Posted by: bellissimanh | November 6, 2008

Ready for the Holidays?

 

November 6, 2008 
Are You Ready for the Holidays? 
Mary Southerland Today’s Truth 
Luke 2:16-20 (NIV) “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.”

 

Friend to Friend 
Are you ready for the holidays?  For some people, that question spurs exciting thoughts of beautifully decorated tables filled with scrumptious meals, festive shopping trips, extended family time, brightly wrapped gifts under a tree … the “Walton” kind of holiday.  For others, the holiday season is a very difficult and dark time that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.  According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week.  During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the “holiday blues”.  I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit. 

Depression is an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual disorder.  Something is out of balance.  We have buried some pain instead of confronting it.  We have misplaced our trust and sought help from impotent sources.  In order to deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total and complete surrender to God and His plan of healing – even if we cannot see or do not understand that plan.  The bottom line of God’s heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.  

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching a few select home improvement shows.  On a recent program, an interior decorator and home owner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.  “First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced.  I was surprised that she had listed this task first – until I saw the house.  The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold but was thick and chunky as well.  The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out.  The result was a dark, isolated home.  The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy.  And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed.”  When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way. 

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high.  We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain.  The result is darkness, loneliness and missed opportunities for restoration.  We don’t want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.  Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level – refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships and, in general, the broken places where darkness lives.  We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too much to pay.  Emotional integrity is an essential step to recognizing, understanding and dealing with depression.  We must be real before we can be right, and until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.    

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place or push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide.  The arrival of family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved.  Financial pressure opens up like a sink hole waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace.  Schedules demand every ounce of energy and false expectations leave us empty and hollow.  Before we realize it, the dark, slimy pit swallows us up.  It is not supposed to be that way, girlfriend! Now is the time to do something about it!

Thanksgiving can be a time of praise if we choose to focus on the victories and joys we have experienced during the year and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others. Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings, if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life.  The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds.  Right now, get ready for the holidays by choosing an attitude of joy, by focusing your mind on the things of heaven – not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ. 

Let’s Pray 
Father, I want this holiday season to one that is filled with light instead of darkness.  Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as with my family and friends.  Give me the courage to be obedient to You in every holiday setting.  Give me eyes to see those You bring into my life that need my encouragement because they are on the same journey.  Father, prepare and enable me to make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn 
Take a few moments to re-visit the holiday season of 2007. 

  • What was the best part of those holidays for you?  Why?  
  • List three changes you would like to make this year.  
  • What is the first step you need to take to make those changes happen?  

Read Luke 2:1-16. Answer the following questions after reading the Christmas story.

  • What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?  
  • How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus’ birth?  What did they do?  
  • How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary?  How can your choice to “ponder” on the miracles of Jesus’ birth change your perspective of the holidays?

Write a letter of commitment to Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made concerning this holiday season.  Make a step-by-step plan or a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life.  Include your family in making this plan and make the commitment to hold each other accountable.

********************************************************

I love this! What a great way to set off for the holiday season, putting things in perspective right off the bat, before the chaos has time to ensue!

Father God, I come before You today and lift up all the sisters in my family. Above and beyond anything else, may You be the focus of this holiday season.

Where there are financial struggles, I pray You would bring wisdom and solutions, Lord. Teach us to be wise stewards. Provide in ways that we never could have ever imagined. Especially with the heating costs of this winter looming, show up and show off, Lord. Thank You that we don’t have to worry about anything… because You provide what is needed. You take care of Your own, and for that we are truly grateful.

Where health concerns abound, bring Your healing touch. Give doctors wisdom and discernment, and give our dear sisters who are facing health challenges strength and courage to deal with whatever comes next. Thank You for their example of how Your strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thank You for filling them so powerfully with Your Spirit that the rest of us just stand back in amazement at Your hand in their lives.

Sometimes busyness tends to make us chaotic and frustrated. Speak calm into those times, Lord. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus and to not fill our plates with so much stuff that we push Him out of the picture. Show us ways to teach our children (and all those around us, really) that You are the center of it all. Bring new traditions to our families that will impress upon our children and all those who see us just how important Christmas is to us, but more importantly, why. It’s trite and way overused, but Jesus really is the reason for the season. Help us to live like it!

For some, this is a time of deep depression, and I ask you to break those chains of bondage. Restore the joy of Your salvation to those who are struggling to be thankful in the midst of painful and difficult circumstances. Father, shine Your light through the darkened windows and show those sisters that they are not alone.

Some have relationships that are strained, but You are a God of reconciliation. Work in those relationships to bring healing and restoration, Lord. Let peace begin with each one of us. Teach us to reach out to one another in love and be willing to be the first to say “I’m sorry.”

There are sisters who feel as though they’ve just blown it one too many times and can’t get back up again… yet You can come and pick them up, set them back on their feet and encourage them to go on. It’s never too late with You, Father. Encourage these sweet sisters and open their eyes to their own potential. You see us as we will be, Father… You see the final picture and You know the plans You have for us… and they are such great plans. May that be a thought that keeps these girls going, knowing that You never give up on us.. that You will be faithful to complete the work You’ve begun in us.

Others are dealing with major decisions, Lord. Grant discernment. Speak Your truth into those situations and clearly mark out the path You would have them walk. Many are the plans in a woman’s heart, Father, but You direct her steps. As these dear sisters move forward in whatever You have for them, give them assurance that they are doing the right thing. Nudge them along if need be… keep them in the center of Your will.

Many of us have loved ones who don’t know You, Lord. How our hearts long for them to come to a saving knowledge of the Truth.. of Jesus. Draw them, Father… draw them to You. Use us to reach out to them and bring them the great news of the gospel. Give us opportunities each and every day to stand up and testify to what You’ve done in our lives… to the difference You have made in us. You are an awesome God. Your love is deep and profound. How is it that we ever fail to share that with others?

Some of my sisters have marriages that are struggling. Wrap them in Your arms of love and bring to mind the fact that they are the bride of Christ. Heal these marriages, Lord. Bring the wives to a point of respecting their husbands… bring the men to a point of loving their wives sacrificially, as Christ loved the church. Help husbands and wives to develop a new appreciation for one another.

We all know people in the military, Lord… faithful men and women who are serving our country. They put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. Be with those brave brothers and sisters, Lord… let them know how grateful we are to them for their service, and be with their families here at home. As we lift the soldiers to You, keep them safe, and grant peace and assurance to their family members who wait anxiously at home for each word from them.

Thank You for this reminder today that this season doesn’t have to stressful. Help us to slow down and savor every moment, Lord. Help us to remember that it’s not about shopping and concerts and parties… but that it’s about Your holy gift to us, a baby who would go from cradle to cross. Thank You so much for Jesus, Lord. I can’t imagine life without Him… without You.

 

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Responses

  1. Amen! What a great prayer. You’re so right on. This time of year is one of thankfulness and gratitude for the priceless gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray more people will feel a peace and come to know Him at this time and not in spite of it.

    Great post:)


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