I took this picture a few weeks ago, after dragging myself outside to tend to my tomato plants. It was truly a gift, a meaningful gift. You will understand why as you read this post.
I’m coming out of a rough summer. Sickness joined forces with sadness, frustration, disappointment and discouragement and they got the best of me. Recently the clouds began to lift and, for the first time in a while, I began to feel more like myself.
In the midst of all of this, I was drawn to the pocket in my prayer binder that I use to save meaningful papers. I pulled one out and began to read it. It was a photocopy of a church bulletin that a good friend gave to me when we lived in Vermont. On this page, Father Tom, who I have never met, wrote something he titled, “Be Proactive”. I began to read it again. I am amazed at God’s timing. This time, it was more than a meaningful devotion shared with my by a friend. It was a personal letter of wisdom and encouragement that came directly from God, through Father Tom, at exactly the time that I needed it.
Here is what he wrote, word for word:
“Every day in our daily life there is a lot of problems and fear along with physical and mental distress. We are many times reactive to the problems in life. We start to accuse and curse everything and everybody, even God. But Jesus calls us to be proactive. I grew up on my father’s farm where we grow pepper and tea. One day as I was helping my father to collect pepper, I saw a butterfly cocoon hanging on a twig. I clipped the cocoon with the twig and took it home. I kept watching it and after a few days I saw some movement in the cocoon but the butterfly did not emerge. The next day I saw some more movement but the butterfly did not come out. And the third day the same thing but the butterfly still did not come out. I decided to to help the butterfly to get out of the cocoon. I took a knife and slip the cocoon. The butterfly crawled out. I was surprised it didn’t have fully developed wings and couldn’t fly. So I asked my father why the butterfly could not fly. My father explained, “God arranged it in such a way that a caterpillar must struggle to get out of the cocoon. It is the struggle that causes them to develop and that is how they get their strength and beauty but now you have destroyed its life by helping it.” Similar things happen with us. God allows us to struggle in our lives. It is His way to help us grow strong. God arranges things so that at certain points in our life both spiritual and physical, we must struggle. That does not mean He is not with us, he is with us but still we have to struggle to be better Disciples of Christ. So let us not try to run away from the struggles we may have in our life or react to it but take it with a proactive mind and prove what we are. God watches us close so that He will never let us fail, for He knows that everything has a reason. Like the familiar poem says, “For every pain we must bear, for every burden, every care, there is a reason. For every grief that bows the head, for every teardrop that is shed, there is a reason. For every hurt, for every plight, for every lonely pain racked night, there is a reason. But if we trust God as we should it will turn out for our good. He knows the reason.” God wants us to be like the lovely butterfly, He wants us to fully develop into His own beautiful image accepting and facing our daily struggles.”
-Fr. Tom (St Mary Star of the Sea, Newport, Vermont, 2014)
Thank you, Father Tom, for your words of wisdom. I’m passing on your blessing in hopes that it will encourage someone else in the midst of their struggles.
I’d also like to share a song that goes along beautifully with what Father Tom shared. Take encouragement from the words of this song if you are currently in the midst of struggle and pain, and especially these words:
“When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer. He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.”
I was just joking with my friends yesterday that it’s too bad that my children are too old for me to check them for ticks every night. I’ve been a broken record these days. “Check yourself.” “Did you check yourself?” “Make sure you check yourself.” Sometimes I get a “yes”, sometimes a “no”. Often I get a sigh or a laugh.
Today, despite all of my efforts, I received this picture from my son:
A flood of emotions immediately began to take away my peace -panic, fear, anger, frustration and sadness. I had just heard of a paralyzing tick borne illness in Saratoga, just south of us. And this is Cole’s second battle with Lyme Disease. My husband, thankfully home, reminded me that we can’t worry about what’s in God’s hands. I pressed pause on my emotions by refocusing my thoughts. There was a lot to be thankful for in the midst of it all. For one, Cole developed the ‘classic’ rash that made the diagnosis certain. No unreliable testing, no wondering, no questioning. Just treat. For many people, the rash never develops, or they develop a non-classic rash, and this complicates the diagnosis. Or they get a tick bite and don’t know what to do. I was also thankful that we were able to talk to his doctor and have a script called in within an hour. Finally, based on his only other symptoms of aching joints, it seems we have caught it in an early stage. So now, we’re choosing to fight with Doxycycline and prayer as our first line of defense. It’s in God’s hands.
There is a lot of angst surrounding the topic of tick-borne illnesses (it’s not just Lyme disease we need to be concerned about at this point)… so much angst that some have chosen not to go outside in nature for fear of a tick bite. And I get that. I cringe when I think about my kids going for a hike, playing soccer, mowing the lawn, walking through the yard, holding the cat, playing with our dogs, etc. Sadly, these tics are so tiny that they can go unnoticed, even when on an obvious site like your forearm, and can be mistaken for a bug bite. Even when you are doing all that you can to prevent it from happening.
So what can we do in light of this very real threat to our health?
I suggest that we don’t stop living. Instead, we should continue to do all we can to prevent tick borne illness, as if it all depended on us, and to pray as if it all depended on God. That means receiving knowledge about Lyme disease and strategies that we can take to help prevent it. And then it means responding to the knowledge that we have received. In this case it means doing our best to do what we know is best. I know it’s a major inconvenience, much like the dreaded task of having to apply sunblock day in and day out. It can get really old and it’s easy to get lazy. I know that from experience. But it’s worth every inconvenient second you spend. Finally, it means rippling what you have learned by passing it along to others. Talk to your kids and especially your teens, who need to both appreciate the seriousness of Lyme and learn to responsibly check themselves for ticks, especially in the areas that ticks like to go. Talk to your friends and family members. Talk to anyone that will listen. You can make a difference in the lives of others.
Speaking of rippling, I’m thankful for my friend, Hannah, who brought supplies to a recent wellness group and helped us all to make an Essential Oil based tic repellant. I’m going to encourage my kids to use this spray more often. Here’s a recipe you can use if you want to make your own as well:
Homemade Bug Spray
Total Time: 2 minutes Serves: 30
½ cup witch hazel
½ cup apple cider vinegar
40 drops essential oils (eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, tea tree or rosemary)
one 8 ounce glass spray bottle
Mix witch hazel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils in 8 ounce glass spray bottle.
Spray over all portions of the body but avoid repellent in eyes and mouth.
Nightly tick checks especially in warm dark areas and areas of tight clothing (groin, armpits, thighs etc.) Remember, ticks can be even smaller than a poppy seed.
Remove leaf litter and wood piles from your yard.
DEET sprays are effective but there is a toxicity concern when using them, especially in children.
Permethrin coated clothing.
Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants that make ticks easier to spot.
Use natural tick repellants such as essential oil based sprays.
Guinea hens eat ticks.
Buffer zone of gravel in yard may be effective.
Spraying yard with acaricides ? effective. More research needed.
Keep up do date when it comes to tick prevention in your pets. We use the Seresto brand collars and they seem to be effective. Both of our dogs get the lyme vaccine.
Do your best to keep your pets off of beds and furniture. This is SOO hard. We have a cat that somehow manages to end up on Cole’s bed every morning. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s entirely possible that the tick that bit Cole first took a ride on Martin the cat.
If you do discover a tick on your skin, the best way to remove it is to use fine-tipped tweezers and pull firmly and repeatedly on the tick’s mouth part – not the body – until the tick releases its hold. Using vaseline as an attempt to smother it or other techniques can actually increase the risk of transmission.
Here are a few web sites you can check out to learn more about Lyme disease.
I ripped this recipe out of a magazine that I got at a local health food store and held onto it for a long time before finally giving it a try, with only a few modifications. When my husband tried one and told me to put this recipe at the top of the pile, I figured it was worth sharing. It is a great source of protein and healthy fat. Just remember, serving size is 1.
Grab N’ Go Protein Bites
Adapted from a Recipe by Gwen Eager for Garden of Life https://www.gardenoflife.com/content/garden-recipes/grab-n-go-bites/
1 scoop of protein powder (I used Garden of Life Sport Vanilla Powder)
2 cups of unsalted cashews (I used salted cashews, oops)
1 T coconut oil
1/4 cup raisins (recipe called for dried cranberries but I was trying to avoid the added sugar and haven’t found any that are apple juice sweetened)
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes
20 small dates soaked in water for 20 minutes
1 tsp cinnamon
In a bowl, combine coconut flakes and cinnamon and set aside.
Place protein powder and cashews in food processor and process until well mixed with a flour-like consistency.
Remove dates from water.
Add coconut oil, dates and cranberries to mixture in food processor and pulse until everything begins to stick (about 20 pulses).
Roll cookie balls and coat in coconut flake/cinnamon mixture.
Refrigerate to harden the texture of the cookies.
Approximate nutritional Information (per cookie ball, assuming unsalted cashews)
170 cal; 5 g protein; 9 g total fat (3.5 g sat fat); 18 g carb; 0 mg chol; 2 g fiber; 13g sugars
Please note, I tried making these in my Vitamix. I highly recommend that you use an actual food processor as step 4 didn’t go very well in the Vitamix and I almost burned out the motor.
As Easter approaches I wanted to share a sermon that I stumbled upon last year around this time and decided to read again this year as I prepare my heart for Easter. In it, Ray Stedman says, “But it seems to me that the true glory of this Easter message, the greatest message that this day can have for us, is to remind us that in the risen Lord Jesus we have an endless supply of power to love. That is what Easter is all about–the fact that we have an ability to love. Love is the greatest need of the world today.” If you click on the link below, you will be given the option to read it or listen to it. Even if you read it over a few days, I believe that it is well worth your time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about agape love. I want to love well and love like God, whose love never fails. How can I do that? So often I fall short. I am right there with Ray Stedman when he says, “I am amazed to see how many times in my own life I pass over the opportunity to love.” David Jeremiah addresses this question in his current radio series, “The Power of Love,” based on 1 Corinthians 13.
In his message on the topic of love’s power over time, he says this:
“Love never fails because God never fails and God is love. Love never fails because Christ never fails and Christ is love. But here’s where it comes down to all of us. How can our love never fail. Can I get in on this? I can’t be God and I can’t be Christ. How can my love have the quality of eternal value. How can my love not quit when human love would give up? Well, let me explain it to you, and here’s the truth: Love never fails when it is God’s love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. You see, my human love isn’t good enough to qualify under the Corinthians 13 passage. I’ll fall short. Have you found that?…How in the world do I do all of this? How do I put all of this to practice?…Well, you can’t and let me just tell you right now that if what you are doing is listening to what I’m saying about God’s perfect love and then going home and trying to figure out a way to do it in the flesh, you’re dead. It’s not going to happen. Your love will fail…Human love is failing over and over again…and the love that should be God’s love shed abroad in our hearts is being substituted with what the world has to offer and that love will always fail somewhere… But when you have God’s love shed abroad in your hearts it can have the quality that is given here (love never fails)… Christian love is that which God gives to us when we come to him ask for it. How can we be kind to those that are unkind to us? Humanly we can’t. But if you have God’s love in you he will give you the strength to love those people in his love even though humanly you could not do that.”
Lord, thank you for loving me so much that you sent your son to die on the cross, for my salvation. I want to experience your love, though it is too great to understand fully. I want to love like you. Fill me with your love and control me with your Holy Spirit so that my love can be unfailing. Remind me of your presence all throughout the day. May I look to your power to supply love when my human ability to love falls short. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT) I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Below, enjoy a beautiful song by Unspoken, called “Follow Through.”
Tea is so good for you! Not only is it 0 calories, but it has been shown to boost immunity, slow cognitive decline, rev your metabolism, help relieve stress, decrease your cardiovascular risk and more!
A few weeks ago I went with some friends to visit Sensibiliteas, an ‘everything tea’ store located in the Shirt Factory building in downtown Glens Falls. The hundreds of teas lining the wall of the store was impressive as the picture above shows. We spent quite some time listening to Ben talk to us about tea in general, and their store in particular. What an eye opener! Here are a few things I learned during our visit:
All tea comes from the tea leaf, or camellia sinensis. The differences in tea quality are directly related to how the leaves are processed. There is no such thing as decaf tea leaf tea. Decaf tea is simply processed tea, and the actual processing of the tea removes some of the valuable antioxidants (called catechins). Same goes for powdered forms of tea.
Many bagged teas are low quality. This is partly due to the fact that producers use machines to harvest the leaves. The highest quality teas are hand picked.
A simple way to take the a significant amount of caffeine from your tea is to seep it for 30 seconds, toss that water and then seep fresh hot water.
If you seep your tea for too long, tannins are released and your tea might taste bitter. I learned that the hard way just the other day. Yuk! For best results, steep your tea for at least three minutes and squeeze the bag at the end. Try to avoid adding milk or cream, which can bind tea’s beneficial compounds and make them less effective. On the other hand, if you add lemon or lime, you can enhance absorption of catechins.
Teas do expire over time and lose some of their beneficial nutrients, especially when exposed to light or moisture. Store your tea in a dry, dark place. Tins or ball jars are simple and effective storage containers.
Many popular loose leaf tea companies have artificial flavors and colors in their teas and/or added sugar. No wonder my family always thought that Teavana tea tasted so good!
Three types of tea:
White: the least processed and therefore has the highest levels of antioxidants.
Green: less caffeine than black tea and about 50 percent as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Matcha is green tea ground into a powder. Be careful as the caffeine is more concentrated!
Black: has 75 percent as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
When preparing tea, for best results, steep it for at least 3 minutes. Be wary of adding milk or cream as studies have shown that these liquids bind to tea’s beneficial compounds and diminish their antioxidant effect. Adding a twist of lemon or lime, however, is beneficial as the vitamin C in citrus can increase the absorption of catechins up to three fold!
Here are a few things I learned about Sensibiliteas in the Shirt Factory building in downtown Glens Falls:
They have over 500 teas to choose from! Most of their teas are $3 for one ounce. One ounce makes about 10 cups of tea. The more you buy the more you save with their discount incentive.
Some of their teas have a designated charity, so when you purchase it you are also giving to a local cause such as the South High Marathon, WAIT house, etc.
You can bring your own container to them to have it filled.
They sell tea supplies, tins and so much more.
If you bring a bagged tea from home to them, they can try to match the ingredients for you.
They are open from 11 – 5 Tuesday through Thursday and on Saturdays from 10-5.
Have you ever woken up after what you feel was an adequate number of hours of sleep, but didn’t feel rested?
My husband and I have had discussions about this over recent months, and it’s a question well worth diving into.
Sleep is so important – for energy, learning, focus, efficiency, growth, healing, efficient fat burning, muscle retention, cancer prevention, and so much more. Shawn Stevenson, author of “Sleep Smarter”, in an interview as part of the Focus Productivity Summit, stated that he believes sleep is more important for your overall health than nutrition and exercise combined. I believe it. He stated three facts about sleep that are worth noting:
Our brains will lose information if we do not get enough sleep,.
Lack of sleep makes it easier for us to lose focus.
A good night of sleep will make us noticeably more efficient.
So many of us simply don’t get enough. Or, we do get enough, but it’s, as Stevenson termed it, ‘twinkie’ sleep. That term just stuck with me. What does he mean by ‘twinkie?’. When it comes to eating, we have learned over time that it’s not simply about the balance between the number of calories in and calories out. We have to consider the quality of the calories or our health will suffer tremendously. Same goes for sleep. It is not simply about the number of hours of sleep we get each night. It’s also importantly about the quality of the sleep we get. 8 hours of poor quality sleep is like eating a certain number of calories of a toxic twinkie – both have a negative impact on our health.
I’m realizing that, though I get enough sleep when I count up the hours, it is most definitely twinkie sleep, and here is a major reason why:
The big ‘no no’ that my husband told me I was guilty of is looking at a blue light screen before bed. The artificial blue light emitted by screens actually tricks our bodies into thinking it’s daytime and not only does this trigger an increase in daytime hormones like cortisol but it suppresses melatonin. Stevenson, in his book, “Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success,” cites a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that found that the use of light-emitting electronic devices in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness and the circadian clock that synchronizes the daily rhythm of sleep. In the study, iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night, secreted less melatonin and had shorter REM sleep compared to test subjects who were assigned to read regular printed books. AND, the iPad readers were more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full 8 hours of sleep. No wonder I was feeling so tired some days after getting ‘enough’ sleep!
Obviously sleep is a huge topic and I’ve only addressed a small but relevant portion of it as it has impacted my life and my health. I know I’m not alone in the ‘blue light’ struggle. All I need to do is look around me to know that it is an issue in many homes. In light of this information, what are some good next steps? Shawn Stevenson says that the best decision is to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize. I’m working on that, for both myself and my kids. My next best step after I learned all of this was to adjust the settings on my iphone and my ipad so that the blue light is turned off at a designated time. I was discouraged to find that my phone, an apple 5C, doesn’t have this capability. So I made the decision to keep it away from my bedside at night. Then it broke, and my new phone is set to turn the blue light off at 8 PM every night. Love it! http://www.imore.com/night-shift If you have a Mac, there is a free application called f.lux that automatically eliminates the problematic blue light from your computer screen at a certain time each day. You can get similar things for your smartphone and other devices too. I encourage you to think more about your sleep and your screen habits before bed. And if you have kids, set the night shift on their devices immediately. If you can’t figure it out, as your 5 year old and he/she will probably be able to show you 🙂 It will only take a minute and will reap huge health benefits immediately!!
If you are interested in learning more about sleep, here are some helpful links:
A few weeks ago my 11 year old daughter, Haven, and I were talking about this blog and she asked if I could post something that she wrote. When I asked her if she had anything in mind, she told me that she wanted to share what she has written about worry. So, here it is, a post from my beautiful, real, courageous daughter, on a topic that is close to the hearts of so many children and adults.
My Worry by Haven
I struggle with worry. When you worry a lot it’s hard to look at yourself and say, “You’re worth it, you’re loved and your beautiful.” It’s easier to say, You’re stupid, you are dumb, you are ugly.” Sometimes I feel as if I need to give up on myself.
I’ve worried ever since I was six or seven. It’s hard to manage all the negative thoughts in your head. My mom and dad have been the parents to have through this situation. My mom has always given me sayings and verses to memorize. This is an example of a verse: I prayed to the Lord and he answered me he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4). An example of a saying is: faith not fear, hope not worry. My dad also supports me in all of this because when I’m sad he makes me laugh or tickle me. Both my parents comfort me in the night when I wake up in the middle of the night scared or with a big headache. The reason I wake up with a big headache is because I get scared in the night and it overwhelms me with bad thoughts. I’m always afraid of everything. I can make something that is not dangerous, dangerous in my head.
I still have trouble with anxiety but my mom told me something to remember. She told me fear is…
When my mom told me that it helped me a lot.
I went to a concert on November 14th, 2016. It was awesome. At the end me and my mom were going around to all the singers for autographs. Once we got Darren from We Are Messengers we asked him to sign a CD for a friend. Right as we asked him he turned to me and said, “Let go of your worries and fears because you are God’s daughter and He made you beautiful.” We hadn’t told him that I struggle with worry. It was just God sending a message to me through him. This helped me a lot because I feel as if God sent that message through him and that I am BEAUTIFUL!
I still struggle with worry but know I know God is with me and I am loved!!!!!!
A long time ago I was listening to David Jeremiah preach on the topic of fear. He asked what the opposite of fear is. Immediately I thought of the word trust. His response was not trust but LOVE. I’m going to have to paraphrase here the notes I wrote in my Bible that day because they had such an impact on my soul: “Just as a child with a nightmare will run to someone that loves him/her, God wants us to throw ourselves into his arms because He is our father. When we understand how much God loves us, when we grab hold of that truth, we will not be afraid.” David Jeremiah spoke this truth to me. Darren spoke this truth to Haven and she received it and responded to it in such a beautiful way.
My prayer for my daughter, and for anyone reading this that struggles with worry or anxiety, is this: Lord, you tell us in your Word that there is no fear in love and that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Thank you for loving us with your perfect love. Help us to not just have a head knowledge of that love, but to understand exactly what that means as we get to know you more and more. Transform our hearts and her minds with your love. Teach us to answer with prayer whenever worries come knocking on the door of our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
LIVE LIKE YOU’RE LOVED! HIS LOVE HAS MADE YOU MORE THAN ENOUGH!!!!
You might say I’m on a wellness kick of sorts. With 2017 right around the corner, now is a great time to both look back in reflection and to look forward in hopeful anticipation of new growth and change in our hearts and lives. I developed a foundations worksheet last year and have been using it as I guide as I think through my personal and wellness goals for 2017. I think it’s important to take time to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are right now and where we want to be. Here’s a link to the worksheet.
I deliberately decided to name it 2017 Foundations rather than 2017 Resolutions. 🙂 As I am working through it I am prayerfully thinking about my long term goals in the important areas of my life to give me direction, but choosing to really focus on my short term goals and, more specifically, my very next steps. I hope you find it helpful.
As we head into the new year I’m hoping to begin a 12 week series that focuses on wellness – soul, spirit and body. I’ll be sharing resources from time to time, both here and on Facebook. For now, I just want to encourage you to check out an amazing ministry that has encouraged me in my wellness journey. It’s called Faithful Workouts. http://www.faithfulworkouts.com/ Michelle Spadafora, the founder and heart of this ministry, has written a book that I will be using as a foundation when we dive into our wellness series in Jan or Feb. It’s called, “Reignite – Glow With Physical and Spiritual Health.” You can purchase it from her web site or from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/ReIgnite-Physical-Spiritual-Health-study/dp/1329988515/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482863266&sr=8-1&keywords=reignite+spadafora and follow along with us, whether or not you will be able to meet with us in person here in the Lake George area.
I heard the dreaded thump on the window mid morning and turned to see a small bird laying face down on the deck. My heart sunk. I called my son to the door and immediately began to think about a plan for saving it. After grabbing a broom, dustpan and cardboard box I picked up my phone to do some quick research. As I frantically googled, “How to rescue an injured bird”, and started planning out loud our next steps, Cole walked out the door and approached the bird. It flipped onto it’s back and looked as though it was about to die. I kept googling. Cole then crouched down and gently picked up the bird in his hands. He carried it to the door and held it in his hand. All we could do at that point was stare in amazement at the beautiful bird. It looked peaceful as it simply rested in Cole’s hands for quite some time.
And then it flew away.
The next thought I had was about my striving in contrast to what Cole instinctively knew to do – lift it up and hold it in his hand until it had the strength to fly again.
It has been close to a month since Cole held that bird in his hand, but the image has come to my mind more and more these days. As Christmas approaches, the struggles of life don’t get put on hold. For some, they are magnified. And I want fix. And God reminds me that though I can’t fix, I can reach out my hands to others in kindness, love and support and point them to the hope that is found in Christ.
Lord, thank you for this powerful reminder. This Christmas, and always, give us hands that hold, hands that serve, and hands that love. Amen.
Christmas is one of the most anticipated times of the year, a season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, take time to bless others, enjoy Christmas traditions, spend time with friends and loved ones, and so much more.
Let’s be real, though. Often the peace, the joy, and all that we long for as we anticipate Christ’s birth get lost in the shuffle of, well, the shuffle. Christmas joy can easily be replaced with Christmas stress as we try to pack into our already busy lives decorating, shopping, baking, caroling, wrapping, cookie making, card writing, traveling, fighting traffic, church services, work parties, family parties, school parties, etc. Add to that other stressors such as the financial stress that comes with gift giving, relationship stress within families, and sickness that doesn’t get put on hold for the holidays and suddenly the joy of Christmas is replaced with STRESS. And this stress can have a long-lasting impact on our bodies, our souls, our spirits and our relationships.
It probably won’t surprise you that…
A study published in Circulation shows that cardiac deaths are highest on Dec. 25, followed by Dec. 26 and New Year’s day.
Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season, have a harder time relaxing during the holidays, are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.
During the holidays people in the United States are much more likely to say they behave in sedentary ways, like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress. Many individuals engage in comfort eating and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their stress levels.
On a positive note, the APA survey also found that for most people in our country the New Year offers hope and a reminder that there is always opportunity for change and self-improvement. In the New Year, most individuals would like to improve their health or lose weight, get their finances in order, or improve their relationships with family or a significant other. I believe with all of my heart that our hope is not in the New Year. How long do our resolutions really last anyway? Our hope is in Christ, who loves us and desires us to be well- soul, spirit and body- right now in the midst of it all. The easiest thing to do over the holidays is to ignore our health, telling ourselves, “ It’s the holiday season. I’ll start over in January.” Believe me, I’ve been there one too many times.
The thought of adding wellness to the list of holiday ‘to dos’ can feel so overwhelming, unrealistic and impossible, so much so that the temptation might be to give up before even starting. But what if we decide to focus on a just a few decisions that we can make, or even just one, that will move us in the direction of the wellness we so desire. Like a snowball effect, our many small decisions over time will, over time, build upon themselves, leading to big changes in our lives.
Listed below are some ideas, some places to start, that I hope you will find helpful. Each begins with the letter P, for peace, which is the opposite of the stress that we don’t need or desire. I will be reminding myself of these Ps each day, and inviting God to direct my steps in the midst of my Christmas busyness.
Ps for peace, not stress this Christmas season
Focus on what really matters. Make Christ your first priority. To help organize your other priorities, take time to identify six areas of your life that demand your attention during the holidays. Then, list them in order of priority. Keep a visual image of your priorities in an area you will see often as a reminder for you as you think, pray and plan.
Invite the Lord into your days.
My prayer: Lord, we desire to have a joyful Christmas and we want to stay well through the hustle and bustle of this season. Help us to identify the things that threaten to steal our joy this Christmas and do what needs to be done to prevent this from happening. Remind us of what’s truly important when we begin to feel caught up in the materialism and the pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Help us to slow down enough to think and to plan now, before the whirlwind begins. We know that a little planning goes a long way and will help us to keep stress levels down. Help us each day to seek you first, trusting that you will give us everything we need. Infuse us with your love and grace, Lord, and show us who we can bless this season with a touch of Christmas love. Amen.
A little preparation goes a long way. A great place to start is by making a holiday dump list. Simply take a piece of paper and spend a good chunk of time dumping all of your Christmas thoughts – your to dos, to gets, to gos, to gives, etc. onto it. Getting it all out can actually help to bring focus to your cluttered mind. Once you’ve done this, you can use this big picture as a starting point as you prioritize and plan each item into your days and weeks. Keep your list of priorities in mind as you plan, and remember Matthew 6:33, which reminds you to seek first the Kingdom of God above all else trusting that He will give you everything you need.
Press the pause button each day by taking the time for short breathers. They are so important. Also, it’s extremely important to decide from the start not to burn the candle from both ends by getting up earlier and staying up later in the name of getting it all done. Choosing not to sleep will backfire on you! Studies have shown that lack of sleep negatively impacts your mood and state of mind, leads to decreased focus and motivation, makes you less inclined to exercise, more inclined to eat more and drink more, and makes you less focused and efficient during the day. Who wants all that??!!!
PLAY OUT THE TAPE
Before making decisions, play out the tape in your mind and ask yourself, if I do this/eat this/say yes to this then ____________. If I don’t do this/eat this/say yes to this then _____________. Challenge yourself to say yes to healthy decisions and no to unhealthy ones, not perfectly, but more often than not.
Psalm 92:1-2 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
I love what Ann Voskamp says about thanks:
“If gratitude is an antidote for anxiety…
and giving thanks is a real cure for stress —
why relegate thanksgiving to a holiday when giving thanks can revolutionize our whole lives?”
I encourage you to read her entire blog post on the topic of thanksgiving in the midst of stress, called, “Because Thanksgiving is more than a holiday.”
As for praising through song, simply let Christmas music fill your home and your mind. Think about what the lyrics of each song mean. Find a Christmas playlist on YouTube and listen to it while you do your daily tasks. I’ve linked a few Christmas songs throughout this post for you to enjoy.
Have fun, laugh, and enjoy family. This one’s admittedly the hardest one for me to do in the midst of my daily to dos, and it’s high on my list of priorities this month. You can be praying for me in this area 🙂
In the spirit of fun, here’s a fun version of Joy to the World by Pentatonix.
PAY IT FORWARD
What a gift we celebrate this Christmas- the gift of Christ. For God so loved us all that he gave us his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life! (John 3:16). God loves us so much and this season, may you receive that love and, in turn, share the love and light of Christ with others. Little things mean so much. A letter. A phone call. A kind gesture. Reaching out to someone that God puts on your heart.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and blessed Christmas season.