Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been a special time for my family. As a child we would celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, we would have lots of pie,turkey and while everything was cooking we watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade and football. When Christmas morning finally arrived I would race downstairs with my brothers to open presents, enjoy a delicious breakfast casserole, and stay in my pjs all day. The next day we would begin our travels to see family.
My first Christmas as a pastor I wanted everything to be perfect. Starting December 1st I began my preparations. I checked, double checked and triple checked the bulletins, I made sure that the flowers were ordered, I wrote my sermons with lots of time to capture the holiday spirit but also leave people feeling spiritual and inspired.
A few days before Christmas Eve I reached for something in the copier and I felt a twitch in my back and then came the pain; I could hardly stand. However, I was determined to fight through and finish what I started, I wanted the perfect Christmas Eve worship! At the first Christmas Eve service I was holding myself up in the pulpit trying to preach my sermon, I was in so much pain. I tried to stand while serving communion but eventually I had to sit. When I went home to rest between services, I realized about 45 min before I had to leave for the late service — I could not get up off the floor. This was not the celebration I was envisioning.
We all have moments like this, especially around the holidays. We want things to be perfect, we want everyone to be happy but the reality is that things are going to go wrong and we are not going to be able to please everyone.
I created a list of things that I need to remember during this time of the year. I would like to share this list with you so you. My hope is that your holiday time will be both a time of celebration but also a time of simplicity. I don’t want this time of the year to fly by without taking the time to give thanks, to center your life and spend time with the people that you love.
- Keep your expectations in check – Don’t give into the hype that you are going to be perfect in everything. If you try to throw the perfect party, buy all the right presents and send the craftiest of Christmas cards you are going to come up short. Instead, do what you can and let go of the rest.
- Do something different — We tend to have the same traditions year after year. I love traditions, however open yourself to try something different. For example, take a walk after eating a holiday meal instead of sitting on the couch and falling asleep, or if you are not a church going person, find a place to worship and see a different side of the holiday. Whatever it is, try it and if you don’t like it make sure you don’t do it next year!
- Find a Support System — I know I can’t go through the holidays alone. I need my support system of family and friends. It is during this time of the year that I reach out to my support system and ask for help. Sometimes that is a quick phone conversation other times it involves more. Lean on the people in your life for support, love and encouragement and they will be there for you when you need them.
- Find positive ways to remember loved ones — Holidays may remind you of the loved ones who aren’t around anymore, especially if this is your first holiday without them. Many people who find themselves in this situation need extra love and support. There are many positive things you can do to remember your loved one during the holiday. If you would like ideas please visit our website faithgardner.org/remembering to see suggestions.
- Forget about the perfect gift — Sometimes I spend hours, if not days shopping for my wife and trying to find her the perfect gift. She tells me what she wants but I also want to find something that helps me tell her how much I love and care for her. I can continue to spend lots of time looking for the perfect gift (and never find it) or I can find something nice and tell her how wonderful she is and spend that time with her instead of the stores shopping.
- Exercise — Normally during the year I convince myself that I don’t have time to exercise regularly. With all of the extra things that need to be done during the holidays it is even easier to convince myself that I don’t have time to exercise. However, this is the best way for me relieve stress. Finding the time to workout, or go for a walk is a perfect way for me to clear my head, to process all the things I need to do and to help prevent future back injuries.
- Eat sensibly — When you’re facing a dozen holiday parties and family gatherings between now and New Year’s, it’s hard to stay committed to a sensible diet. But try. Eating healthy may keep you feeling better — physically and emotionally. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard a few times this year, remember you are not going to be perfect, enjoy yourself and try to get back on track the next day.
The holidays can be fun, enjoyable and spiritually uplifting if you are committed to the work hard to relieve stress, lower your exceptions as to what you are going to accomplish and spend time with friends and family. That’s what this is all about anyway! If you are looking to add something special to this time of the year and need help figuring out what it is please let me know.
This article first appeared in The Gardner News on November 28, 2015