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Transform Holiday Stressing to Holy Day BlessingDecember 6, 2014
Here come the holidays! Can you believe the month of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwansaa and other celebrations is already here?! When you think about family flying in, goodies and feasts to prepare, stretching the family budget to buy presents, school and church performances to rehearse, do you feel stressed or blessed?
A friend said, "I don't think all the activities we have around the holidays in the Cook Islands are stressful. It's something fun for everyone to do." Having witnessed other Christmas holidays in these islands, people truly do make "a joyful noise to the Lord" and "serve the Lord with gladness." (Psalm 100)
Yet, there are stress traps to avoid during the Holy season no matter where we live.
- Overdoing: Notice when you get so caught up in the spirit of the season that you exhaust yourself. Watch for signs such as irritability, loss of sleep, and nervous tension. Call on the virtue of Peace and pace yourself. Take breathers. Lunch with a friend, watch the sunset, take a nap, delegate. Don't try to do it all yourself.
- Over-consuming: An islander once said, "The one virtue we don't have here is Moderation. We're on a see food diet! We see it, we eat it!" So here's a tip from the virtue that means "just enough". Slow down and taste what you're eating! Savor it. Stop between bites rather than devouring the pile on your plate. And start with a smaller pile or a smaller plate. As for alcohol, most of the tragic accidents and eruptions of violence at this time of year occur as a result of over-drinking. Think of Moderation as your gift to God and to everyone around you. Besides you'll have less weight to take off in the New Year.
- Disappointed Expectations: Sometimes the dream of happy family life just isn't happening. So as Ghandi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Be the blessing -- the one who is cheerful, says a loving word, comforts a crying child, plays on the floor with the kids, or offers an unexpected service to a neighbor or shut-in without being asked.
- Financial strain: Strange to say but Moderation in Generosity of gift giving can solve many problems, not only financial ones. Children can be spoiled by excess. Too much leads to a dangerous sense of entitlement. My parents had a practice at gift-giving time to give me and my brothers one "big" present, something we really wanted, and a few little ones. We were quite content with that. Be creatively considerate. A "coupon" for a back rub once a week, repainting the den, cooking a candle light dinner, a weekend of babysitting, or some service you know a loved one would like, is appreciated far more than a hastily bought bauble.
Remember, Christmas is a holy day, not just a holiday. It is a time to let your virtues shine. "Ye are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Mathew 5:14 – 16
Plan your time with the Five Virtues Strategies in Mind:
- Speak the Language of Virtues. It is the mother tongue of appreciation and love.
- Recognize Teachable Moments: Learn from past years. What brought stress? What made everyone, including you, feel blessed?
- Set Clear Boundaries: in gift giving, in consuming moderately, in how you choose to use your time or offer your hospitality. Balance work and rest. Plan ahead!
- Honor the Spirit of the celebration. Avoid letting the materialistic hoopla suck you in. Focus on the spiritual meaning of the celebration. Keep Christ in Christmas.
- Offer Spiritual Companioning: Listen to feelings with compassion and detachment. Listen to your own heart and do what feels right for you.
Truth be told, YOU are the greatest gift to your family – you well rested and in a happy mood, you doing little acts of kindness, you setting an example of moderation, you making a joyful noise, not just on the Holy Day but every day.