It’s December 1 and have just finished the marathon of Thanksgiving visits and heading into a new month with a calendar that’s already full of holiday get-togethers, school programs and church services. I have one of those calendars that shows you the whole month at one time…and I’m seeing only a day here and there that doesn’t have some type of commitment already penciled in…and it’s only December 1 – I’ve got 30 days left to go!
Life sometimes causes us to feel like a rubber band that is stretched tight. Pressures build up and pull us in different directions. Trying to do too much with too little time stretches us beyond our capacity.
This got me to thinking on what I wanted to share with you this week. From time to time I’ve been known to Twitter and Facebook about Top 10 Lists for how to “survive” something. In fact just last week I wrote a top 10 on how to “survive Thanksgiving with your family.” Most of the time these lists are full of fun and really not all that serious…but they do get you laughing.
Looking at my calendar filled with a lengthy “to do” list didn’t have me laughing this morning. So I thought “I need a Top 10 list for how to survive Christmas.” In keeping with my themes for these devotionals I couldn’t really see Jesus saying something like …”Let me tell you what I have to say about surviving my birthday.” But I do think that Jesus has a lot to say indeed about how to manage stress and get really good at understanding what “energy leaks” can take you out of the holiday and divert your focus from what’s most important.
I know I have limited energy, but Jesus had tremendous energy…and He knew how to direct it. He was clear about His mission and he avoided many real and potential energy leaks. This reminds me of a story that we talked about two weeks ago in our Uncommon woman study. The story is in Luke 8:43 where Jesus went out into the crowd and a woman reached out and grabbed His clothes. Now keep in mind that He is in the middle of a crowd and people are bumping into people everywhere. In fact one of His disciples said something like….”what do you mean…everybody is touching you.” But Jesus was so aware of His energy He noticed a difference. Do you remember who touched Him? It was a woman who was looking for healing, and she was healed because of her faith. What I want you to remember from this story is more about Jesus’ response.
He was so keenly aware of his emotional resources that He knew immediately that something was different.
Then I got to thinking…“Am I that keenly aware of my emotional resources that I would know when stress is taking it’s toll and my emotional tank is running low?” More than likely I’d only become aware when I found myself on empty and stranded on the side of the road.
So, what did Jesus have to say about stress and managing those things that suck the energy from our lives…especially coming into the Christmas season?
Make a Plan
God had a plan and we see it as early as Genesis in Chapter 45:4-8 where we see Joseph talking to his brothers when it all came down in Egypt “…But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives….” Clearly Joseph figured out how to deal with his family, and he knew that God already had a plan–there couldn’t be a more perfect example as we head into the Holiday season.
- Do you always have a conflict with your spouse about whose family to see, or a conflict with the family once you all get together?
- Do you end up working on your holiday card list up until the last moment, agonizing over what to write, or trying to weigh whether you should send them late or at all?
- Do you end up spending too much?
If you can make specific plans to better handle these situations, you’ll be less stressed when you face them.
Just Say No
The whole essence of Jesus’ being seemed to be about saying Yes. And at the same time Jesus knew the value of saying “No.” He said no to His mother when we was trying to interrupt His teaching in the temple. He said no to temptation in the wilderness. So before you say “I just can’t say ‘NO’ to my kids, my neighbor, my MOM…remember that even Jesus said NO.
- Cut out unnecessary activities. That means anything that doesn’t provide an emotional payoff that far outweighs its hassle should be crossed off the calendar.
- You don’t need to try every activity offered, go to every party thrown, or do everything the ‘Martha Stewart’ way in order to make your holiday special.
- Really enjoying the things that you do end up doing is what will make the holiday something you’ll want to remember.
John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came that we might enjoy life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows. Therefore, if we aren’t enjoying each day, especially the celebration of His birthday, we must be doing something wrong.
We’ll finish with some very practical steps for your everyday day:
- The best gifts are the simple ones… If you’re worried about getting the perfect gift for that special someone, but the thought of battling through all the holiday traffic, spending hours finding a parking place, then walking miles through a crowded mall seems too overwhelming for you, then remember that sometimes the best gift is a simple one.
- Planned “Escape Time”….If the thought of a party, family gathering, or other “mandatory” social event leaves you knotted up with anxiety, plan ahead for some “escape time” for yourself. The bathroom makes a great escape for those times when you just need to get away and regroup.
- Take a Vacation from Family….Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I need a vacation! Not days spent with those people!”? If the family or friends that you are spending the holidays with are going to or already are causing you more stress than you can handle, then reconsider whether spending time with them is really the best choice you could make right now.
- Create your own traditions…Forget those centuries-old traditions and create some new traditions of your own. If planning that ginormous Christmas feast is stressing you out…have a Christmas pizza. Instead of working your fingers to the bones baking and cleaning, stay up late watching a favorite movie. You get the idea.
- Get plenty of sleep. Whether you are spending the holidays rushing around doing all of your usual things or planning ahead for what to do with your alone time, sleep is essential. Schedule in your sleep time first when you plan out your day. If you are too tired to think straight, you cannot get anything done efficiently and perhaps not even done at all.
- The number one rule for surviving the holidays is remembering that you can always say “No” and you can always do things more simply, even if that isn’t the way it’s always been done in the past.
Back to where we began….Life sometimes causes us to feel like a rubber band that is stretched tight. Pressures build up and pull us in different directions. Trying to do too much with too little time stretches us beyond our capacity.
Let your rubber band be a reminder to you about what Jesus said about stress and how you can manage the energy leaks in your life. That’s all for today.
If you’d like to join this study in real time…I’m teaching it at HopePark Wednesday Mornings & Thursday Nights. If you’re a Nashville local, the door is always open. We’re at 8001 Hwy. 70 South, just off I-40. Online at http://hopepark.com and on twitter @hopepark.
Me…well you can find me twittering @jodytodd.
Have a great week!