Holiday Survival Tip #1: This year, decide to go to all holiday events with a new attitude. Leave the past memories and issues in the car when you arrive. Be determined to only take in gifts powered by the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Remember what your mom always told you: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” Holiday Survival Tip #2: You don’t have to eat all the candy! As a matter of fact, you don’t have to eat more than one plate of food! Over-eating makes our bodies feel sluggish and tired. For some people (myself included), the changes in blood sugar from eating all of the carb and sugar rich foods even bring on mood swings and bouts of depression. Not only do these side effects to our holiday feasting magnify any tensions or irritations you may already feel during this time a year, but it robs us of joys that the season should bring. Remember, the food does not make for a successful holiday gathering – it’s the stories we share, the bonds we build and the positive memories we create that determine whether this season will march into history as a success.
Holiday Survival Tip #3: Determine to be more organized! It’s easy to say, but really, a key to reducing stress at this time of year is to plan ahead. Begin to purchase presents as soon as that great idea comes to you. Not only does it help you spread out your spending, but it keeps you from running all over at the last minute trying to accomplish everything. Do as much holiday cooking and baking ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate until the festive day (granted, this is not something that stresses me out personally, but when it stresses out my wife, I feel it!). Are you someone who ends up running late to family gatherings (with three girls in my household, this was something we always battled). Start getting ready earlier so you can leave the house earlier and be on time. I know in my family, this would have averted many a conflict through the years. If you can spread out and manage the demands of the season proactively, then you will be in a better frame of mind to handle personalities that sometimes bring friction at holiday gatherings.
Holiday Survival Tip #4: Take the time to really engage in conversation, to ask the questions that really allow you to get to know the other person. So many times our conversations are so surface and superficial, almost bordering on the edge of gossip. We don’t ask the deeper questions that fully enable us to see into the heart and soul of who this individual really is.
I never will forget – years ago one of my uncle’s passed away. We would see him and his family every holiday and chat. Honestly though, hearing his eulogy, I never even knew the man. He was an amazing man of faith, a person who gave generously of his time and energies to serve others, a brave soul who fought hard against cancer. That part of him, which was actually the whole of him, I never knew. To me, he was the quiet uncle who never said very much. Don’t let another holiday go by and miss the blessing of truly connecting with one another.
Holiday Survival Tip #5: I opened my Verse of the Day today and this is what appeared on my screen (yes, I use my iPad). This reading is from Luke 6:27-36 (The Message).
“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.”
This honestly smacks me right in the face. I struggle so hard with this. Maybe not so much with the random stranger, but for sure with the people who hold a closer position in my life. Perhaps this is something guys struggle with more than ladies – we are taught early on not to take anything from anyone, to be tough, to stand up for ourselves, not to let anyone walk all over us, etc. But obviously, these scriptures stand in stark contrast and don’t teach this at all.
I think the greatest challenge for us today is this sentence in particular – “You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.”
This day, as we celebrate all we are thankful for, as we eat more than we should and as we gather together with family and friends, may this be our guiding philosophy! Happy Thanksgiving!!
Holiday Survival Tip #6: Take time to enjoy this season! We just moved into our permanent apartment and the place is in chaos! On top of that, it’s Christmas in our new place and the girls are coming home. My wife wants everything put in its place and all the decorations hung so it will feel like home to them. But at the heart of it all, they have reminded her that it’s not the decorations that make it feel like home, it’s the four of us being together.
Holiday Survival Tip #7: Amidst all of the gift buying, don’t forget to give the most important gift – the speaking of the words “I Love You” and “I Am Proud of You!” Don’t assume that your giving of material gifts will be sufficient to convey to your loved ones how much you love them and is a replacement for actually saying the words out loud to them. There is an undeniable, irrefutable infinite power when we speak our endorsements of love into existence. We are thereby depositing our investment as it resonates down into the core of the recipient’s being with the inconceivable ability to persuade the soul and inspire excellence. So give this all important and powerful gift this season freely and without reservation!
So this season, when it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all there is to do from shopping to decorating to baking to sending out Christmas cards, remember that those things are nice touches but don’t determine if a holiday was great and memorable or not. It’s connecting with the ones we love that is the ultimate test of success.
About the Author: John Tracy Wilson, author of Life, Love and Family. You can find him on the web at www.johntracywilson.com