Thursday, 10 December 2015

What is your plan for when Christmas is hard?

Christmas is meant to be a happy, exciting and fun time.

Except that is not always the case. I think almost everyone can understand what a tough, sad and stressful Christmas is like.

They can come in different forms which makes it hard to look forward to Christmas.

·      Maybe you are still single after a number of years or have found yourself single after a break-up. Maybe you have experienced the death of a close person throughout the year. Maybe you have moved away from your community. Maybe tensions are high in your family.

  • ·         A family member or loved one has passed.
  • ·         Arguing and tension is high in the family.
  • ·         It’s the first Christmas away from family.
  • ·         You find yourself still single.

Whatever the circumstance, if you think it is going to be tough, I would suggest having a plan. It is easy to become caught up in the emotions of what has happened (or is happening). It is healthy to let yourself feel and be upset, but the day can still be enjoyed.
Here are some of my thoughts to encourage myself, and others, not to lose focus this Christmas.

  • ·         Cook a favourite dish in honour of a loved one or choose a special Christmas ornament. One year I bought angels for each of my family members to place on the tree in memory of our mum.
  • ·         Create your own Christmas traditions. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or homeless shelter, or visit people in hospital. Turn some negative and upsetting energy on being alone and/or single into focusing on others in need.
  • ·         Buy yourself a craft project to start on Christmas day, splurge on a movie you have been wanting to see, take a road trip to somewhere new.
  • ·         If you have friends in town over Christmas, see what they are doing. Even if plans cannot be made for the actual day, see if it is possible to do a dinner between friends on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. In my home church there are a few people who open up their homes over Christmas to those who do not have family nearby. Maybe there is someone near you who does that. Or, why not be the one to open up your place to others?
  • ·         Find some activities you can use as an out when the stress is high. Being in the middle of stress, arguments and tension is never any fun. Prepare some outlets.

Christmas always has the potential to be stressful and painful, but there is always a chance and a choice to turn that around. You can choose to wallow or choose to find the joy in the midst of the pain. The day is not even about us. The day is not even about our families. The day is about Jesus and the good news of the gospel. 

What are you doing to ease the pain this Christmas?

Monday, 7 December 2015

Do you have hope when Christmas changes?

The Christmas season is here. I have a few friends who have been counting down since July. Now we are faced with the reality that Christmas is 2 and a half weeks away. Often there are multitudes of emotions attached to that reality.

For some, there is a tinge of dread at the first sight of decorations appearing in the shops. For others, there is excitement and some people have been planning and buying presents throughout the year. The Christmas season is a busy time, sometimes even stressful. Even though it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and theoretically should be full of joy, there can still be an immense amount of pain associated with it for some people.

Christmas day is rarely a traditional happy-family day for everyone. I know my Christmas’ growing up never replicated a Disney Christmas. In fact, Christmas was very similar year-to-year until the year my mum died.

The year mum died was also the year I had moved out of home. Christmas had changed. Not only was my family having to face one less person around, I was also beginning to face the dilemma of whether to travel back home and spend Christmas with my family, or stay where I was and spend it with my then-boyfriend’s family. The decision was not a hard one because Christmas with my family was very important to me, especially since my younger sisters were still quite young when our mother had died. I, unintentionally, tried to take on the mother role over Christmas and ensure there were still plenty of presents under the tree for my younger siblings. I wanted to try to keep Christmas as ‘normal’ as possible. The true Christmas spirit was not really a priority for me—instead it became about my family, trying to please them, and in doing so believing that I could fix their pain.

Since moving back to my home-town, Christmastime has changed yet again. I have two immediate families I get to spend the day with. However, that is not because I have married and now have my husband’s family to consider. Instead, I have adopted another family. Even though Christmas still does bring some mixed emotions, I know I am actually in a pretty blessed position as a young, single woman. I have twice the family to be around in an otherwise hard and painful time. Many singles, by the time they are my age, are living by themselves or with friends, and probably far from any immediate family.

While Christmas this year is slightly different and I am fighting the ache of still being single and childless, there are a number of blessings I remind myself of:

  • ·        I do not have the fear of facing holidays alone.
  • ·        I do not have to face setting a table for one, and the conundrums of planning a meal for one.
  • ·        I do not have to question if it is worth putting up a Christmas tree or whether I should buy a present for myself.
  • ·        I also do not have to worry about being quizzed by relatives on why I am still single.
  • ·        Most of all, I have family surrounding me.

These blessings are only minute compared to the real truth behind Christmas. The real truth that easily gets buried among the focus on family, let alone the present buying, meal planning, travelling, end-of-year parties and school presentations. This truth remains good news no matter what has happened throughout the year. It is a truth I am challenging myself to remember and hold onto as I approach another different Christmas.

The good news the angel brought to the shepherds 2000 years ago on that first Christmas:

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ Luke 2:10-11. (ESV)

How are you facing a different Christmas?

Do you want to know more about this ‘good news’? Drop me a line and we can chat.