How are you doing this holiday season? Are you looking forward to it? Chomping at the bit to get out and buy those gifts and have family over? Or are you dreading the stress and strain?
U.S. home foreclosures for the third quarter of 2010 were 1 in 139 – a huge figure – so I think I can be pretty sure that a large number of people reading this are struggling financially in some way. I’m going to be very transparent in this post. We all have struggles, and I’m not going to pretend our family is any different at this present time. After all, we all need to know we’re not alone.
I’ve been feeling for a while now that my husband and I have been involuntarily enrolled in what I call “God’s school.” We’ve been hit by this trial and that trial over the last several years, and I know for a fact that we’re supposed to be learning something from it all and not just sitting and wallowing while waiting for the sky to finish falling.
The other day, my oldest son (18) asked me what my least favorite month was. His was November because, here in the Pacific Northwest, everything outdoors is blah…gray skies, a lot of rain, and temps that still aren’t cold enough to snow. When he asked me for my response, I said, “December.” His jaw dropped as if to say, “That’s almost inhuman!” I explained that I just didn’t enjoy that month anymore because of all the stress. In fact, I dreaded it.
Now, what kind of impact did that make on my son? Sure, he’s 18, but still impressionable and still looking to me and his dad for examples in how to live. I wish I’d clapped my hand over my mouth or just fumbled through and said, “I like all the months.” Seriously – there’s nothing wrong with December or Christmas. The problem is with me and my way of looking at it.
When your kids are grown, and they look back on their lives, what will their memories be of the holidays you spent together? They may or may not remember that your family struggled financially, or the things they had to do without. If you make a big deal about it, sure…they might remember. It depends on what your focus is, how big a deal you make of it, and what you talk about. What’s your attitude? What emotions about your situation do you let your children see? Do you want them to look back and remember you as a nervous wreck, someone who was constantly depressed and despairing, or someone who tried to make the best of every situation?
Is your sadness evident on your face, or do you cheer them with a smile? (How easily we adults forget what it’s like to be a child. They feel stress, anxiety, and despair just like we do, and they feel it deeply.)
Life, after all, is full of hills and valleys. It’s like we’re each in our own car, travelling through. We don’t stay in the valleys forever…though some people tend to stop their cars and stay in the valleys longer than they should (that’s called giving up and wallowing). Life is up and down. When you’re down, have faith that the “up” will be coming soon. Start your “car” and get moving.
What you display about your situation is what your children will remember. Whether they look back and remember stress or happiness is up to you – it’s under your control. You don’t have to have a beautiful home and the ability to give them everything they ask for…you simply need to make sure that you’ve decided to be content no matter what your situation is. That is what they’ll remember.
Happy memories can be made from anything. I never lived in a grand home as a child, and it didn’t matter to me. What I do remember are the situations that made an impression on me…and the memories my parents made for me, whether they were good or bad.
I often fall into the trap of thinking that if I can’t do such-and-such with and/or for my kids, it’s not worth doing at all, and many times I find myself sulking about it deeply before I know what’s hit me. That’s just stinkin’ thinkin’ and it’s a bad habit of mine. I am determined to do things differently this year:
I’m going to cheerfully give to others out of what I have – however much it is – and teach my kids to do the same.
I’m going to stare in wonder with my four-year-old at the first snowflake of the season and not let other worries overshadow that little bit of joy.
I’m going to smile whether I feel like it or not.
When I feel like panicking over holiday stress, whatever its cause, I’m going to eat chocolate (just thought I’d throw that in there).
When a negative thought looms on the horizon, I’m going to “flip it” and repeat the opposite (positive) version, instead. If that isn’t possible, I’ll replace that thought with a positive thought of some kind.
I’m going to remember my priorities this holiday season: God, husband, children, others. I’m not going to let drama caused by others disrupt my spiritual peace or the good memories I plan on creating with my hubby and kids. And isn’t the holiday season the time when drama rises up? Why is that? The holidays are happier when we don’t pay attention to it or let it steal our joy.
Finally, I’m going to fill my mind with good things. We may be in different places spiritually, and that’s okay. For me, one way I fill my mind with “good things” is by reading the Bible (I’ve heard it described as the best success book around…and that’s true – it’s full of great principles).
Another way I like to fill my mind with good things is by listening to podcasts that are encouraging. Most are free on iTunes, and some you can even listen to online. I love Zig Ziglar, et al., and my new favorite is a business trainer named Dani Johnson (you don’t have to have a business to listen to her – you’ll be encouraged and inspired all the same). Listening to my favorite music is another way…talking with someone who’s positive and encouraging can help, too.
I’m going to go out of my way to make special memories with my kids: visiting Santa, making cookies, taking walks in the snow (we’re supposed to have more of the white stuff this winter…unusual for Seattle). I’m going to take my kids to Starbucks at least once this holiday season. I’m going to watch sappy, romantic Christmas movies with my husband. I’m going to drink apple cider with whipped cream and not worry about the calories.
I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. I would really love to hear about the memories you’re deciding to make this season, so please share!
And stayed tuned in the coming days — I’ll be sharing with you more ways to make the holidays bright, not just for yourself and your family, but for the less fortunate (because there’s always someone less fortunate than ourselves). Focusing on others is the perfect way to get your joy back.
Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at , a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at , and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by .
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by Dani Johnson. I am currently reading this very motivational and encouraging book and am having a hard time putting it down. I strongly believe it’s a must-read for EVERY parent!