Girlfriends in God - Nov. 6, 2008

November 6, 2008 
Are You Ready for the Holidays? 
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth 
Luke 2:16-20 (NIV) “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.”

Friend to Friend 
Are you ready for the holidays?  For some people, that question spurs exciting thoughts of beautifully decorated tables filled with scrumptious meals, festive shopping trips, extended family time, brightly wrapped gifts under a tree … the “Walton” kind of holiday.  For others, the holiday season is a very difficult and dark time that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.  According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week.  During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the "holiday blues".  I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit. 

Depression is an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual disorder.  Something is out of balance.  We have buried some pain instead of confronting it.  We have misplaced our trust and sought help from impotent sources.  In order to deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total and complete surrender to God and His plan of healing – even if we cannot see or do not understand that plan.  The bottom line of God’s heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.  

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching a few select home improvement shows.  On a recent program, an interior decorator and home owner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.  “First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced.  I was surprised that she had listed this task first – until I saw the house.  The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold but was thick and chunky as well.  The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out.  The result was a dark, isolated home.  The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy.  And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed.”  When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way. 

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high.  We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain.  The result is darkness, loneliness and missed opportunities for restoration.  We don’t want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.  Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level – refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships and, in general, the broken places where darkness lives.  We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too much to pay.  Emotional integrity is an essential step to recognizing, understanding and dealing with depression.  We must be real before we can be right, and until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.    

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place or push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide.  The arrival of family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved.  Financial pressure opens up like a sink hole waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace.  Schedules demand every ounce of energy and false expectations leave us empty and hollow.  Before we realize it, the dark, slimy pit swallows us up.  It is not supposed to be that way, girlfriend! Now is the time to do something about it!

Thanksgiving can be a time of praise if we choose to focus on the victories and joys we have experienced during the year and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others. Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings, if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life.  The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds.  Right now, get ready for the holidays by choosing an attitude of joy, by focusing your mind on the things of heaven – not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ

Let’s Pray 
Father, I want this holiday season to one that is filled with light instead of darkness.  Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as with my family and friends.  Give me the courage to be obedient to You in every holiday setting.  Give me eyes to see those You bring into my life that need my encouragement because they are on the same journey.  Father, prepare and enable me to make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn 
Take a few moments to re-visit the holiday season of 2007. 

  • What was the best part of those holidays for you?  Why?  
    • List three changes you would like to make this year.  
      • What is the first step you need to take to make those changes happen?  

      Read Luke 2:1-16. Answer the following questions after reading the Christmas story.

      • What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?  
        • How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus’ birth?  What did they do?  
          • How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary?  How can your choice to “ponder” on the miracles of Jesus’ birth change your perspective of the holidays?

          Write a letter of commitment to Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made concerning this holiday season.  Make a step-by-step plan or a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life.  Include your family in making this plan and make the commitment to hold each other accountable.

          More From Your Girlfriends 
          Can you believe the holidays are already here?  I have been on a diligent search this year – to discover the secrets of having the best and most Christ-centered holidays of my life.  I am excited about my NEW MP3, How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas, and believe it will help you learn how to prevent and control holiday stress, how to give God the gifts He wants to receive from us and how to give ten wonderful gifts without spending a dime.  Download it today!

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Originally published Thursday, 06 November 2008.