Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ~Ephesians 5:15-17~
Missed parts 1-8? Get started here.
‘Tis the Season NOT to Lose Your Religion. What an appropriate title, if I do say so myself! To say this was the week I almost lost MY religion, would be an understatement! I already had the topic in mind, so when real life actually played out, well, I knew I had to write it, even if it is a few days late. And stick with me, it really does have something to do with Creative Prayer!
My apologies for the late post this week, but between having my computer tied up migrating to my “new” computer last weekend (48+ hours and it did NOT work!), the computers were out of commission with IT another 24+ hours this week, getting behind on grading because of failed migration (needed to let students know their current grades by Thursday before they left for the holiday break), burning the midnight oil grading all that stuff, trying to work part-time every night over the weekend to meet financial obligations, starting to pack to move, getting condo ready to sell, and preparing for a yard sale (another post, another time!), and just functioning, well, I was exhausted!
See why the topic is so timely?!?!?
Guess I should have written this about a month ago so I, too, would be ready for “the season”!
So, this one will be sort of short, compared to my others, but hopefully with some good, “conscious” tips you can use as you enter into the busy holiday season. I read that word, conscious, in an American Psychological Association (APA) post about Making the Most of the Holiday Season and it struck me as “odd”. Odd because we are constantly reading tips, advice, etc. about how to survive this thing or that, but when are we told to be conscious about it?
I realized when we are making conscious decisions and choices about anything, life seems to go so much better. I made the conscious decision to pray first (before I do ANYTHING) a few years back after hearing a compelling sermon on how to put God first in everything we do and it changed my life.
When we take our days to God before we do anything and we consciously make decisions about how we lead our lives, change can ACTUALLY happen!
WHY WE STRESS
I think the number one reason why we are so stressed during this time of the year is due to OUR unattainable expectations. We expect things to be perfect. We expect everyone to be happy. We want all the food, gifts, decorations, etc. to be Pinterest perfect. And we usually expect that WE will be the ones to make it all happen. Am I right? I know I’ve thought that way before.
Whether it’s parties, church services, etc. there is MORE stuff added to our schedules during November and December. More things to juggle in the same 24 hours we have during January-October. There simply is not enough time to do it ALL!
3-Forgetting the Reason for the Season
If we really stop and think about what this season is “suppose” to be about, we realize it’s about the birth of our King and Savior Jesus Christ, and then we feel guilty. Or at least I’ve done that before. Realizing WHY we are celebrating and doing all these crazy things was not what God had in mind for us when He asked us to celebrate the birth of His Son…..we did that! But, then we feel guilty for NOT putting Him first and the crazy cycle starts all over!
HOW TO NOT LOSE YOUR RELIGION THIS SEASON
Okay, so we know WHY we’re stressed, how do we stop and NOT get so stressed this year? I’ve combined a few suggestions from the APA and the Mayo Clinic, plus some of my own, so I truly hope they help you KEEP your religion and consciously get through the holidays with joy this year!
This may sound counterproductive in this crazy, busy season and with the other things I’m about to tell you, but if you can’t first stop for a few minutes, you WILL lose your religion!
Find a few minutes to stop, breathe, pray, listen….listen to what God is telling you to do (we have to stop talking in order to hear Him!). Write things down. Make lists. Get a plan. RELAX. Just stop moving for a few minutes!
I know you’re thinking, “why didn’t she put this one FIRST?”, but, again, if you can’t stop long enough to listen, you’re not going to be able to pray first!
STOP, PRAY, LISTEN.
Pray for the season we are entering into. Pray for the people on your mind and heart right now. Pray for those who do not have the luxury of doing all that you’re doing during this season and that they and YOU will truly remember the reason for the season.
3-Do Something for You
You know how the airlines ask you to put the oxygen mask over your mouth FIRST before you put it over your child’s, well, this is the same concept. If you don’t take care of YOU before you try to entertain and take care of everyone else, you will stress yourself out and lose your religion, and your mind, all at the same time.
You could go for a walk/run, read a book, take a nap, do a craft, listen to music, etc. ANYTHING that rejuvenates YOU. Do it so you can then do for others.
4-Make a Plan
When I say make a plan, I mean make a plan for EVERYTHING. Make a plan for your time, your money, your family, your work obligations, your kids’ schedules, your church obligations, etc.
Think through everything that you think NEEDS to happen.
Strike out what you can live without.
Leave what SHOULD happen.
If you schedule it and are conscious of it, it should get done.
5-Work the Plan
Now that you have taken everything to God, taken time for you, and consciously made a plan, it’s time to work the plan. By that I mean, look at it every day and see what is actually doable. Revise the plan if it can’t all happen on any given day and then forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook because the world will not end if you do not get it all done…..REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!
6-Rinse and Repeat as Needed
I don’t think doing the preceding five things will magically make this season completely stress-free, but I do think if you are conscious of what’s important and you set the standard NOW, rather when you’re in the middle of the craziness, your season will be so much more enjoyable.
STOP whenever you feel yourself stressing. I did this the other day when I felt like my head was going to explode from grading. I went for a run/walk. No pressure of how far or how fast. Just long enough to feel the stress level subside.
PRAY whenever and often! I send up small, “Please God!” prayers ALL day long and He gets me through the next phase of my day until I am finished.
Take some Me Time. ALLOW yourself do something for YOU. I sat down and made some artist trading cards the other day. Okay, I was trying to catch up from last week, but it was also just to relax for a little while and it worked!
Make a Plan and Work it. If you think through what’s suppose to happen during the next six weeks and you work with what you’ve got and what you physically can accomplish, you will feel a lot less stressed and keep your religion all at the same time.
Some of this may sound too EASY or too HARD, but either way, it’s doable and it does help. Our obligation is to be the best us we can possibly be. If we’re stressed out, no one enjoys themselves. Take time this holiday season to consciously get through it, enjoy friends and family, and keep God’s Son as your top priority!
Until next week (okay, in just a few days) I pray you take some time to sit with our Lord and hear His plan for you as you celebrate the birth of His Son this season!
Please pass this post along to someone you think could benefit from not losing their religion this season and please leave any comments about how you handle holiday stress in the comments below.
In His Grace,