A Note from Chris Adams: Sometimes we can’t wait for the holidays and family activities. Other times we dread them. Families are broken, jobs are lost, health is failing, grief is fresh. In those times, the holidays can often be painful reminders of your current situation. Read today’s article from Dr. Deb Douglas (First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA) as she shares tips for how to help women navigate the holiday season when it’s a tough season.
It has begun.
We are officially in the Christmas season. Time to get ready for holly, decorations, parties, special worship events, the Christmas story, shopping, candies and desserts, baking cookies, Christmas programs, and family events. And with all this comes a very messy December.
How does the sweet, precious, most meaningful season become a very messy December?
- Unrealistic expectations: desiring the perfect movie Christmas while juggling an already hectic life is a failure waiting to happen.
- Unhealthy priorities: putting stuff before the Story. When buying the perfect gifts, having the perfect tree, and looking perfect become more important than celebrating the birth of Christ, our priorities are out of whack!
- Financial stress: spending more than can be paid off by the next Christmas.
- Exhaustion and busyness.
- Toxic family gatherings.
- And then there is loss, grief, sickness, addictions, trauma, and a plethora of other hurts.
Our role is to help women face these challenges and survive the Christmas season messiness. Let’s begin by taking on unrealistic expectations that drown and overwhelm.
- Talk about Christmas expectations. The perfect Christmas we see on television is far from the normal Christmas! Those perfect Christmases are perfectly staged by a team of people, not by one woman who balances work, family, church, and Christmas!
- The reality is that our children will remember the moments we spend together. Invest in the moments! If we are frantically working toward perfection, we overlook the treasure of relationships.
- No family is perfect. There is no rule that we have to spend all of our Christmas with family. This is especially true when our families are unhealthy emotionally.
- Screen social media. Remind women that we only see posted pictures of the perfect Christmas moments in the lives of others, not the disaster that’s going on in the background! Comparing our chaos to what we read into one screen shot sets us up for disappointment.
- Help women change focus by highlighting the Christmas story at every possible opportunity.
- Ponder on Christmas. Encourage women to spend 5 minutes a day in solitude, maybe wrapped in a blanket with a good cup of tea, twinkling Christmas lights, and soft Christmas music.
- Model realistic Christmas expectations.
- Women watch leaders. If our expectations are ridiculously high, that is what women will learn from us.
- Remember that women are competitive. If we have unrealistically high expectations, women will be tempted to have even higher expectations.
- Leave margin in your schedule to allow time for listening to women who are stressed by the messiness of Christmas.
Unrealistic expectations lead to messiness. The only perfect Christmas was the very first one when Jesus was born. When we shift from our expectations to celebrating the perfection of Jesus’ birth, the messiness of Christmas melts away.
Sadness, challenges, and pain are not halted or stopped during Christmas. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing on the messiness of December, offering some practical help for how to encourage women as they struggle to survive the season.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.