‘Tis the season! Even though I say this, I am really not sure exactly of the meaning. I don’t really talk that way any other time of the year either. I don’t say, “‘Tis the summer,” for example. Many times, I catch myself just moving through the motions during the holidays, never really thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the welcoming warmth of what traditions bring. I am saying, though, that giving some intentional thought before the main event of the celebration season begins may help as you move through them.
1. Steal the little moments.
No joke, I have had the exact same Christmas tree for the past 15 years. THE EXACT SAME decorations, theme, colors, ribbons, etc. Every year, I say, “I’m going to change this year.” Every year I am in too much of a rush to get the tree up after Thanksgiving or don’t want to spare the expense on decor instead of the many other gifts needing to be bought. This year, however, I finally changed my tree. You might say I was forced to. With a new kitten in the house who climbs everything, I went out and bought all new PLASTIC balls! We do get caught up in planning the big meal, finding the perfect gifts, buying the matching family pajamas for the whole family (guilty!), decorating the home inside and out that we miss the little things.
My oldest son is one of my favorite people on the planet. As a 21 year old college student, he is moving on with his life and when he infrequently visits home, his time naturally is divided with the many high school friends he wants to catch up with. However, we pulled away the other night, just the two of us for dinner. I learned a long time ago, that if you feed him, he is all in. As I sat across from him, I noticed. I noticed how much he has grown into a man. I noticed his quick wit. I noticed his eyes lighting up when he talked about the fun times he is having in his life. I noticed his willingness to share his life lessons, victories and set backs. I also noticed. I noticed how I felt in that moment. The feelings of privilege and blessing that he is in my life. I purposely etched that moment in my heart and mind to bring up in future times of thoughtful reflection and gratitude. In addition to the BIG moments, don’t forget to steal the little ones.
2. Create an environment of peace.
I absolutely love, love my church. The message is always practical and relevant. I was reminded this season to bring a spirit of peace into the environments we are placed in. We might not always be in control of our environments and the other people around us, but we are absolutely in control of creating the peace within ourselves. You would be surprised how catching this can be with others. Have you seen the new Publix grocery advertisement. It is so well done and quite truthfully, with a little lump in my throat, I thought, “I want to be in that family.” If you, like so many others, have families that are complicated, I understand. The holidays are not necessarily the time to tackle the hard issues amongst friends or family members. In fact, studies show that the couples who learn the ability to hold hands even when they don’t necessarily like each other in the moment, are the ones that have longevity. Equally so, families that learn to love and play together, even when all the issues aren’t worked out, can live in more harmony. Take a moment to decide you can put unresolved issues on hiatus and choose to be the thermostat that sets the tone of peace in your environment this year.
3. Be the blessing.
If you are in a season of want, grief or loss. The holidays can feel like extra coals thrown on your head. It is hard to see others, supposedly, having perfectly happy and magical moments. Celebrating might not be the emotion in your heart this year. That is perfectly fine. Although much of the focus of this season is parties, celebration, and family gatherings, remember the real point of the holy day. This is just A DAY to celebrate our Savior, Jesus Christ. The season can be a very personal and private spiritual moment without the hoopla. Give yourself permission to pull away. Turn off social media, fast from it for a day, a week. I have recently gone through a personal season of want and loss. My prayers have been, “God, please bring "this" and "this" my way. Fill the gap and void that has presented itself in my life...”. His response, “Go be the blessing that you are asking for.” Ugh! What a lesson. By being for others what I wanted God to bring about for me, I was blessed. The void is slowly being filled. Look around you. You will always find others who have it better off than you do. If you look harder, however, you will always find another who has it a little worse than you do too. Be their blessing and you will get the overflow blessing yourself.
This Thanksgiving, as the counselor in me makes the family do the corny feeling stuff by going around the table with a question, my daughter’s was, “name your favorite memory.” As now a 25 year old adult, she reflected on her childhood as a pastor’s kid liking the fact that we always opened up our table and home to those who didn’t have one for the holiday. She actually liked the fact that sometimes strangers would show up. Wow, who knew! Glad she won’t be screwed up about that thing at least. You may want to consider being the blessing by creating some openness to others.
4. Breed gratitude in your heart.
I know, I know. You knew that one was coming. You can’t read a Christmastime blog, especially from a Christian counselor without this tip being mentioned. However, I can’t write a blog as a Christian counselor during Christmastime tips without mentioning it. In fact, it is that important to risk the cliche of it. A big dose of gratitude is the best inoculation to depression, disappointment and loneliness. You absolutely can’t feel it at the same time as the others. My whole family of five will be traveling back to my family home in Oklahoma this year. It will be the first time in at least 16 years. In fact, my youngest 16 year old son hasn’t ever been back to his grandmother’s home for Christmas. That’s embarrassing to realize and admit. Life in the ministry has been prohibitive of family travel. Christmas and Easter are like Super Bowls for pastors: very busy seasons and no holidays during the holy-days for pastors or their families. I am looking forward to just the simplicity and having all my peeps together under one roof. I am very aware that next year will be very different. Next year, my daughter will begin her surgical residency for 5 years, probably prohibiting her ability to come home. I only have one more year before my last will be out of the nest. I am grateful for this year!
I was so impressed with the life of George H. W. Bush with his most recent passing and the family reflections of him. He didn’t take the time to pen his own memoirs; however, his memoirs were penned in his letter writings to them. What a gift! This season, I have decided I want to be a letter writer too. My children will be getting a letter from me this year and every year after. So, Bailey, Jake, and Cade if you happen to be reading this (most likely not), spoiler alert! I’ve already be reflecting on what I would like to say to each of them. My heart overflows.
I am most grateful, too, for the beautiful, wonderful people I serve and work beside at Christian Counseling of South Tampa. Some of them I have been with for 10+ years, while others have just been a few months. All are my brothers and sisters in Christ and have like-minded giftedness with a true heart’s desire and gift-set of ministering to the emotionally hurting. I couldn’t be more blessed for the talented team that God has put together. Remember, we are here for you!
Dr. Shanon Roberts, Founder and Clinical Director of CCST