The Holidays Are Coming

holiday_stress_shutterstock_62603809I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of my favorites. For many people the holidays are a joyous time to be around family and friends, however, for some individuals it is a time of stress and turmoil. For the perfectionist, unrealistic expectations of the perfect house, perfect gifts, and perfect entertainments can take a toll. For the lonely and those who have recently lost loved ones, the holidays can accentuate their very aloneness. For others, the thought of being with certain family members makes them cringe. The reasons for holiday stress are many and varied, but most of us experience it to some degree.

One of the hardest things I have learned is to Let Go of Unreasonable Expectations. Here are some expectations that contribute to stress during the holidays.

Expectation #1—The house must look perfect

If you are hosting a holiday get together, let go of the expectation that it must be perfect. As a perfectionist (a trait I learned from my dear mother), I have had to learn that no one else cares if there is dust on my ceiling fan, my baseboards have not been cleaned in two months (or two years as may be the case), and the oven has overflown pie filling in the bottom of it. If you have the means to do so, hire someone to come and clean your house the week before the holiday you are hosting. And if you don’t have the means, just do a surface clean in the areas where people gather. What most people remember about a holiday is the fun they had (or not) and the time spent together—not how clean your house is.

Expectation #2–The need to attend every event

Your boss is having a Christmas party, your children have school plays, the church has a Christmas concert, the neighbors are having an open house . . . and the list goes on. Determine which events are REALLY important in the scheme of things. It is okay to kindly, and firmly, say no to the ones you cannot attend. This is especially important if you are going to be stressed out trying to make everyone happy by attending their events. Five years from now when you look back at your holidays if all you can remember is being stressed, then you are taking on too many things. Learn how to find a balance in what you choose to participate in during the holidays. And yes, someone may be offended because you did not choose to attend their event. But remember, that is their issue and not yours. (I know—easier said than done.)

Expectation #3–The perfect (and expensive) presents for everyone

I have to be honest. I frequently go overboard on Christmas gifts simply because my love language enjoys giving and getting gifts. But they do not have to break the bank. Be realistic in what you can afford to spend. Set a budget and stick to it and do not go into debt buying gifts. If Junior is unhappy with the fact that he did not get the latest and most expensive video system–well, most likely he will be on to the next new thing within weeks. Try making presents. The things I loved the most were ones that someone put time and effort into making just for me. Sometimes the gift of your time with a loved one is the best. I received a coupon book from one of my children once that had special things for us to do together in the future. I LOVED it and used my coupons within the first couple of months.

Expectation #4–All the traditions need to remain the same

For years at Christmas time I fixed a full meal with all the trimmings. Then one Christmas I decided I was going to simplify and just serve homemade soup and dessert. Wow! What a difference it made. Not one of my children complained because we didn’t have a full meal. It left more time for me to enjoy the day and a lot less clean-up was involved! When I was growing up each year we received a Lifesaver Christmas book, a tradition that I continued with my children. In all honesty, once they were grown they would forget to take theirs home and so I decided to quit doing it. The next year there were no Lifesaver books. Oh, man! That will never happen again. All of them commented on the lack of Lifesavers. Traditions are important and give a sense of continuity, but decide which ones can stay and which ones can go. Do not be afraid to start new traditions.

Put It in Perspective

Put your holidays in perspective trying to remember why they are holidays in the first place. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas all have historical roots. For Christians, living with a sense of thankfulness throughout the year should be important. Take time to remember why and what we celebrate and learn to leave some of the unrealistic expectations behind.

Colossians 3:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB) Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord and Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

 

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Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

How you die doesn’t really matter, it is how you live that is important.

Both my husband and my mom had a big influence on the lives around them. At each of their visitations, there were long lines of people who had stories to tell of how they touched their lives.

I will never forget one man telling me of the time Tom came and visited him in the hospital when the man was sure he was going to die. He felt hopeless and defeated. Tom laughed with him, joked with him, and let him know that he really cared about what he was going through. The man told me that was the moment when he decided he was going to fight for his life. I never knew that until Tom’s funeral. I am sure even Tom never knew what that one hospital visit did for a friend. People shared story after story with me of how much they appreciated my husband.

At my Mom’s funeral one of the young men she mentored shared his story of how Mom impacted his life. He indicated that he would have been walking a totally different road filled with drugs and alcohol if she had not taken him under her wing. As he wept for her, it just reinforced our knowledge that Mom (and Dad, too) was always willing to take a chance on someone and give them a reason to be better people.

Losing someone doesn’t make them a less important part of our life.

I think that sometimes when we lose someone we are afraid that they are going to totally disappear. But I see Tom in so many ways around me. I see him when I look at our children and grandchildren (some who never had the joy of being held by him). I can hear him boasting about his garden sometimes when I pick up a huge tomato at the farmer’s market by my house. I miss him on holidays and during family celebrations, but he is always remembered. He was and always will be a part of my life.

MomIt is hard to describe the legacy my mom has left for so many people. She was tough as nails and quite the perfectionist, but she was also a great role model. She was a realist and a survivor of a difficult childhood filled with poverty and the stigma of a mentally ill father. She taught us the value of hard work, education, and family. And she made the best homemade donuts and rolls you will ever have. As anyone in our immediate and extended family could tell you, she was the very definition of the word matriarch! She was and will always be a huge influence on her family.

Grieving is necessary but it is okay to live

I think a big lesson I learned is it is okay to grieve, but it is also okay to be alive. Certainly even after all this time, grief still sneaks up on me like a thief in the night, but it is okay to keep on laughing, loving, and living. I think that is one of the things I learned from Mom. She had a lot of loss in her life, but she did not let that beat her into the shell of a woman. When my Dad died, she grieved for him, but she still let herself find joy in her family and friends. And in reality, I did not grieve in the way that someone who has no hope grieves. I have the hope of heaven and I know my husband and my Mom loved God. And so, the biggest lesson I have learned is:

Life is short, make sure you are ready for the future.

I know that I have a Redeemer and his name is Jesus. I look forward to seeing his promises fulfilled. Someday this lowly body will die and I will have a new one in heaven. Time as I know it will be no more. I do not know when that will be but I do know that the older I get, the more quickly time passes. I am not sure what heaven will be like and I kind of think it may not be anything like I imagine. But I do know that I eagerly anticipate the day I will be able to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come,” along with the throngs in heaven. I get chills when I imagine that day and the anticipation of what is to come. I want to be ready when God calls my name and says “Welcome home.” And I would like to think that Tom and Mom are there, too, with arms open wide, welcoming me home.

 

 

 

Me Too – Why we are silent

In the past year we have seen the Bill Cosby scandal, the Fox CEO Roger Aile scandal, and now, the more recent Harvey Weinstein scandal. The hashtag #metoo has been garnering loads of attention since the Weinstein scandal hit the news. The dam has broken and the rolling tide of Me Too has become a force of its own.

Social media has been inundated with the two simple words, “Me Too” to emphasize how many women have had issues. I am seeing men respond, “Well, men get harassed and abused, too.” They do but not even close to the magnitude that women are. Since I am not a man, I can only speak to the women’s issue. This issue has been pervasive in society and swept under the rug for generation upon generation.

I had to sit back and ask myself, why now? Why is all of this coming to the forefront now? It has been happening for generations. Why have we not spoken before? Continue reading “Me Too – Why we are silent”

A Different World

In the past few months, we have been surrounded by crises and events that seem unimaginable. Hurricanes have left havoc and despair in their wake, earthquakes have caused unimaginable damage and death, shootings have shook us to our very core, racism has reared its ugly head in ways that should have been put behind us years ago, and politics . . . well, I do not even want to go there.

In all honesty, I believe that the capacity for great evil lies within all of us. It is in that sin nature that has been present since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. But I believe more strongly that the capacity for great good is also in us and needs to be nurtured and set free.  Somewhere, deep inside of me and hopefully, you, God has put a kernel of hope. Hope that despite all of the despair, negativity, and hurt, we can rise to be better people. Hope that we can overcome evil with good. Hope that love wins out over hate. Hope that despite tragedy in our lives, there is a better day coming.

The truth is if I want to live in a different world, then it has to start with me. I must choose to be kind, loving, merciful, and a peacemaker. I must choose to be a positive influence in the world around me rather than a negative one. I must choose to do less judging and more listening.

And that is one of the reasons I desperately need God. Because I do not think I can do this on my own. Because sometimes I give in to that sin nature and the results are ugly. So today let my prayer be the same one that St. Francis of Assisi:

Will you join me in trying to be a difference maker? Who knows what ripple effect it can have on the world around you.

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I Am Heartbroken

I have not written in my blog for months. Sometimes, it seems like I just do not have anything to say and other people are out there saying things better than I can. But today, I am going to say what is on my heart. Mostly because other people cannot speak for how I feel.

I am heartbroken. Plain and simple.

I am heartbroken because there is so much hate dividing this nation.

I am heartbroken because there are people who believe others to be “less than” when God tells us we are all created in His image.

I am heartbroken because people are responding to a rallying cry for racism and hatred.

I am heartbroken because we have left many of our minorities to live in poverty and despair.

I am heartbroken because we have so many politicians who allow themselves to be corrupt and self-serving, instead of serving the people who elected them.

I am heartbroken because many see the church not as a solution to the problems but as part of the problem. Continue reading “I Am Heartbroken”

Selective Forgetfulness

confused-lady-clipart-1Forgetfulness seems to be an unremitting part of my life. I wish I could claim it is just because I am growing old, but unfortunately, forgetfulness has been a constant companion throughout my life.

As a young child and teen, I would forget to do chores my mother asked of me, I would forget answers for tests I studied so hard for, and even forget to come to a complete stop at the stop signs. As a young woman I forgot to turn my clock, thus being an hour late for my own bridal shower, forgot to pick up my son from daycare, and forgot dentist appointments.  Even now my children and friends remind me that I shouldn’t forget . . . well, whatever it is I should remember. Continue reading “Selective Forgetfulness”

Four Things I Learned from Failure*

youre-fired-300x241When my husband and I were dating  and just getting to know one another, we shared about the various jobs we had in our past.  My husband told me that he was fired from his very first job.  He thought everyone should be fired at least once in their life because you learn many lessons from it.

This past week I had a conversation with someone who is graduating from college soon.  She is anxious about stepping out into a new world and having to make it on her own.  Her biggest question to me was, “What if I fail?”  My reply was, “What if you do? Most people fail at something.  It’s how you handle failure that’s important.”  Failure happens to most of us at one time or another and in our culture we consider failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

My contention is that we need failure in our lives occasionally.  It is through failure that we learn. When a baby is learning to walk she doesn’t automatically take off.  She fails a few times first.  She takes a step and falls down, but as she learns to take the next steps she figures out what works and what doesn’t.  She may learn so well that she may eventually even learn to run.

There are many things we can learn from our failures, but here are four key things I have learned from mine.

  1. Humility

Sometimes we fail because we are unwilling to listen and learn from others.  I have seen this play out on multiple occasions.  It is pretty humbling when we fail, especially if we have neglected to let the wisdom of others guide us.  I have to tell you, I have “eaten crow” on more than one occasion.  But if we learn humility we are far more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

  1. Perseverance

When I was learning to drive, I was ready to quit after my first time behind the wheel.  It was a disaster.  But with encouragement from my instructor, I persevered and eventually was able to drive on my own.

Henry Ford said, “Perseverance is a positive attribute we need to learn as we mature. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Sometimes we initially fail in our attempts, but with practice can succeed. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is apt for most of us.

  1. Adaptation

Sometimes we experience a huge failure, such as a failed marriage, a failed career, or any other of a myriad of things.  But we learn that even though we fail, our life goes forward.  We may experience the pain of failure for a while, but to survive we must make adjustments and adapt to our new environment.  Individuals who have learned to adapt to new circumstances thrive more quickly than those who can’t get past their moment of failure.

  1. Courage

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It takes courage to get back on our feet after a failure.  When we can get up and try again, we grow stronger.

Peter had a colossal failure when he denied Christ three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion (John 18:15-27).  Yet he grew to be a key figure in helping spread the gospel in the world around him.  While the source of his courage was the Lord, the fact is that his failure taught him a valuable lesson about faithfulness.

There is no doubt that I have failed many times in my life.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will probably be times in the future that I also fail.  But I can’t let my failures define who I am and what I do.  When I fail, I try to put everything in the proper perspective, learn from my failure, and find the courage to move on.

How do you handle failure in your life?  Do you let it define who you are?  Do you become so bogged down by failure that you can’t move forward in your life?  When we put our failures in God’s hands, it’s amazing what He can do with us.  I want to be like Peter, who after a huge failure, regrouped and let God use Him in mighty ways.  What about you?

*This article was originally published on August 30, 2011 on my cwrn blog.

 

It Has Been A While

It has been a while since I have posted anything on my blog. Mostly because I have been busy, but more likely because I feel like I do not have anything to say that has not been said better by someone else before me. Today, I have been thinking a lot about feeling alone and defeated. Some of my friends have been struggling. I see their posts. I hear their words. I talk to them about their challenges and fears. I hear their discouragement and hopelessness that things will be better or that they can overcome their adversity.

I have been there. And I bet you have too. I would venture that at some point you have experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, crushed by the weight of burdens that are too numerous to even contemplate. You may be experiencing it even as you read this post. If people would be real and honest with one another, I think we would know how widespread this issue of feeling alone and overwhelmed really is. Continue reading “It Has Been A While”

Busted–and rightly so

“I read your blog of Jan 21st. I wanted to reply out of the public eye. I, as a rule, truly feel your posts are inspiring. However, you started this one on a negative note. What you posted in the first paragraph, for me, negated what you posted in the rest. Reread it. It is a negative post about Trump and politics and shows your views and feelings about politics and the Trump administration. .You are asking others to stop that behavior. Yet you are doing so by starting what is meant to be a positive message with a negative intonation. Reread it and see what you would think had I written it. I agree Trump bashing has been the norm and needs to stop. The Christian reaction to all this should be to turn off the TV channel when negative politics are on. Not buy that article with the hateful headlines. Not get into those hateful discussions, instead to discuss positive action that would help fix things. To survive humans have been taught to put others in a negative light so the world see the person setting up the “negativity” in a “better light”. They need to relearn a different way. Be an activist for change by not scolding the world for what has become the norm but teaching them the true Christian way.

This was sent to me privately by someone I love. My first reaction on reading this was, of course, “No, I did not bash Trump.” Then I went back and reread what I wrote and she was right and I was wrong. Continue reading “Busted–and rightly so”

I am Tired

Tus-vs-them-295oday is January 21, 2017 and we have seen one of the most controversial president’s ever to be elected, enter the White House. He has already started dismantling the Affordable Healthcare Act without a new plan put in place for a replacement and a way to fix our broken health care system. We are seeing poor cabinet choices, such as Betsy DeVos, who does not have the experience necessary to do this job. Time will tell if Trump will be a good, bad, or ineffective president.

But I have to tell you, I am tired. Continue reading “I am Tired”