“Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” -The Grinch

The Christmas season is in FULL swing….Christmas music in every store, twinkling lights, busy shoppers and a calendar that is jam-packed with Christmas parties, gift exchanges, traditions and fun!  I truly love this time of year for so many reasons, but if I’m totally honest….sometimes it can just be too much.  Yup, call me Grinchy, but I sometimes get overwhelmed trying to make sure I’m doing enough special things for my boys, finding the perfect gifts, fitting all the get-togethers into our schedule….and being jolly while doing it!

cindy

Cindy Lou Who, you get me!

Families go through hard times….illness, loss, financial strain, divorce….and often Christmas can magnify the pain of those struggles.  It’s difficult sometimes to admit we feel that way in a season that is so full of joy, but if you’re dealing with any of these things, I feel you.  I’ve been there, and it’s hard sometimes to be as “merry” as you would like!

I remember very clearly the first few holidays growing up after my grandparents had both passed.  We had always spent holidays on their farm, so not having those special days with them just felt empty and sad.  My parents signed our family up to go serve Thanksgiving meals through our church instead.  We spent most of the day serving people in need in our community, and guess what?  It was just what our spirits needed!  It was the perfect distraction and by lifting up others, we were filled even more….funny how that works!  It didn’t make us miss my Nanny and Papa any less, but it did put into perspective that we were blessed with each other, a home, food on the table and a family to love.  We continued this for several years, and it became our “new normal” for Thanksgiving day.

peppermint

You have probably seen big peppermint sticks like this one in my Jingle mug at the store, and maybe even used them as stocking stuffers here and there.  Every year my Papa would buy them for all the grandkids.  I don’t know why this was his thing, as they typically became swords and tears ensued as someone would get whacked in the face or their stick would break, but nevertheless, he bought them without fail.  Papa went to Heaven almost 20 years ago, so now my Uncle makes it a point to buy them for everyone every Christmas.  I don’t think anyone actually eats them, but that’s not the point.  We may not be able to see my Nanny and Papa at Christmas, but they are there in these big peppermint sticks, in their recipes we continue to make, in our memories, and in the stories we tell our children.

So enough with the sad stuff, what can we do to help those struggling around us?  If you’re having a hard time this year, what can make this season as merry and bright as you’d like for it to be?  I don’t have all the answers by any means, but I am challenging myself and challenging you with a couple of things to try this season:

Keep priorities straight & say no.

If there was ever a pot calling the kettle black….this is me!  I am TERRIBLE at saying no, and pretty much think I can do everything….but I can’t, and I’m working on it!  When we put too much on our plate, everything runs together and nothing tastes good….P.S. I HATE when my food touches on my plate, so this analogy hits home for me!  Decide the things you really want to do/see/accomplish this season, and try to be truly present for those things.  The things that just can’t happen without you feeling stressed, say no or find a different time.  Maybe make plans to get together with some friends and family after Christmas when life has slowed down a bit?   Cut out some of those “traditions” that aren’t as fun or fulfilling?  Only you know what’s really important for you, but try to make conscious decisions to keep your schedule and to-do list manageable!

New traditions

My parents recognized we needed to shake things up, and that’s why we went to serve meals.  We weren’t all that excited about it at first, to be honest, but we needed a fresh start.  If that’s your family for whatever reason, find ways to make new memories that are unique to where you are as a family now!

traditions

Last year we started a cousin Christmas outing, and it was SO fun!  We rode the Polar Express in our Christmas PJ’s and made a whole day of time together.  Christmas won’t be this magical to them forever, so we’re soaking it in!

Give to Others

I know many of you are in seasons of your life where finding big blocks of time to go volunteer somewhere is tough!  Think about the people in your circle and your community and how they might need your help this Christmas.  It doesn’t have to be anything grand, small gestures go a long way!  Maybe it’s just offering to babysit for a girlfriend that you know needs to knock out some kid-free errands, or giving that friend you’ve lost touch with a call.  Pay a sincere compliment to the overwhelmed cashier at Target or pick up the tab for a friend who’s budget might be a little tight.  Whatever you feel led to do, I promise giving will make you feel just as good, if not better, than receiving.  We just have to make the effort to think about it, and do it!

The Reason for the Season

Above all, the entire reason for the season is Jesus.  God sent his only Son to die for us so that we might have salvation….that my friends, is the greatest gift of all!  If we can keep Christ at the front of Christmas, it really solves it all! Praying you find joy and peace this holiday season!