“Stress-mas?”…or Something Better

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Christmas is almost here.

What does that statement cause inside you? Stress because you are not ready for the guests and the food and the gifts?  Or excitement because you love the Christmas Eve worship and the joy of Christmas morning and the unwrapping and the laughter?  Or both?

It is truly a dichotomy, this season.  I can feel total peace, excitement and joy, and almost simultaneously feel complete stress. Can anyone relate?  I love the music, and the sweet manger scene in our living room, and the tradition of cutting down our tree in the mountains, and the joy on our children’s faces when they open gifts they love.  I love buying new wrapping paper and doing ornament exchanges with friends.  I enjoy the cookie exchanges and the Christmas shopping with our family and the parties.   I love the hope that the season brings of Jesus’s birth and what that represents.  I love the holiness.

Yet, it is during these 3-4 weeks preceding Christmas that I feel so much stress (my friend Erin calls it “Stress-mas”).  It’s getting the Christmas cards out on time and organizing everyone’s gift lists to send out to family and racing to the store four times in two days to get the ingredients for the baking to be done, or that extra string of lights that just burned out on the tree or the pair of nylons needed for the party that night.   The frenzy seems inevitable.

This year I am trying to take the stress and turn it into remembrance.

See, all the stress revolves around things that spark anticipation.  We anticipate getting our friends Christmas cards in the mail, finding that perfect tree, picking out just the right gift, celebrating at friend’s homes, or that delicious meal being prepared.  And of course, the ultimate anticipation of  unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning.   God has built anticipation into the season because anticipation is what it is ALL about……Anticipating the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t that right?  The nation of Israel waited for hundreds of years for their Savior to come.  He had been foretold in scriptures and by prophets.  He was their hope!  They had to believe that someday God would become man and walk among them and reconnect them to God.  And he did, but not without the anticipation of his people over time.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, Or the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We can’t forget that when Jesus finally became God incarnate, it was “FINALLY!”  Through generations and generations of patience and faith and bloodshed and hope, the people of God had waited for the promised one to appear on this earth.

And now, through so many woven threads of this season of Christmas, we recreate that anticipation.  We do and make and give so that we can make people happy, and we get to be expectant of that joy!  We look forward to so much leading up to Christmas Day, and while that can create stress, it is all for the joy of the season.  We are creating memories and establishing tradition.  We are sharing love.

If we are able, in the next few days when we are feeling a little frenzied, let us remember this idea of anticipation.   Like hunger pangs during a fast remind us to think of God, let the lists and the gifts and the countdown remind us of the reason for the season!  Let us remember Jesus and how much we look forward to celebrating His birth.

Sleep Like A Rock

Written By Amy

Jesus loved children.  He never shunned them, always opened his arms to them, and admonished those who tried to keep them from Him.  In fact he said to have the faith of a child.  Why?  I think because children don’t carry around all the baggage we do as adults.  When the day knocks them around, they seem to be able to have a good cry, say a prayer before bed, and then sleep like a rock!  They don’t doubt, and if they do, they ask questions until they trust again. They accept God for who He is….good.

We adults have a little bit harder time with this unquestioning acceptance of “life.” We have been hurt, we have made mistakes, and we just, well, mistrust. We wonder where God is in all of it. When life knocks us around, we come back swinging!  Sometimes at God!  And I, personally, don’t sleep like a rock during stressful times of my life.  How easy it is for us to forget that God is in the world, but not a part of the world (look at Jesus’s life).  It is the child’s sweet and untarnished spirit that understands that.  They know God is present and with us, but better than who we are, and they trust in His goodness to lean on.

Recently I had a couple of rough days, mainly due to hormones, where I had conflict with those around me (my kids, my husband) and have made myself feel even better by satisfying my sweet cravings with cupcakes and Krispie Kreme donuts (because, really, it seemed so silly to buy just three for Hannah’s, Hunter’s, and Maddie’s  last day of school for $3.50, when I could get a dozen for $8.00, right?).  And, of course after eating the sugar, my stellar plans to exercise didn’t seem so enticing anymore.

So, as I sat on my couch the other morning, processing the conflict, the sugar, and the lack of exercise, I worked on reminding myself to not let all those crazy insecurities, failures, and frustrations pile up on top of me (I am pretty good at beating myself up during failure).  Instead, this morning, I tried to be the child of God that just sits in His lap and rests, knowing this all will pass and I will emerge myself again in a few hours.

 God wants me to have self-control, He wants me to control my tongue and tone and speak peace and not antagonism into my marriage.  He wants me to be a safe harbor to my children, not a reactionary parent.  He also wants me to come and kneel before him and ask for help during stressful times, set down my baggage, maybe have a good cry, and then sleep like a rock, knowing He will continue to shape and mold and grow me into who He wants me to be.

Overwhelmed?

Written By Amy

There are days that feel overwhelming.  In my life, when I am facing difficulties, they seem to layer themselves on top of each other…parenting stress on top of dropping the ball somewhere (missing an appt., letting someone down, etc) on top of a piece of bad news about my husband’s job (initiating a fear response) on top of a major appliance breaking.

 

 All of this is just simply life, but I can lose my perspective if I’m not careful.  I tend to try to tackle everything on my own first, usually incurring a flurry of stress and personal frustration, until in a moment of clarity I remember that the answer is really as simple as just meeting with God, where I find answers (to parenting) peace (about my future) and grace (for my mistakes)…the appliance, well, I don’t know God, are you skilled at microwave magnetron diagnosis?

Stormie O’Martian reminds me that I need to seek God at the outset, at the first sign of trouble, not after they are layered on top of me like all the mattresses stacked on top of the “pea” .

Here is a prayer that we can pray to God during these times, written by Stormie O’Martian:

“Lord, help me to recognize anything that seems overwhelming to me as a sign that I need to immediately draw close to you and pray.  Give me a clear sense of what is going on and show me exactly how to pray about it.  I know that your perfect love will take away all my fear.  Give me a deeper sense of Your presence, for I know that Your presence is far greater than anything that overwhelms me.”  p.230, A Book Of Prayer

Hear my cry, O God, attend to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  Psalm 61:1-2

The truth is this; we need to trust in God when we first feel overwhelmed…not after we are suffocated by layers of fear and stress.  We can hold on to the knowledge that God is our rock, who is higher than all of our troubles, and will bring us peace, strength and clarity when we seek Him.

 

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