In my world Christmas is bookended by loss.
In November, just as I’m starting to think about what to get who and when to start getting decorations down from the loft, I hit the grief of my mum’s death to aggressive lung cancer.
Then, once the festivities are over and the tree lies naked and abandoned in the gutter, and the bell strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I remember my sister who died from the same ravaging disease on the night she should have been singing “Aulde lang syne”.
Then, just six weeks later, I’m reminded of my own diagnosis and battle with cancer even though I’m still here to tell the tale and raise a toast to those who aren’t.
Layer on top of that the normal holiday craziness, stresses and pressures and Christmas can be … well, just plain hard.
Whether it’s grief, the stress of the inevitable January credit card bill, the loneliness of being single or far from family, too many demands and not enough time and energy, or a faith that’s battle weary and faint, Christmas is often more messy and broken than merry and bright.
So, what are we meant to do? How are we meant to not lose our minds or our faith? How are we meant to handle anything Christmas throws at us?
Here are a few tips to handle anything Christmas throws at you that I’ve learned along the way.
1. Set clear expectations – about everything.
Getting everyone’s expectations out in the open and talking about any differences can avoid future arguments and disappointments. How are you hoping to spend your time and money? How are you doing gifts this year? How much help do you need or want to give, and even when do you want to rest? These are all great things to talk about up front.
2. Invite someone along.
Inviting someone new to the festivities can break up any tension, encourage people (especially sulky teenagers) to be on best behavior, and add some new conversation into the mix.
3. Say no
No one will die (if they will, then say yes, immediately). Often, we’re afraid our “no’s” will offend or leave people in the lurch. Or we’re worried what people will think if we don’t come to something or contribute to their charity event. A polite no to protect yourself from Christmas burn out is not only totally acceptable, but your Christmas and 2019 self will thank you.
4. Run away if you have to.
Sometimes life is just so darn tangled, complicated or grief stricken that the only way to survive is to up-sticks and leave town. Changing the scenery and climate won’t solve the root of our pain but it will allow you avoid the added challenge of Christmas at home. Running away is fine on two conditions; firstly, that you come back and secondly, when you do, you allow yourself time to grieve or work on the issues you left town to avoid.
5. Take some you and God time, alone.
If we’re going to remember what the season is all about and be able to love others well, we need Jesus to be at the center of not just our Christmas but our hearts. If we’re running on spiritual fumes, and the fruit of His Spirit hasn’t been seen since the summer, we’re left snappy and self-centered and God never gets glorified.
Whether what makes your Christmas hard is practical, financial, emotional, physical or geographical the best way to handle it will always be to return to the person and place where it all began.
Light came into the world at Christmas and when our Christmas feels dark and painful the only true way to handle it is by turning back to the source of the light, God. It’s in Him we find our ultimate peace and joy, which means, ironically, the only reason we can handle anything Christmas throws at us is because of Christmas – Jesus Himself!Ironically, the only reason we can handle anything Christmas throws at us is because of Christmas - Jesus Himself! Click To Tweet
Since Christmas can be hard and there are way too many of us who struggle with the holidays, I picked the brains of some girlfriends who’ve been where we are and asked them to share what they’ve learned over the years.
I decided to ask them to join me around an imaginary fireplace. I handed them an imaginary warm mulled wine and we had an open and honest chat about how best to handle it all. I asked them what they do, how they navigate this tricky season with all its hopes, dreams and expectations, especially when life is more messy and broken than merry and bright.
I wish you’d been there to join us but instead I did the next best thing.
I recorded our conversation so you can listen in and eaves drop like a not too creepy friend.
Heck, no need to eaves drop, just pull up a chair and listen in once you’ve downloaded the recording. I’ve named it How to Handle Anything Christmas Throws at You: Enjoying the holidays without losing your mind, killing your people or going into debt.
We talked about
- handling grief
- being single
- sulky teenagers
- crazy mad dangerous families
- entitled children
- trying to keep Jesus in the centre of it all
You name it, we went there.
Just CLICK HERE or the image, pop in your name, email and whether you’ve been naughty or nice (just kidding!) and my oh so clever computer elves will send it in a one horse open sleigh straight to your inbox. You’re welcome!
As always, some of the best conversations happen in the comments and since thriving and not just surviving Christmas is a team sport, tell me what your biggest Christmas struggle is and how you’re going to make this Christmas the best ever.
(This article appeared in Christian Today earlier this week)