Hey friends –
Several weeks ago, as I was preparing to do our weekly house church leader coaching video, the thought occurred to me: “Gosh, the holidays are approaching, and that means that our leaders are getting ready to head into what is at once the most fun and most harrowing time of year. At a minimum, it would be great if Bloom’s most important leaders didn’t lose their souls between now and January 1st.” So I made my little video and included some pointers in it on keeping your spirituality afloat from the little stretch of time that runs from mid-November to the beginning of the new year.
After I made that video I thought, “Geez, wouldn’t it be cool if NO ONE who calls Bloom home lost their souls over the holidays?!” Indeed. So I made a little “survival guide” for the good folks of our congregation, which we passed out this weekend. And now I am sharing it with you.
Here’s to hoping that YOU don’t lose your soul over the holidays, and that you head into 2013 with all kinds of personal momentum and hope in your heart…
Grace and peace,
Hey Bloom Family –
You know that “survival guide for the holidays” type things are not my usual way of pastoring. I have a deep disdain for anything corny or trite. BUT, I’ve been through enough holiday seasons now to know that the impact this little stretch of time from mid-November to the beginning of the New Year has on people is usually, at a bare minimum, a mixed bag of good and bad. Often it is straightforwardly negative, and instead of blazing into the New Year with energy and momentum, we limp into it, licking our wounds and trying desperately to pick up the pieces during the coldest, darkest, and most depressing days of the year (January and February – blech). Not a recipe for happiness, if you ask me.
As a pastor and friend to you, I don’t want that for you. So let me give you some tips, recommendations, and encouragements to help you keep from losing your soul during the next month and a half.
1) Prioritize self-care. Don’t overdo it. Don’t overbook your schedule. Don’t get involved with more than you know you can handle. In fact, I would suggest a counter-measure approach: scale back your activity level so that you can actually enjoy the season. Schedule appointments with yourself where you can have uncluttered space to do the things that you know make for a personal sense of wellbeing.
The following encouragements flow out of that first one:
2) Exercise. If you treat your body well, it will treat you well. So take time to exercise. Go on walks. Take bike rides. Jog a bit. Get to the gym. Do yoga. Whatever it is you do to get the blood flowing. Trust me, it will make a difference.
3) Don’t over-, or under-eat. More than that, try to eat regular, good, balanced, wholesome meals. Don’t go on any radical diets so that you look awesome for when you see your family next. Good Lord. Dispense with the vanity. It’s not a path to happiness. And please, and by all means, if you’re prone to run to food when you’re feeling blue, have the self-awareness to know that the food’s not actually going to make you happy the way you want it to. Go on a walk or listen to some good music in a quiet room instead.
4) Pay really close attention to how much alcohol you’re consuming. Make it a point that none of your headaches over the holidays are going to come from drinking too much. And, please, and by all means, if you’re prone to run to alcohol when you’re feeling blue, have the self-awareness to know that the bottle’s not actually going to solve anything. It will usually make it worse. So go for a bike ride or read a favorite book instead.
5) If you’re married, schedule a handful of date nights between now and the end of the year. The holidays can really increase the level of “static” in a marriage. Cut against the grain of that tendency this year. Make it a point to enjoy each other more, to listen better, to fight harder to be in synch with each other. It will pay off. If you have kids, don’t see them as a burden or distraction. Make it a point to make some special memories with them. Start a new tradition. Build a freakin snowman or two.
6) Take your regular routines of prayer, meditation, solitude, and Scripture reading MORE
seriously. High-pressured seasons have a way of making us think that we’re too busy to do the things that keep us anchored in God. You’re not too busy to pray. You’re NEVER too busy to pray. Cliché as it sounds, I think it is correct to say that you’re too busy NOT to pray. So pull away into the “desert” as often as you can to center yourself in God and his love for you. Adore the Christ, around whom the season centers.
7) “Hold onto yourself” when you’re around family and friends that you haven’t seen in awhile. Our long histories with old family and friends can be both a source of great comfort and also a source of great consternation—those that have known you the longest are always going to be prone to see you through their understanding of the person you used to be. If you’re not careful, despite the fact that you’ve changed—you really have changed!—you’ll start acting in ways that conform to their expectations. And man, that is a horrible feeling. So let this be an encouragement to you: you have become a different person, and you are permitted to “hold onto” that difference, even and especially around those with whom you have a long history. Don’t let them shove you back in the box. Stay on your feet. If what you’ve become is a disappointment to them, so be it. Your personal growth is too important for you to give up at the first sign of resistance or misunderstanding from others. Hang onto yourself.
8) Worship. Stay with the people of God. Don’t miss church. If you’re out of town, find somewhere to worship. The church I grew up in Wisconsin blew up several years back, leaving me without a place to go to Christmas Eve several years ago. So I went to a Midnight Mass service at the local Catholic Church. I didn’t do it as a gimmick. Gimmicks suck. I went because I needed to be with God’s people adoring the Incarnate Christ. That was an anchor to my soul. Worship always is.
That’s that. Love you guys. Praying grace over you.
Your friend and pastor,