Are you ready? The holiday chain reaction has already begun with Christmas cards and huge inflatable Santas crowding out the pumpkins and the ghoulish costumes long before the back-to-school clearance bins have been packed away. A posture of resistance to the retail rush requires a better strategy, one with “expulsive power” to counteract the pressure and sidestep the stress.
For me, the holiday stress launched on October 6 when I started sewing Christmas stockings for the three new members of the Morin tribe. Back in 1990, when I designed and created the first two Christmas stockings as a newlywed, I had no idea I was launching a tradition, but that’s how traditions get started, isn’t it?
If I’m not careful, I can start to think that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the entire season of Advent are something to be achieved. I feel pressure to “make them happen” for my family, even though I know very well that the holidays we celebrate are really symbols, beautiful signposts pointing to the big realities of gratitude, the Incarnation, and a heart of welcome to our Savior and the people with whom he has blessed us.
Untie the Knot in Your Stomach with a Better Holiday Strategy
Let’s apply Thomas Chalmers’s logic from The Expulsive Power of a New Affection to our holiday strategy “by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of [our hearts’] attachment” than the lure of a Pinterest-perfect holiday. Thanksgiving menus and traditions, Christmas presents and decor, and looming family and church expectations are likely already starting a knot in the pit of your stomach–but knots are easier to untie the earlier we start untangling!
Months ago, I started flipping pages in my paper planner, looking ahead to November and December. All the joyful trappings of a mid-November wedding will certainly impact our celebration of Thanksgiving! And there are two baby granddaughters who need to be considered (along with their sleep-deprived parents!) when we plan family gatherings this year.
In the past, we’ve had aging or ailing parents to consider or the sadness of loss when family members who had passed away would be missing from around our table. Whenever holidays veer off into “‘not normal” territory, we need to give ourselves permission to feel the difference and then respond to it.
Making necessary adjustments to your holiday plans is one way of honoring the rhythms of change in your family.
What unique considerations do you need to be aware of this year?
Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
- Plan ahead as much as you can.
- Don’t operate from the mindset that YOU need to make the holiday happen.
- Don’t miss the essence of the celebration by getting tangled in the trappings.
- Shed the notion that holidays are something you have to achieve or perfect.
God alone is worthy of your worship, so be sure the coming holiday season adds to your heart’s devotion rather than getting in the way!
When holidays veer off into “‘not normal” territory, we need to give ourselves permission to feel the difference and respond to it, to honor rhythms of change. What unique considerations do you need to be aware of this year?Tweet
And Now Let’s Talk Books
The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell: A Novel
Elijah Campbell’s marriage, relationship with his daughter, and writing career bear all the marks of a life well lived–and that’s his goal. Never mind that he is deeply in debt and suffering from writer’s block. Never mind that his wife is miserable, lonely, and feeling as if she had never known him.
Suddenly Elijah is forced to realize he’s spent his life hiding– and the un-hiding of a hidden soul is a painful and laborious process. Kelly Flanagan’s story weaving and character development take the reader through an entire range of emotions. I sympathized with Elijah, all the while wanting to shout, “Stop doing this to yourself!”
Well-conceived Christan fiction has a way of opening a Pandora’s Box of questions, some of which I’m still pondering:
- What is the role of imagination in a vital prayer life?
- What is the best measure of love?
- Why do we all struggle to forgive freely when we are so deeply in need of forgiveness ourselves?
A Better Strategy for Living
A hidden and unhealthy life takes a long time to turn inward, and it may start to look even worse on its way to getting better. Elijah’s return to home town Bradford’s Ferry seems to create more problems than it solves, for what he imagined to be his own personal mess turns out to be merely one falling domino in a chain of generational dysfunction. The quick fix visit to put the past behind him turned out to be impossible because “you can’t put something behind you if it is also within you.”
Readers who commiserated with Jack Boughton, Marilynne Robinson’s wayward son from the Gilead series, will find a soft spot in their hearts for Elijah Campbell’s clumsiness at life. Honorary members of the Sensible Shoes Club who appreciate honest conversation around spiritual formation within their fiction and cherish the wise input of a fictional coach will linger long over the dialogue between Elijah and Father Lou.
Fortunately, our unhiding happens first before God who “holds us completely, without holding on to us at all, because that’s what love does.” How wonderful to soak up a beautiful story that carries with it a push toward a better strategy for living and loving.
And how wonderful to share it with friends.
Holding You in the Light,
Well-conceived Christan fiction opens a Pandora’s Box of questions: What is the role of imagination in our prayer life? Why do we struggle to forgive when we deeply need forgiving? #TheUnhidingofElijahCampbell @DrKellyFlanagan @ivpressTweet
Free Resource: A Seven-Day Challenge!
A Seven-Day Challenge of Scripture and Prayer to Pull You Away from the Fringes
I’ve created a seven-day challenge incorporating daily Scripture and prayer to help you begin moving toward the center of a living and powerful walk with God.
Last winter, I memorized John 15:1-8 and was struck and instructed all over again by the truth of God’s intense longing to be in relationship with me. He wants us! No question about it, but so often we behave as if we don’t want him.
Each day’s brief reading from John 15 is an invitation to abide with Christ, to pull away from the fringes and toward his heart. I’m committed to the truth that women can become confident followers of God and students of his word, and it’s my goal to provide resources to help you along that path. Subscribers receive them automatically, and you can receive your copy by simply entering your email and then clicking on the button below…
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
13 thoughts on “The Expulsive Power of a Better Strategy for the Holiday Chain Reaction”
I’m at that point in the season where I’m looking forward to all the things– I’m planning our menus and making my cards.. but I know that I have to pace myself and let go of the idea of perfect because that is what burns me out before the actual holidays arrive! Though I will admit that it has become so much easier now that my kids are older.
Yes, it’s very different as our families change, but you are definitely in the right head space. We have to make a plan–and then stick to it!
The Unhiding of Ourselves – oh, how I like that! I had to learn to do that! To give myself permission to be me. . . and Christmas – I take it one day at a time, one day closer. I want to slow down, to save all the layers and most importantly, the most important – our Savior’s birth. I’m not sure how I am going to do that – but maybe one step at a time and figuring out how to let some things go.
I can see you really connecting with that imagery. And I think it’s really a strength God has given to you. Your words have their own way of unhiding the reader as well as the writer!
Our granddaughters, ages 5 and 9, will be coming for an overnight mid-November. I’m thinking we’ll put on some Christmas carols, make hot chocolate, and unpack some of the decorations (though not the tree just yet). They can help me put them around the house. Yes, it will be a bit early, but six hands will certainly be able to accomplish more than two, even if they are small. I’m thinking this will give me a good head start as December approaches!
That sounds like the makings of a wonderful memory! I hope you’ll tell me how it goes!
I’ll try to remember to do that! 😆
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It’s such a hard balance. Traditions form because they’re meaningful, but too many turn holidays into an impossible to-do list. And adjustments need to made year by year as families and circumstances change. We need God’s wisdom to navigate the fun extras of the holidays while keeping our hearts fixed on their purpose.
Great point. I found that my tendency was to keep on adding new things without ever subtracting ANYTHING! We create a monster that we can’t possibly live with!
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A good reminder to focus on God not, perfecting our holidays! Thanks Michele. I pray we can all remember when the rush becomes overwhelming!
Exactly! We miss the opportunity to celebrate when we get caught in the detail weeds. And maybe we drive our families a bit crazy, too?
This is such excellent caution, friend, and I couldn’t agree more. With every change in family dynamics there’s a need to re-evaluate what’s the best thing for THIS year. Sadly some family members refuse to let go of tradition even when it makes everyone miserable.
Thanks for your wise words …
Sure do want to learn the grace of letting go of the old to make room for what God is doing in the present moment!