting presence of a few people I knew and sip something warm. I am very glad I made myself go, but I am also thankful I graciously stopped the conversation to be with low-engaging folks in the other room. I just needed to be with people, so I didn’t isolate, but I had no ability to fake holiday cheer.

Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

2. Be a minimalist in décor.

I have teens and a tween at home. Skipping all holiday décor was not a Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When You’re in Pain: How to Make Holidays More Joyful, Part 1

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyfulLast week, I dove straight into some of the reasons my own holidays can be painful. Since I know many people struggle this time of year, I thought it might be nice to turn the pain around and find ways to make this season better.

Next week I will address holiday celebration more directly, but for now, here are some basic non-festive suggestions to ease the pain.

1. If you can be around a pet of any kind, do it.

Seriously, pet therapy is so healing. If you have resident furballs already, you know what I’m talking about. I have two Shih Tzus who love to hang out on our laps, but during my darkest hours last winter, I enjoyed my friend’s Golden Retriever and Yellow Lab. They sensed my sadness and immediately came to me. The Golden maintained a protective stance and leaned into me the entire time. The mere weight of that was comforting and ministered to me.

Is it any wonder that animals are so good for the soul? They were created by God, and He “knows” them.

Psalm 50:10-11, ESV

For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.

God uses animals to describe the coming peace that Christ (root of Jesse) will bring. Isn’t that beautiful?

Isaiah 11:6-10, ESV

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

If you are allergic to pets, try cultivating a houseplant. I was given one when my father passed, and I’ve really enjoyed taking care of it and watching it grow. My younger son and I also grow a sunflower every summer. Working the ground is always good, so planting bulbs is possible this time of year—but hurry, Baby, it’s cold outside!

2. Nature watch.
Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Holidays Are Painful

when-holidays-are-painful-3It was a dreary, overcast day when I pulled into the parking lot at the counseling center in New Hampshire. I had made the 40-minute trip so many times before, almost on autopilot, but this time it had been about eight weeks since my last visit. I knew we were approaching November, the month that shook me down—several times in my life, actually. Around this time last year, I thought I’d be spending the rest of my life in fetal position crying out to God from under the covers; the devastation of loss and grieving without a funeral where family could gather to comfort one another almost did me in.

So I walked into the nurse’s office, sat down, and must have looked very tired. She asked me how I was and kept staring intently as if she didn’t believe me when I said I was doing well.

“It’s closing in on the first anniversary of your father’s death, you know. How are you preparing for that?”

Um, yeah, so I’m not, really. I’ve done everything I can to push it out of my head. As Thanksgiving approaches and I remember how shut out I felt this time last year from holding his hand one last time as he lost consciousness, I just want to skip past all holidays and land on January 1, 2017. (I wouldn’t mind skipping Election Day either. Let’s just try again this time next year, shall we? Restart?)

You see, November and I go way back.

We got off to a good start when I started dating my husband (now of 23 years) on November 18, 1990.

Almost two decades later, circumstances derailed me. In the midst of significant depression Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“Come to Me, All Who Labor”

%22Come to Me, All Who Labor%22

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Jesus, ESV

Matthew 11:28-30 is one of the most frequently quoted Bible passages regarding labor versus rest. For me personally, it has a more literal significance. As a little girl in the Presbyterian church I grew up in, I would lay my head down on my father’s lap as the sermon began. As I drifted off to sleep, this verse was the last thing my blurry eyes focused on. It was painted on the front inside wall of the sanctuary. These beautiful words penetrated my mind and heart every Sunday, even as a young reader and child of immature faith taking rest more immediately than perhaps the passage intended.

The best part was when I figured out it was Jesus doing the talking. When it’s Jesus talking in the Bible, it’s a promise I can hang my hat on.

It seems to me that rest is more or less what Labor Day seeks to offer us in its recognition of the “social and economic achievements of American workers” by taking off a day for observance.

But, what does it mean to really labor in a biblical sense? What does God require of us? How do we then get to the rest part? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Exchanging My Sackcloth for Gladness

Exchanging My Sackcloth for GladnessSometimes we think if our pain isn’t instantly taken away, God has somehow left us. God doesn’t abandon people. People abandon people.

And people walk away from God.

Despite my heart’s desire, I wasn’t able to see my father as he lay dying for about 10 days between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. The choice was made for me.

The wreckage that has left in my heart and mind in the days since, just three and a half short months ago, cannot even be adequately described. Pain like this does not even have a name or definition. Grief doesn’t quite describe it. Trauma comes close. It’s like three elephants sit on my chest every day. Sometimes they get off to go get something to eat, but they usually wander back without warning and sit back on top of me again. It’s paralyzing.

Maybe you have made it through or are currently facing something similar.

I don’t know much right now, but I do claim this: I know more than I ever have how near God is to the brokenhearted because when the elephant sits on me, the panic that ensues only calms down when I remember Christ is holding my hand.

Please understand: I don’t stop hurting. It’s not a rescue.

It’s a presence, and it’s one I can fully trust.

Why? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Elizabeth: “To Take Away My Reproach”

Elizabeth- To Take Away My ReproachLuke 1:5-7, ESV, Luke the Physician narrating

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

A barren woman getting up in age. One who waited for a motherhood yet to happen. A womb that yearned but ached so empty. A husband, though a priest, himself filled with doubt.

But then—then a Savior’s story ushers in. God uses her swelling belly to send a message in utero that later hit the Judean wilderness.

She was not forsaken.

She was not to be scorned.

Her womb was chosen to host a Holy Spirit-filled messenger.

With her story, came a Messiah who gave His life so that we too may host the Holy Spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids Regulated and Engaged During the Holidays

Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids Regulated and Engaged During the HolidaysWhether or not you have a child with special needs during the holidays, everyone in the house—adults and teens included—can get ramped up and a little “off” during the lack of routine, irregular eating and sleeping patterns, and increased social interactions of the holidays.

As facilitator of a FOCUS Group for Special Needs Parents at my church, I brought in a 20-year public school occupational therapist within our congregation to do a parent workshop on “De-Stressing the Holidays.” With Linda’s permission, I share some helpful tips for all families at a particularly stressful-yet-fun time of year. Perhaps there are some last-minute stocking stuffer ideas you can find here as well.

10. Social Stories (to help with emotions, disappointments, fear, anxiety, etc.)

The holidays often come to us as a mixed bag of expectations and emotions. Children are excited, perhaps nervous about a family get-together, have pent-up energy and frustrations, and have trouble staying regulated among the extra sugar intake, late nights, and unpredictable schedule. “Social stories” can have pictures and words; they walk through holiday-time scenarios so kids know what to expect and that feelings can be unpredictable and very normal. Here is a great web site I found for social stories on everything from anticipating blood draws to the dentist.

9. Calendaring

Children need a sense of what to expect when the normal routine is disrupted by holiday events and time off school. A simple printed-out calendar with pictures or words (depending on the child’s developmental age) can be a great way to take away the “What are we doing today?” question that visits us twenty times a day and give kids a sense of knowledge and control; they could even express “wants” on it (like “see a movie” or “play a game”). They feel a part of the family calendar when they can see it. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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