Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

We all know the Holiday season can be stressful and exhausting!  Approximately 6 weeks of non-stop advertising and extra to-do’s added to the calendar. This year the media added the stress of not “getting what you want” and running out of supplies due to the backup of cargo ships . Plus we are still feeling the lingering effects of the pandemic. We can get caught in the trap of consumerism so easily but building memories and caring for people is more important than things. I believe we really need to re-evaluate what is truly important. Everyday we have choices and can control the chaos this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What are the most important traditions for you and your family?  Put those at the top of the list!  Carefully consider other events before saying yes to others.  Don’t try to do it all or you won’t enjoy anything yourself. If Mommy (or Daddy) isn’t happy then nobody is happy!

Have limits and lower expectations that everything will be Hallmark perfect. If you have  small children and especially if you have children with special needs, you may have to say no to too many extra activities.  Don’t feel guilty. No time to bake? Buy cookies. Limit the visiting hours and try to maintain a regular bedtime. One year we just couldn’t get our family Christmas letter done and didn’t send any cards. Nobody died because of it (but I did get a reprimand from an elderly friend).

If this is a particularly stressful or financially tight year for you then only decorate the Tree, the mantle or table and the front door. The tree represents – eternal life and Jesus the Light of the world.  The mantle or table decoration is right in view for you while the front door is what others see and where you enter and exit everyday.

Plan and limit your shopping. It is too stressful to push through the crowds of people to “find the perfect gift”. I have been so happy with online shopping but watch your spending and set limits there too. Getting into debt over gifts does not leave a satisfying feeling afterwards.

tired shopper

Stop and take a deep breath – seriously. Breathing helps clear our minds, calms our racing thoughts and lowers blood pressure.

Make sleep a PRIORITY –  Take cat naps if necessary – I am finding a great benefit to it. Have a coffee or tea and take a 5 minute power nap – it really will refresh you!

I love the idea of  “no politics” at the table. Sharing funny stories or remembrances is a much better way to enjoy and connect even with difficult relatives. Take a walk, play a board game or watch a classic movie together instead.

group-of-friends-and-family-thanksgiving

Take advantage of FREE things. Driving around the neighborhood to view different lights and displays is fun!  Enjoy a local holiday parade (or Macy’s on TV).  Play music: slow to relax or fast to pump you up to finish a task. Music is the international language that speaks to the soul and that’s why everyone loves Christmas music!

Most important DO NOT neglect your time with God!  Read a Christmas devotional or one Chapter of Luke each day for the month. Read the real story of  Thanksgiving. Learning about their first winter and harvest meal will make you grateful! Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday and the reason He came.  Ask God to help you count blessings and not focus on difficulties. He will fill your heart with peace, wonder and the joy of the season.

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy – O tidings of comfort and joy!!!

Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving each November with a huge feast and a gathering of friends and family but are we truly thankful?  The marketing campaigns started pushing our need to buy holiday gifts asap back in September. That is all about greed not gratitude. We have forgotten our humble and crude beginnings. We forget how blessed we already are and what matters most.

Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the original Pilgrims landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Stepping aboard the fully refurbished replica of the Mayflower this summer was a shocking reminder of how cramped and horrible it really had been. The merchant ship was built to carry cargo not people, but 102 passengers and 30 crew members climbed aboard with great hope for a new home in a new world.

The Mayflower ll in Plymouth harbor

It took 66 days to cross the ocean. They ate the same thing every day while onboard and some of it became hard and moldy. The living conditions became intolerably smelly and they ran out of clean water. Each family could only bring one chest for clothes, weapons, and tools to cook, build and garden with. Now imagine that the crew you are trusting to get you there safely doesn’t like you, nor you them. Arriving in September didn’t give enough time to build adequate shelter and 45 people died that first harsh winter. I would not have signed on for this.

These men (including only four women) were resolved to make it work. Some had left family behind to send for once they were established. There was no turning back. The first Pilgrims had risked their lives for the freedom to worship God independently of the Church of England and government control. They had very little and absolutely nothing was given to them but they were grateful.

From dictionary.com : Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. … Gratitude, which rhymes with “attitude,” comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results. Unlike indebtedness, you’re not anxious about having to pay it back.

That first thanksgiving was actually a three day harvest celebration that was not repeated. Documents describe a feast of deer, assorted wildfowl, a bounty of fish and flint, a native variety of corn harvested by Native Americans, which was eaten as corn bread and porridge. They also ate native fruits, vegetables and lobster. Lobster was very plentiful but they didn’t like it! And there wasn’t any pie because they didn’t have any ovens to bake in.

Recreation of Pilgrim village dated several years later

Many more ships would come in the years to follow because of these first brave souls. It is good to remember the past. We should not erase or change it. Gratitude should spring up in our hearts when we remember the sacrifices of others. Our greatest example is Christ who sacrificed His own life to give us peace with God, a hope and a future. He paid a debt that He didn’t owe and we can never repay. Christians in America need to realize that we enjoy the freedom to worship which is something that many others in this world are denied.

In a society that has forgotten where we came from and only cares about personal agendas you can make this Thanksgiving special. It’s cute to dress up the children with paper hats as “Indians” and “Pilgrims” while eating popcorn but also tell them the real story. It was a hard life!  Talk about some of the losses of the past year but also the fun times you shared. Throughout the holiday season resolve to stay focused on the many blessings you already enjoy. Choose to remember and be grateful.

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

2020 started out as a promising year. and many were looking forward to milestone events when our hopes were dashed by a microscopic virus. The whole world came to a stop and a “new normal” slowly evolved. There were some very real losses – of loved ones, sports and awards, graduations – once in a lifetime events. We are all feeling the emotional weight of trying to adjust to this new reality and there is a lot of fear, sadness and stress. The Scriptures remind me to look back and remember His faithfulness and it encourages me to look forward in faith and with hope. God is Sovereign and in control. This pandemic knocked us off our feet but God was not surprised and He wants us to trust Him.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea……The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!….. Be still, and know that I am God! Psalms 46:1-2, 6, 10a (NLT)

When we are feeling disappointed or experience a great loss it is easy to focus on what we don’t have. Our sadness can over shadow our thinking and darken our hearts. We need to make ourselves still and focus on His promises.

 He provides: And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others 2 Cor 9:8

He is faithful : The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lam 3:22-24 (NLT)

We can trust Him: Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. John 14:1 (NLT)

He gives real peace: I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)

I grew up going to a small Baptist church that loved singing hymns. There is often a story behind the hymns and the words convey deep meaning. I remember feeling such joy when we would sing a peppy favorite like Count Your Blessings. These words ring true to our situations today.

Do you feel tossed around by life- Are you discouraged thinking all is lost- Are you burdened with your load of care – Do you look around you thinking life’s not fair –  If  this is true: “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you ‘til your journeys end.   Count your blessings, Name them one by one Count your blessings, see what God has done! Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God has done!”    (song by Johnson Oatman Jr. & Edwin O Excell)

This holiday season will definitely be different! Gatherings will be smaller and you may even find yourself missing the familiar clamor and drama. God is not finished with you yet! This is not the end of your story because every day, week, season holds a new chapter. No matter what situation you are in these ending days of 2020, be grateful for the blessings.