Post Holiday Stress and Reflection (a.k.a. Why I Binged On Chocolate)

Happy Holidays, one and all!

And if you’re like me, you’re probably thanking the good Lord this season is almost over and a new year is about to begin.

Not that I’m a Scrooge or anything.  I love Christmas.  I dream of the day the first snowflake hits the ground.  The lights and festivities and the food and the presents make this time of year stand apart from all the other days.

But this Christmas, much like last year, has been anything but festive.  In fact, it’s been stressful.

At home, my family and I barely got any Christmas decorations up.  One tree was decorated, but since we’re barely home the lights on it were off most days.  Between care-giving for my grandparents and the busyness of life, present shopping became a last-minute dash to the store on Christmas Eve just so there’d be presents under the tree.  We still haven’t opened them yet and I’m still trying to find time to wrap the gifts I’m giving.  (Bless the person who invented gift bags…)

When Christmas Eve arrived, I was feeling down.  My family was readying to go to our church’s candlelight service.  I was recovering from a stomach flu and wasn’t able to sing with the choir that night.  Frankly, I wanted to do nothing more but stay home and get whatever sleep I could get before spending Christmas Day cooking.  The weather was cold.  It had been raining on and off and fog was filling the air.  We were all stressed and rushing out the door, hoping to find a restaurant open so we could eat dinner.  It was the making of a miserable Christmas.

But as I looked up at the night sky, I realized something.  The stars were shining bright, much brighter than they typically did.  The moon was a blazing crescent that lit up the darkness.  And in those few seconds of quiet, a slight breeze blew by.  It was one of the most peaceful nights I had ever been witness to.

When we got to church, the building was packed with people.  All shapes and sizes.  All colors and races.  All ages, young and old.  We gathered together and sang Christmas carols and the pastor said a few words of encouragement.  And as the lights dimmed and the candles were lit, the true meaning of Christmas came forth.

A woman in a wheelchair didn’t get a chance to get a candle for the service.  A man near her put his candle in her hand so she would have one.  Children who had been squirming and talking during the service suddenly quieted, in awe that they had a chance to hold a candle like other grown-ups.  Strangers who had never spoke to one another soon shook hands and told each other “Merry Christmas.”  A once-dark building suddenly became bright with the light from a thousand candles, all burning simultaneously, together.

Far too often the holidays are a time of stress.  We rush to buy presents.  We hurry to get things done.  We strive for perfection in our decorations and meals.  We hope to make everyone happy.  But like many things in life, things don’t often go as planned.  The stress remains.  Perfection turns into chaos.  The deviled eggs you made fall and are thrown upside down in the back of the van as you make your way in delivering Christmas dinner (yeah, that happened to me…)  Sometimes we can’t prevent the stress and have no control over the craziness that happens.

And yet, despite all of that, there can still be peace.  Like the people in the church service, we can still give.  We can still be kind.  We can still quiet ourselves (even for a few seconds) to be thankful for what we do have instead of complaining of what we don’t.  We can still be a light in a dark world, bringing goodness and joy to troubled hearts.  Even Mary and Joseph had a stressful Christmas when you really think about it, unable to find a hotel room and going through labor in a barn.  And yet what happened after all of the stress?  The Prince of Peace was born.

I’ll admit this holiday season I’m binge-eating a lot of chocolate to help keep the stress down.  But despite all of that, I feel thankful for celebrating another Christmas.  Even though my grandparents are still recovering from health issues, I had another Christmas with them.  I also got to see my aunt and cousin who I had not seen in a long time.  I am also so grateful for the little moments, like the candle light service or the peaceful night sky, that bring my anxious mind calmness.  My hope and prayer is that you are filled with joy and peace this holiday season.  May your New Year be filled with goodness and may you be a light in the hearts of others!

And before I go, I have a (belated) holiday present for you!

“The Ripple Affair” is available for *FREE* on Kindle today and tomorrow (December 27 and 28).  You can download it from the Kindle store by clicking here.  Don’t forget to review on Amazon and Goodreads (or wherever else you want to review, ha ha!)  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!