Tag Archives: stress

Christmas Craze and Holiday Haze: Part 1

We’re one week past Thanksgiving and just three weeks away from Christmas. I attended my first Christmas concert this weekend although odes to Saint Nick and sounds of Joy to the World have been ringing through store sound systems for what feels like months. (I don’t want to start WWIII but I refuse to play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, even then I have a hard time truly getting in the spirit until approximately the week before.) Tis the season for tinsel and bows; red, green, and gold; Rudolph and Wise Men; Buddy the Elf and Red Rider BB Guns; shopping and baking; and at some point, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus laying in the manger.
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And I don’t know about you, but the holiday season simply seems to bring a level of busyness and stress unprecedented by any other time of the year. It’s the Christmas craze…and it tends to put us all in a holiday haze. And so after a bit of a hiatus, I hope to offer a little hope on how to navigate this time of year without completely losing it at the in-laws or becoming Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Here’s tip number one: Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Breathe.

Ok, tip number two: Be kind.

I know, earth shaking. But seriously, how much better would our world and the holidays be if we were simply kind to one another? Unfortunately I have seen way too much unkind behavior lately. Do I really need to remind anyone what the weeks following the election looked like in this country? I’ve never experienced or witnessed such cruelty and unkind behavior or attitudes from friends and family towards other friends and family in my life. Out of our own hurt, frustration, and fear we lash out at others, often those we love the most, which then leads to incredible guilt and remorse making the fake smile through the stress that much more difficult.

What would the Christmas season feel like if instead of fighting for the closest parking spot, we actually allowed someone else to have it? What if we chose the longest line in the grocery store or slowed down while moving through the aisles to actually look our fellow shoppers in the eye? What if buying a gift for someone we know wouldn’t expect it and would be extra blessed by it actually blessed us instead? What if we bought a weary shopper a coffee? What if we put our politics and passions and perilous opinions aside, just for a season, and embraced our common need for a Savior in a manger? Wasn’t it simple kindness that caused the Grinch’s heart to finally grow? Isn’t it ultimately kindness that leads to the Miracle on 34th Street?

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Kindness. It is so simple of a concept it is often overlooked. Kindness is simple, but it’s implications are incredibly powerful. It can turn sour attitudes, melt cold hearts of stone, and restore hope. It can reconcile feuding families and bring peace where there was once prejudice. God’s kindness is what turns us from our sin (Romans 2:4) and our kindness demonstrates the Holy Spirit at work in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). “Be kind” may sound cliche, but it is an integral part of God’s very character (Psalm 145:17) and a command from God to his chosen people (Colossians 3:12). Ephesians 1:7 says, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

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Kindness sets people free. Free from stress. Free from fear. Free from bitterness and resentment. Free from loneliness. Free from hurt. Free from cynicism. So slow down (kindness rarely happens when we’re rushed). And be kind to someone this holiday season. Whether your holiday is magical enough to be in a Martha Stewart magazine or tends to give the Griswold’s a run for their money, we can all be kind in the midst of the crazy.

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I’d love to hear your holiday stories of kindness – comment below. And stay tuned for part two of surviving the Christmas craze and holiday haze.

Crashing into Christmas

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If you are anything like me, you feel like you are running on nothing but fumes this time of year. I am sputtering and coasting and just hoping to make it to Christmas when I can crash in a heap of exhaustion from the days and weeks now behind me but still very much weighing me down. It’s the cumulative effect of days and weeks (and frankly months) of busyness – of ignoring the rhythm of rest my mind, body, and spirit require. It’s the impact of countless tragedies, magnified and intensified by the fact they occurred before Christmas. And so I limp through December, slowly and steadily (and crankily) moving towards Christmas. And then I crash. And I’m guessing I’m not alone…

But in the midst of it all remains the reason for this special time of year – Jesus. And I’m thankful that although each year I do a poor job of slowing down to connect with and honor him, he never fails to reveal himself to me. It seems that each year he shows up in a special and unique way and often through song. I’d been waiting to discover which song would strike me this season – which song would I suddenly find myself playing on repeat as I sing at the top of my lungs. (Music plus Jesus tend to have that affect on me.) And then it happened…driving to a family Christmas last Sunday morning “Light of the Stable” by Selah came on my radio and suddenly there was a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Hail, hail to the newborn King
Let our voices sing Him our praises
Hail, hail to the guiding Light
That brought us tonight to our Savior

I almost pulled over. In all the busyness. In all my stress. In all of my sadness for those who are scared or suffering because of a recent loss or life change, there’s Jesus. There’s a Savior. There’s God with skin on. Straight from heaven to a lowly stable. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (Isaiah 9:6) And my voice raises in praise to Him. Hail Hail to the Newborn King!

Come now, let it shine so bright
To the knowing Light of the stable
Kneel close to the Child so dear
Cast aside your fear and be thankful

And I am deeply thankful. God took on flesh and dwelt among us. I could not comprehend his divinity, but He knew I could understand his humanity. So he drew close. “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things. (Colossians 1:15, 19-20)” Jesus enters the sad and scary places in our lives and brings peace and comfort. God crashes into creation. And yes, I’m thankful and hit my knees (Figuratively speaking, I am still driving after all).

Halle, hallelujah
Halle, hallelujah
Halle, hallelujah
Halle, hallelujah

So as I headed home for a much needed break from the busyness with time to finally focus on the meaning of Christmas, I knew that first I would run out of the fumes that had been precariously sustaining the frantic pace I’d been keeping, and I’d crash. Despite the mud and muck happening in my own life and the lives of many of those around me so poetically reflected in the drab, rainy weather outside, it was time to pause and praise Jesus Messiah. The ultimate Christmas miracle – our Savior born in a stable. And then I drove into my hometown and witnessed a much smaller miracle, but a miracle nonetheless…a thin white layer of snow covered the ground. Somehow the world seemed right again – brighter and more peaceful. Reverently ready to receive a Savior. And so as I pulled into my parents’ home, I crashed from exhaustion and from gratefulness. I crashed. I crashed into my Savior’s arms – sin forgiven. I crashed into Jesus – relationship restored. I crashed into Christmas. Peace on the earth. Good will towards men. Hope is here. Hallelujah.

Merry Christmas.

Unexpected Airport Epiphany

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The departure time came and went with no departure. The ticket agent informed the anxious passengers that the incoming plane was delayed due to weather in Chicago. Chicago. I should have known better than to connect in Chicago.  “The pilot will make up time in the air and you’ll land in Chicago just 15 minutes late.” Well, we were an hour late and by some miracle (and a run through the airport terminal reminiscent of a scene from Home Alone) I was the last passenger to walk onto my connecting flight to Charlotte.

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The return trip proved no better. This time delayed in the air, a 35 minute taxi to the gate, Home Alone scene take 2, and a very sweaty second miracle to make the connection. Oh, but this time my luggage showed up a day later. Thank goodness I was home!

All of this reminded me of why I hate flying. It is so annoying, so frustrating, and so tiring. Nothing is in your control. You are at the mercy of everyone and everything else. And in the midst of that helplessness, I was struck by how similar this experience is to real life.

Each morning I awake with no idea what the day will hold and with very little control over what it may bring. There may be delays. There may be bad weather. There may be large smelly men who sit next to you and take the entire arm rest (this really happened). Or there may be a little 9 year old with beautiful black braids and a more beautiful smile traveling with her exhausted grandmother who inspires you to give up your coveted window seat and a chance at a nap in order to learn about her school, her love for PE, and all of the friends she likes to play with at recess (all while blessing said grandmother with a little break). What if I had been too uptight, too frustrated, too annoyed, or too selfish to miss such a beautiful God moment?

There are two kinds of passengers in the airport. There are those who are losing it because they are not in control. And those who have let go because they know they are not in control. Each day we have the same choice.  We choose to lose it or to let go. We choose to be a burden or we choose to be a blessing.  We choose to pretend to control our circumstances or we actually control our response to them.  We simply react reflexively out of raw emotion or we respond thoughtfully out of evaluated emotions. When life feels out of control, we choose to grip tighter or to give it to God.

What do you choose this day? Share a time when you’ve “lost it” and a time you kept your poise by “letting go.”