Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving, by virtue of its name and history, is a time when we all remember to be more grateful -- or, at least that's the idea.

It's important to keep this thankful focus throughout the holiday season. Of course, for the person who walks with the Lord, gratitude should be a 365 day of the year way of life. In some ways, this is even easier during December and early January, because this time offers so many opportunities to experience joy.

On the other hand, the holidays can be a trying time. For me, the temptation is to fret about how much I have to do and about unexpected family needs that keep popping up, despite my efforts to keep things running on schedule. You'd think I'd remember that God has always been gracious to me and I that He always works things out. In twenty-seven years of Christmases together, dear hubby and I have never had a holiday ruined because of something on my to-do list that didn't get done.

Without realizing it, I've been following one of Mrs. Fussypant's sure-fire suggestion for making yourself (and others) miserable: constantly remind people about how overloaded your schedule is. What do you know? It works. But, who needs misery? It's time to repent.

For other people, holiday stress may come from missing loved ones who cannot be home for the holidays, not being able to go home yourself, dealing with old family hurts that need to be healed, wondering how to work out holiday plans to please both sets of in-laws, or loneliness that seems all the more hurtful because everyone else is surrounded by family and friends.

Even secular psychologists recognize the value of taking a few minutes each day to be grateful. Last year at this time, an expert advised people who were feeling holiday stress to spend two minutes a day reflecting on the good things in their life.

Because God knows our nature and the nature of our temptations, his word if full of commands to praise Him, to rejoice, to be thankful, and to fix our thoughts on him. If we thank and praise God only when things are going well, then we are really praising our circumstances and not the Lord's essential glory. God is God, whether whether our current lot is easy or tough. He is worthy of our praise no matter what is happening in our lives. If we learn to praise him consistently, we will be training our minds to focus on him, instead of letting our thoughts just drift along on the winds of life. He promises that if we keep our minds stayed on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace.

This post came about because I noticed my neglected gratitude journal lying on my desk. Now, my journal is not the only venue that I use for thanking and praising God. However, there is something about the act of writing a gratitude list that cements it in my mind. So, for the next few weeks, I'm going to take it up again.

Singing is another great way to express our gratitude. And, what better time is there to sing than at Christmas? Don't we all want to be the wife and mother who hums or sings as she goes about her day, filling the house with music rather than whining. To this day, I remember the way my mother often sang when she performed some little task, such as washing the dishes. A woman's songs can have a powerful impact on the mood of her family.


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