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.

 

 

 

Surviving Transition

ChangeTransitions. We all have them. Some transitions fill us with expectation and excitement, others fill us with dread and uncertainty.  Some transitions are of our own making, others are sometimes forced upon us.  But there is no doubt, good or bad, we all need to learn how to adjust to transition in our lives.  It is especially difficult to make a smooth transition when change comes our way, not through our own choosing, but through circumstances–sometimes beyond our control or understanding. Continue reading “Surviving Transition”

The Man on the Honor Flight

10686785_10203126098255503_2263128286258544606_nToday is a very special day for a very special man. My brother-in-law, Steve, will be boarding a plane for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. If you are not familiar with an honor flight, these flights take a veteran to Washington DC, where they can see memorials honoring those who have gone before. What Steve will see today includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Vietnam Wall, both of which will be moving experiences for him. This blog is a letter to a man who is not only my brother-in-law, but also a brother to me.

Dear Steve, Little did we know how big a part of our lives you would be when Sharron brought you home for the first time. I remember looking up and seeing all 6’4″ of you and being amazed at how tall you were. What I have discovered since then is that not only are you tall in height, you are tall in spirit. We have shared a lot of memories through the years. Continue reading “The Man on the Honor Flight”

Begging Isn’t Enough – Do Something

Ever since Target enlightened the public on their stance on the use of restrooms by transgender individuals, Christians have been in an uproar. While I understand their concerns, I am also concerned about their handling of the issue.  Quite frankly, transgenders have been using the restrooms they identify with for years. And before you start lambasting me and assuming I absolutely approve of this, please remember that kindness and mercy is far better in our dealing with non-Christians than hate and destructive rhetoric. Continue reading “Begging Isn’t Enough – Do Something”

The Ants Go Marching

As an older woman whose children have all reached adulthood and live on their own, I am often reminded of how difficult it is being a Mom. As I read some of my younger friend’s Facebook posts, I wish I could make their journey easier, but in all honesty, even the best of parents experience their times of frustration and agony. I was far from a perfect Mom and there were days when I just wanted to throw in the towel or lock myself in the bathroom and throw a temper tantrum, kicking and screaming like a toddler (oh wait, I really did that!). Continue reading “The Ants Go Marching”