You may be one of many who will view the classic film “White Christmas” during the holiday season. One of my favorite songs lilting through it begins, “When I am worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. . .” The words then walk us down memory lane creating a collage of the blessings of life. If a secular song challenges its listeners to realign their thinking, how much more should believers be stimulated to “bless the Lord and forget none of His benefits. . .” (Psalm 103)? Yet statistics suggest that the holiday season is generous with stress and skimpy with gratitude.
The holiday season is actually a “holy-season” that should bring us closer to the event or person we are celebrating. Contrary to current practice, Thanksgiving Day is rooted in an occasion focused on thanking God for His provision rather than parades, football games, and shopping at odd hours. Our study of American history reminds us that the Pilgrims had experienced an incredibly difficult year, yet they chose to be thankful. Christmas is the birthday of our Savior who was born in the humblest of circumstances and gave the best gift ever—salvation. Perhaps you will consider the “Strategies” that follow. Perhaps they will provide some ideas that you can make this holiday season one that is generous with blessings and skimpy with stress.
STRATEGIES FOR A BLESSED HOLIDAY SEASON
Focus on the “reasons for the seasons.” The book of Psalms is an excellent source for holiday meditation. Begin today by dividing the number of days you have remaining until December 31 by the 150 Psalms. Purpose to finish the book by December 31. Remember as you read that the Psalms are directed to the will, not the emotions. As you read, underline or highlight each time you read the phrase, “I will.” When your emotions attempt to control the season, purpose to allow your will to be your reflect reaction.
Keep a “Blessing Diary”. Use Psalm 103 as your guide to remembering all of your heavenly Father’s goodness to you. Record at least one blessing a day (even if was a challenging day, you are still breathing). Review the list before retiring each evening.
Maintain realistic expectations. Remember that your heavenly Father will give you the strength, financial resources, time, and ability to create the holiday season He has planned for you. He has promised to meet all of your needs, not all of your wants (Philippians 4:13, 19).
Use caution in confusing excellence with perfection. Consider meditating on these references while you work—Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Psalm 8:1; Isaiah 12:1-5; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Romans 12:2 . Remember that approaching a task fretting could motivate you to succeed. However, it may be at the expense of being so stressed that you or those who are with you do not enjoy the effort you expend.
Choose to have a forgiving spirit. Forgiveness is the foundation of all relationships—especially behind the closed doors of our homes. Though the actions of others will at times disappoint us, from a biblical perspective we are to forgive them unconditionally. It is a sobering thought to realize that relationships fracture if we refuse to forgive. Eventually, it will produce stress which may bear the fruit of a bitter spirit. How many times are we forgive others? The same number of times we are forgiven—a number that far exceeds 490 (Matthew 18:21)!
Set a realistic budget. List all of the individuals you want to remember during the holiday season. Consider asking them what would be a meaningful gift. Be circumspect on homemade gifts. They are fun but often are not useful or meaningful to the recipient. Invest your energy only for those who will cherish the gift. Consider giving the “gift of time.” A coupon for a meal (with some advance notice to you) or child care may mean more to an aging person (be sure to eat with them) or a young Mom than a purchased gift (Proverbs 31:18).
Expand your holiday calendar. We have the tendency to think the only time we can fellowship with others is during the holidays. Our calendars are packed solid, and then from January 2 to Valentine’s Day our calendars are empty. Consider “post-holiday” events during those cold, sometimes dreary winter months. Purpose, however, to set the dates during or before the holiday season (Psalm 90:12) .
Set priorities. Focus on what is important and release the “nice to do but not critical” tasks or activities. Holiday baking, for example, can be a stress factor. Rather than maxing out the oven during the holidays and then letting it remain idle for several months, distribute a cookie or piece of homemade candy in a decorative food bag with a coupon attached that can be redeemed after the holidays. Listing the types of cookies available along with an opportunity for the recipient to list any dietary constraints reduces the stress. As well, if the individual is not a sweet eater, your time and money is not wasted (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Work smarter, not harder. Setting aside specific days for shopping, food preparation, and other activities lessens stress. Make lists and use a calendar to schedule tasks to do and events to attend. Refuse to double book yourself! Share tasks and consider spending time with friends and family while wrapping packages and preparing food (Proverbs 31:27).
Maintain regular meal, exercise, and sleep patterns. Taking care of yourself will help you cope with the stressful situations (Proverbs 31:17).
Anticipate a joyful season by meditating on what is right in your life. Listen to music that relaxes, revives, and keeps you focused on the “reasons for the season.” Kelsey’s Korner provides you with some helpful tactics to help you “fall asleep counting your blessings!” Philippians 4:8-9).
Well, it’s beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas. The stress of the season has returned! Tight finances, looming deadlines, family gatherings, Christmas shopping—the whole works have arrived. It’s so easy during this “happiest time of the year” to acquire a haze of depression from all of the demands on our attention. By the time January rolls around, we all too often feel like crawling onto the ground in the fetal position and quietly sucking our thumbs. But this should not be the description of someone following after Christ. Philippians 4:4, 6-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Despite all the wonderful truth dripping from these verses, it’s often easier to read this, embrace the fluttery warm feeling of comforting emotions the verses give, and then continue on with life, not knowing how to apply the peace that surpassing understanding to the thanksgiving turkey you just utterly burned to a crisp. So practically, what are some ways we can apply these truths?
The very next two verses provide the answer to our questions. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”. Wow. Continually think on the good things we have learned, received, heard and seen from the Scriptures and our stress and anxiety will disappear. Sounds easy….right?
No. This is a project that cannot be done in our own strength—it requires help from the very Spirit of God that is residing in us. By His grace and help and with our daily, diligent time spent in God’s Word and in prayer, the truths of God will make their way to the forefront of our minds during the times we need them most.
Here are some practical tips that help me when my mind feels cluttered and unorganized with stress and to-do’s:
- First, write everything that is stressing you out onto a piece of paper. This step will help your stress feel a little less chaotic and a little more like organized stress (if there is such a thing!). Step two, look at all the stress factors and see if you can determine underlying blessings tied in with the stress. I have found that for almost everything on my list, there is always a hidden blessing. For example:
- Stress Factor: People won’t stop texting me! My phone is blowing up! Hidden Blessing: the Lord clearly has blessed me with many friends and family, and He is gracious to use me as a vessel of godly ministry in their lives.
- Stress Factor: Deadlines are looming with still so much to do! Hidden Blessing: God has blessed me with a job, with this education, with “fill in the blank”. These deadlines wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t first received this blessing!
- Sometimes I feel as if my stresses far outweigh my blessings. The truth from Scripture that helps me during stressful times like this is to remember what I deserve vs. what God has given me. I am a child of wrath (Eps. 2:3) deserving nothing but judgment, death, and eternal separation from God (Rom. 1:32; 2:5-6; 6:23; 2 Thess. 1:9), but I have been saved by grace (Eph. 2:8), credited with Christ’s righteousness (Rom. 3:20-26), and given everlasting life and communion with God (Rev. 21:1-4; 22:5)! This makes every inconvenience and stress melt away and given an accurate perspective.
- Even with all of this, there still may be times we can find no blessing in our stresses. But we do have one: the promise that our trials all work together for good to make us more like Christ (Rom. 8:28). Because of this, we are able to rejoice in times of trial (James 1:2-4).
So, beloved, think on such things this holiday season. Turn your stresses into blessings by taking every thought captive to obedience (2 Cor. 10:5), meditating on all we have learned, received, heard, and seen of God (Phil. 4:9).
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for me and not for men, knowing that from me you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving me.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Therefore, I may boldly say, “I am to focus on God’s perspective through the day, realizing it is Him whom I am serving at home and at work rather than my husband, children, or boss.”
Blessings on your day as you focus on making your house a home!