Beating Holiday Stress

Written by Melissa Miller

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…… everywhere you go…” As I write this, there are 42 days till Christmas- the most wonderful time of the year!

I remember loving the time between the Thanksgiving kick off and Christmas break. There were the special traditions that each family has to mark this time of year.  

Eventually, I was blessed to get married during Christmas to a wonderful husband who has a December birthday.  We had our first baby who was, you guessed it, a Christmas gift who fit neatly under the tree. Add in three other family December birthdays, Christmas activities, recitals, kids productions,  parties, church services and oh yes- the birth of our Savior. You know the list, you have one too.  How do you juggle it all, do the shopping, stay connected all while having a smile on your face and joy in your heart?  

Maybe you don’t have an overscheduled season, but one filled with other struggles.  Financial, relational and emotional stresses can cause anxiety and bring up past hurts leaving you feeling drained and joyless.

I woke up one holiday season overwhelmed, stressed and depressed.

The Bible tells us in John 10:10, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

If this was the season where the angels were shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,” (Luke 2:14), why did I feel so drained of it?

The devil was robbing me of my joy. There is another quote nationally renowned speaker Phyllis Wallace shares that says, “If satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.  If we learn to say “No” to good things, we are able to say “Yes” to better things God sends our way.”

I was so busy trying to meet everyone’s expectations, even with good things, that the joy was gone.

I had a choice to make that year, I could become a Grinch and cancel Christmas, or I could find a different way with God to navigate through this season.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 is one of my life verses that I found myself going back to.  “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

As I prayed that prayer and asked God for direction leading up to this season, He dropped two action steps onto my heart.   The first step was to find out what truly meant Christmas to my family.  Did stopping at the mall to see Santa and ride the train fit any longer or was that just a source of stress and frustration trying to schedule another Christmas to-do?

I was surprised at the simplicity of the traditions that made the list. Clearing away the pieces that didn’t hold a significant importance was a tremendous gift of freedom. We could invest time in the best traditions and let go of the rest. This created time and space to even discover new traditions that fit well and we all enjoy.

The second step related to how I approached our calendar.  In past years, adding all the events and obligations seemed like an organizational win until I looked and every square was full.  Then feelings of frustration, being overwhelmed and sadness would take over.  All the full blocks left no time for spontaneous activities or rest.  We were left ragged, exhausted and sick because we were trying to do to much.

By adding what was important and cutting the rest, our calendar actually had a few blank boxes.

But God doesn’t want us to just run a Christmas marathon. We are designed to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the peace and joy He brings.

During this transformational process, I read somewhere about praying through your daily calendar and appointments.  I felt like God prompted me to take this approach with our month.  So I wrote down day by day every event, activity and celebration along with a short prayer for each one.  I kept those in my journal and my daughter and I also created a Christmas countdown chain.  I could then pray over the whole month and we, as a family, could pray intentionally for the specific event highlighted on the chain each day.

God’s grace appeared time after time during that season.  By turning our calendar over to God, allowing Him to guide and shape these celebrations and activities,  I was able to see His fingerprints more clearly every day.  He increased my joy, my effectiveness, my capacity, the experiences and the relationships. He did what only He can do when we invite Him in and partner with the Almighty.

Praying through our Christmas season allowed us all to put the focus back on our relationship with God and the true meaning of the season.

Your calendar and chain will look different.  It might be full of names, situations, financial and healing miracle requests, prodigal children or new directions.  

I encourage you, if you are walking into the holidays with a heaviness, press into the only One who can lift it, the One who was sent at Christmas to free us.  Get back to what truly matters to the heart of God, which is your relationship with Him.  He is the perfect holiday planner because He goes before us always!

A very blessed, peaceful and joyful Christmas season to you!

Melissa Miller
is the Welcome Team Director at the Allison Park Church Hampton Campus. During weekend services she can be seen shaking hand and dishing out hugs.  At home she is hugging her hubby of 17 years and their 3 amazing kiddos.  The front door is always open so they can all “Practice Hospitality!”