“Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
The month of December is packed with crammed schedules, stretched budgets, and the ever present assortment of sweets, alcohol, and all-night shopping. Whatever your particular temptation, it will be waiting for you in abundance. When we add in the visits from family and far away relatives, there is a potent brew of stress swirling around us. We can be so easily distracted by it all, and miss the good gifts God wants to give us this year.
If you tend to get a little (or a lot!) stressed out by Christmas, you’re not alone. Christmas is an emotionally-charged holiday. A Consumer Reports survey found that 90% have at least one thing we dread about the holidays. Dread is a strong word; it implies a gnawing fear about something we have no control over. Let me share my top three things I am tempted to dread, and then I’ll share my secret for stressing less.
1. Body: At Christmas, I often visit with relatives whom I haven’t seen all year. Many times, other women will want to talk about weight and diets. Sometimes, other women might even comment on my weight. Even if they are complimenting me on “winning” the war with the scale, I am immediately tempted into pride or fear or even resentment. Any discussion of weight or diets is like sticking a finger into old emotional wounds. No matter what is being said, it can stir unpleasant feelings.
2. Money: Obsession tends to shift around in my life, looking for a home. If I stop obsessing about weight and food, I can easily start obsessing about money. And during the holiday season, the extra spending makes me feel uncomfortable. I am often tempted to blow my budget, just like it was a diet. “Oh, well,” I might think. “I’m spending so much on everyone else, I might as well blow the whole budget.”
3. Expectations: I want my house to be decorated and clean. I want everyone to be happy and the kids to get along. I want to feel the magic of Christmas in my heart from the moment I wake up until I collapse from exhaustion at night. The problem is, I don’t have a set designer, a food stylist, or even a maid. I do, however, have PMS and occasional insomnia. I just can’t ever seem to meet my own expectations. And neither can Christmas. Sometimes I secretly wonder what is wrong with me…
It would seem that Christmas could give me, and all of us, plenty of reasons to overeat! Christmas can be emotionally-charged because there are so many opportunities to be aware of the aching hole in our hearts. And when we try to fill the hole, we often fill it with the wrong things. Spiritual bondage is defined as filling the hole in our hearts with things that only make the hole bigger.
So how can we navigate the season with joy? How do we fill our hearts with what they need? For me, the secret is thinking small. The bigger my fears, the larger my problems seem, the smaller my focus must become. In particular, I am focusing on 0-5 eating, and here’s why:
Living within the boundary of 0-5 eating seems to pay extra dividends during the holiday season. With all the triggers and temptations around me, staying within safe boundaries eases all my stress. The comfort of this one godly boundary soothes my nerves. It’s like my heavenly Father draping His strong arm around my shoulders.
0-5 eating pays dividends all year long, of course. But during Christmas, 0-5 eating keeps me focused on Jesus. As I focus on following His lead in this one area, all the other distractions and dreads seem to fade into background noise. Christmas, with all its necessary preparations, becomes a quieter, sweeter experience. What comes to me as a test of faith (giving up that extra piece of fudge!) becomes the key to release from all my other my burdens.
How about you?
What is it about the Christmas season that seems daunting to you today? Have you ever noticed that keeping one godly boundary, even imperfectly, seems to make the whole day more peaceful? How could the godly boundary of 0-5 eating bring you comfort and peace this Christmas season?
G. Ann Arias