Surviving the Holidays
The following paragraph is from one of my patients who I am currently treating with basic medical care which he shared with me regarding his childhood.
“I dreaded the Christmas season when I was a child because I lived in a violent alcoholic household – and the Christmas season was the most violent time of all. I always got hurt at Christmas. My family was just an extreme example of the tension that gave many of us stress when this time of the year comes around.”
Some of us are stressed by memories of past holidays gone wrong. Some of us are stressed by an expectation that we will create a perfect holiday pageant this year. Some of us have a death to grieve, and the holidays bring it into sharp focus. Some of us have an active alcoholic, or addict (or two), and sense correctly that the holidays are the time of year when people drink the most. Some of us have old family dynamics that we don’t like – dynamics that replay themselves every year.
While there is still time, we might want to try a management technique: shifting from managing by crisis, to managing by goals and objectives.
In managing by crisis, we try to solve each crisis, but the solution to the crisis becomes the origin of the next crisis. For example, if last year’s family gathering was a disaster, we might solve it by refusing to go this year. That solution might become the origin of a new crisis if we sit home alone feeling guilty and are miserable.
In managing by goals and objectives, we figure out what God really wants for us and then set appropriate Biblical goals to achieve it. To do this, I suggest a method I call “ground zero holiday planning”.
In ground zero holiday planning, you don’t start with last year’s plan and try to fix it, especially if last year’s plan led to crisis. In ground zero holiday planning, you start with “zero”. That is, nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.
Then make two lists of topics, and a list of principles.
On the topics list, you might put things like time, money, friends, family, church services, your RU program meetings, food and meals, decorations, gifts, travel, entertaining, and ministry obligations.
On the principles list, put the spiritual principles that you would like to apply to your holiday experiences such as dignity, respect, playfulness, generosity, community, service, grace, hope, hospitality, etc. Make your own list that reflects both who you are and who you by God’s grace want to be.
Then, put the two lists together and make your plans.
Leave behind the principles and addictive behaviors that you don’t want, such as being mean, getting even, competing with others, settling old scores, cutting people out of the family, getting drunk or high, isolating, and taking anybody’s inventory of controlled prescription medications.
When we match the positive spiritual principles with the topics, things work out well. We give gifts that we can afford, without leaving us in debt in January. We give gifts that reflect knowledge of the people who are receiving them, and a genuine desire to help them follow God’s will. We can provide sober hospitality, without offering alcohol, which then allows our focus to remain on Jesus and not on a beverage.
We might take a trip to the toy store and get some toys for the children in our church that are less fortunate. We could make simple decorations around our homes that signal a welcome without wearing us out. We can invite friends from our RU class who don’t have a family, or a place to go on the holidays, to join our extended family in our celebrations and to recognize our spiritual family as well as our biological family.
With ground zero based holiday planning, we make our plans utilizing principles from God’s Word and turn our spirit, soul, and body over to His care so that He may keep us and sanctify us. Then we in turn can offer that same godly love to others inside and outside of our family, church, and RU class.
If we take this holiday season casually we may end up as a casualty. As we become busy during this holiday season we need to stay with our daily routine of walking with our Savior. We must stay in the Bible. We must continue to pray. We must continue to meditate on the Word of God. We must continue to be faithful to our church services and to our RU class.