Shifting from the Thanksgiving season to the Christmas season, there is so much to be thankful for. Too often though, we allow the stress of the holidays to dictate our joy factor. The Christmas Blues can set in so quickly if we don’t recognize those triggers that can set us off in the ho- hum “get this Christmas holiday over with already” attitude. If you can relate, here are 7 things we can consider doing this Christmas in order to truly make it a wee Merrier.
We have a choice.
Simplify Christmas so your heart is well. Don’t give into the crazies being frantic about everything under the sun. I've learned that stressing over decorating, baking or gift-giving will not make Christmas Perfect, it's the position of my heart and how I love well that makes the holidays meaningful. Fancy or plain presents or no presents, home baking or store bought. Choosing to relax about the holidays rather than stressing that everything 'has to be perfect', because it doesn't have to be or it never will on this side of heaven. Give it up! (If you want to be all Martha Stewart like for the Holidays, go for it as long as you don't kill yourself and others in the process). What's the point? Checking our motives is key. Blessing others or to show off to impress people.
#2 HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:
Everyone has experience with family problems or bad memories from past holidays. We wouldn't be human if we didn't have some form of conflict to deal with in our relationships. Question is, do we sweep it all under rugs OR put a magnifying glass on it all the time so there is no room for healing and reconciliation? If this isn't an issue with you at this time, Awesome. But if it is-...When struggling with relationship issues at Christmas, do we shut the world out OR choose who we let in (Into our homes, which events to attend etc). Christmas Boundaries are a good thing to have. We don't need to expose ourselves again and again to toxic people unnecessarily or spent too much time with those who might suck the life out of us. As the Boundaries book by Dr. Henry Cloud reminds us to ask ourselves "do we have too Rigid or too Porous of boundaries"? And do what we can to have healthy boundaries with people so we can love well and protect ourselves or our loved ones from further trauma or chaos. The euphoria of dreaming of a White Christmas or lamenting of days gone doesn't have to paralyze us when we aren't experiencing the fairy tale holiday many of us dream about. Protect your heart and seek healthy boundaries. When you do, people will learn to respect those boundaries as you are more firm with what you allow and what you won't allow. Where forgiveness is required, do all that you can to live peaceably with others. Where there is no give or acknowledgment of wrongdoing on the others part, tighten your boundaries and love them from a distance, or keep your visits short:)
#3 BE FLEXIBLE:
For those who struggle with balancing the schedules of family members or friends/ neighbours who simply can't meet your deadline or desired date for gatherings- I get it. I've learned that being more flexible and to extend grace to others as it's not about "the date" on the calendar, it's how we treat others and respect their boundaries that is most meaningful. We can't be all things to all people. Heck, I hear how some Christmas parties or family get-togethers are in November or January- so be it! OR hey, maybe all that you can do this year is a phone call or zoom chat, that's ok too if you need to be in a place of pulling back. If others are guilting you because of doing so- that's their issue. Relationships are a two-way track and it takes work, love, patience and a whole lot of grace to meet people where they are at and not lose yourself in the process.
#4 BE THANKFUL:
It's good to give thanks, live with a hope-filled heart and giddy childlike faith- or anticipation for the many gifts that we are meant to unwrap in life or receive from others. (Of course you know I’m talking about gifts you cannot buy). Likewise, receiving gifts from the One who makes life meaningful, purposeful- our Creator who loves us so deeply, He offers us Peace, Hope, Love and Joy this Christmas and throughout the year. Be open to receiving unexpected blessings this Christmas as we look for the gift in each person we meet. We need to count our blessings. Each day is a gift, it's how we process life's experiences that will make us better or bitter. Having an attitude of gratitude will sustain us through the highs and lows of the Christmas season.
Regardless if you are an introvert or extrovert, find ways to ring in the cheer in the midst of a dreary world so steeped with BAD news. Let's move in the opposite spirit and be intentional to highlight the good by hosting a party, light a candle, play in the snow, crank up your favourite Christmas tunes, dance in your kitchen to Christmas tunes OR just do something FABULOUSLY FUN to celebrate. Being intentional to do just that changes the atmosphere for ourselves and those around us. Nobody likes to be around a scrooge day in and day out.
#6 LIVE GENEROUSLY:
Be a gift to the world- nothing is more meaningful than taking what is in your hand, heart or mind and using those gifts for the sake of others. Finding out that calling is a daily call, not just at Christmas;) Maybe that means inviting in someone into your circle (Friend, neighbour, co-worker)who might be alone this holiday season and you may be the only 'family' they have. OR giving to a charity and those in need rather than fussing about all the money poured into too many gifts under our tree. Whatever generosity looks like to you, pursue it more and watch how much more your heart grows with joy as a result!
#7 FIND HOPE:
If you are finding yourself challenged to embrace any of the above, if you find your heart is filled with pain, sorrow, grief or just plain darkness because of something you've done or what others have done directly or indirectly (like watching too much news and overwhelmed with the darkness in this world), you are NOT alone. Reach out- seek help, ask for prayer, see a counselour, visit a faith community, but most importantly, reach out to your Creator as He knows every tear, every fear and wants to bring hope to your situation. I know deeply that when we are authentic before the God who sees us, allowing all of me to be 'seen' and know that I am still loved, I find the peace that passes all understanding wash over me. Those other sources of help are good too, but ultimately- we answer to the One who holds the entire earth in their hands. He knew us before we were born and our souls were placed in these earthly bodies. He knows the plans for us! To live life with hope flooding our hearts, we need to be willing to relinquish control and let go and let God.
It's a daily lesson for me. I won't "arrive" at that perfect 24/7 peace-filled existence until I am at home in heaven, but until then- I can bring heaven into my heart, home, family and world as I choose HOPE to guide my path. It’s a choice, heh?
With Love and Laughter (aka, laughing at all of the memories that flooded in my head of past holidays as I wrote out these “7 tips”),