Doesn't that look like a perfect Christmas? I took that photo the Christmas after my mother died, which was a sad time. Unhappy and tragic things happen all year long, but during the holidays when we are all supposed to be jolly, grief can be especially painful.
I know part of the problem is stress. There's just too much to do this time of year and everyone feels compelled to jump in and get it all done. In addition to the usual tasks, there's decorating, purchasing gifts, extra parties to attend, and family gatherings that often create tension. Everyone strives to keep up but trying to do too much at one time is not healthy.
Over the years, I've learned to cut back. We really don't have to use the fancy dishes. We don't need to serve three desserts and five side dishes. We don't have to throw a grand party for all our friends.
Then there's the worrying. Hey folks, you are not supposed to worry. It won't change a thing. Jesus said so.
He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?" (Luke 12:22-26 NAB)So stop worrying. Or at least, make a conscious attempt to do so.
This year on the day before Thanksgiving a wave of anxiety swept over me. I expected it. One very tragic memory often throws me off at some point during this season. My brother was in the Air Force when his plane crashed in 1973 right before Christmas. Each year since then, there will be a time when a pall settles on my heart. But I've learned how to get over it. Distraction can be a good thing. That day, I got out an old cookbook and baked two lovely loaves of bread. Simply the aroma of that bread rising in the oven was enough to lift my mood.
The next day, after I put the turkey in the oven, I got a call that my mother-in-law was being shipped off to the hospital with a suspected case of shingles. Hubby picked up our daughter at the train station and then they both went off to check in on his mother in the ER.
I stayed home, basted the turkey, sliced my beautiful bread (also ate some), and prepared the feast. My mother-in-law was settled into a hospital room and received excellent care. Hubby and our daughter came home in time to eat the dinner. Our other daughters and their spouses joined us and we had a pleasant time chatting. Everything worked out just fine.
If you're having a difficult time dealing with holiday stress, even the Mayo Clinic has advice for you. Read it at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544