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The way I have always experienced the holidays can fit into one of two categories: overwhelmed or underwhelmed.
Anyone else agree?
As a child, it was often an overwhelming sense of joy, magic, and wonder. In the rigid teenage years, I’ll admit I was underwhelmed by what laid under the tree for me, but nevertheless sought after the magic of the dreamy holiday times. Now, the more we’ve grown as a society, it’s almost felt as if the very merry holiday season has become more condensed and packed with activities, assignments, hopes, expectations, price tags, stressors, and life-seasoned celebrations (like the “we’re officially really actually adults, engagements and pregnancy announcements-life stage) than ever.
While I am absolutely blessed to have an unbroken family of happy and healthy humans, we are a very small tribe. Growing up, small felt mighty and full, but as adulthood has officially and completely leveled up our family, with marriages and babies, long distance friendships and work obligations, we seem to be getting pulled in varying directions physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a single woman, styled with independence and a sense of adventure, I feel such deep, contrasting emotional shifts as the holiday season erupts and trudges forward.
I feel unsteady in my own mind. My brain feels unrested and I am drowning in constant thoughts, from profound to truly dim, like “What does eternity mean and do I fully understand the concept of afterlife and heaven?” to “Why does my hair curl differently on the left than it does on the right?” and “Does a straw have one hole or two?”
And yet a sense of peace in the coming conclusion of another year. Although only the numeric year changes and we still own the responsibilities of who we are and who we are becoming, there is a sense of restoration and refreshment with the incoming of a new year. Things may not be beginning anew, but hopefulness and motivation are reclaimed. It’s the opportunity to take whatever burnout the previous year has left you with and find a new spark to churn into a beautiful new flame. It’s also an opening to get centered with Jesus and invite Him to walk with you into the new year, to pray that in the new year you walk toward His blessings, and that He gives you the discernment to steward your time and talents honorably.
But before the peace can wash over us in the setting of a new year, we have to recognize (and rest from) our holiday experiences. For me, this Christmas was simplified: Christmas gifts were merged with birthdays, festive decor wasn’t fussed over or even bothered with, and the typical activities that declare winter as the Christmas season were left unattended. Overwhelmed by work and some of the stressors and unforeseen hardships that stormed in whilst experiencing a profound, serene loneliness, missing the friends who moved their lives forward in new cities, I was gifted the opportunity to not only take on more trips and adventures, but to draw closer to God as my shield in battle and wisdom in meditation.
Despite the joys and blessings I experienced this Christmas, I still processed the holiday to be completely underwhelming. It was December – not advent, not Christmas.
Woah… the redemption of His words being planted in my heart set me free from the expectations laid out by shopping lists and packed schedules (or even lack thereof). To sit with Him, processing the emotions that weave together how we experience the Christmas season is a privilege, but nevertheless a great challenge.
Did you extend personal invitations to Jesus to join you in every intentionally wrapped gift and themed juncture? Where did you see Him, feel Him, celebrate Him for the less-than simple gift of His abundant love?
As we wind down and begin plucking the seasonal decor from their shelves and positioning snazzy gifts received into their new homes within our lives, we are being met with emotions that deserve to be processed and the profound opportunity to process them with the Lord.
Whether you tagged your holiday with feelings of anticipation, excitement, bliss, peace, contentment, hesitation, grief, anxiousness, stress, or disappointment, God has so much for you in the remaining days ahead.
As Salt has embraced reflection through guided Listening Prayers this season, I too have been more intentionally focused in on the power of prayer. With that, I leave you with two prayers and encouragements, whether you felt overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or possibly experienced both.
You stressed, you shopped, you served up whatever pieced together version of yourself you could manage and now you are exhausted. Or maybe, you were just overwhelmed by your own complex emotions that you have worn daily, through the season or the year as a whole. Whatever version of overwhelmed flooded over you, it is time to DECOMPRESS.
We have direct access to the Maker andProtector of Peace. Philippians refers to “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.” With Him, all feelings of being overwhelmed may not evaporate from our life, but it equips us with fierce, withstanding faith. It can give us courage to conquer circumstances that are not of His glory, set boundaries, and extend forgiveness. It is our oxygen mask in the fires of life.
You are not destined or designed for a life of chaotic stress, insecurity, or anxiety. Allow your heart to rest in the bed of peace the Father of the universe has created specifically for you.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
I pray that you are embraced by peace that swallows every feeling of stress or anxiety that you carried through the holiday and through the year. As you process the winding down emotions, may the Lord bless you with grace and encouragement. May you feel guided by His wisdom and restored in His love. I pray Jesus wraps you in His careful hands, uplifts your spirit, and offers you the joy, hope, love, and peace that can only be found in Him.
Maybe this year is the first year of holiday traditions that let you down, or maybe it’s just another in a series of disappointments. If enthusiasm was muted and festive decadence was exchanged for simplicity, all the while the “same old same old” carried on, as you managed expectations, or rather disappointments, it’s time to will enthusiasm into EXPECTANCY.
Friend, you are the child of the most high God who was, is, and is to COME. Not only is He not yet finished with His work amongst the world, but He is not finished working within YOU. If that does not stir excitement within your heart, let this: He has the power to break through even the most disappointing and painful of seasons. Have you ever seen a dandelion break through a crack in the concrete? You will be released and emerged into your appointed greatness. Be patient with yourself and give your trust to the architect who’s plans are nothing but perfect and in perfect timing.
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed…. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” – Romans 8:19, 22-24
I pray your discouragement turns to forgiveness, your grief turns to empathy, your loneliness turns into trust, your contentment or indifference to unbound motivation, and your questioning turns to expectancy all in His HOPE. As the post-Christmas emotions stir within you, I pray the Lord grant you with serenity and anticipation that leads you with grace into the new year.
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