Preparing My Heart for the Holidays

Preparing My Heart for the Holidays

For the past month or so, we've been in limbo regarding our plans for the holidays. One of the perks (aka downsides) of living far away from both sides of your family is that seeing each other requires some form of travel: either flying (our usual choice) or driving (kind of a nightmare any time but particularly this year as I'm great with child). So after a lot of deliberation, we decided to stay home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, making this the first year we'll be away from family for the entire holiday season.

I'm at peace with it because it really does make the most sense for us this year, but of course it's still a little sad. (Any family members who want to make a last minute decision to come see us, consider yourselves invited!) However, I want to make things special and memorable, not just "okay under the circumstances." It's our last holiday season as a family of three (holy life changes, Batman!) so I want to savor these days with just Alice and make things fun for her. Plus, it's pointless to dwell on things I can't change so I might as well make the most of the chance to have a relatively quiet, peaceful break (there is a four-year-old involved, after all).

Who could have a less-than-jolly holiday with this face? (I am aware of the size of her hair bow. We are southern people at heart.)

During this Thanksgiving week in particular, I'm trying to focus on being thankful (much like florals for spring, this is a groundbreaking concept) and not getting hung up on negatives. I'm not a master chef under the best circumstances, but pregnancy fatigue and general inexperience in the holiday food department has made me a little anxious about cooking our Thanksgiving meal. (Why does everything taste better when my mom makes it? Literally everything.) On top of that, Jonathan's UC diagnosis this fall means that our entire meal has to be dairy free: mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole... all of which contain milk products and are requiring me to find/create dairy-free alternatives. (FYI: most vegan/dairy free cheeses are super gross. Please pray for us in these trying times.)

I'm not thrilled about "messing with" our favorite dishes, but I'm reminding myself that I'm lucky to have access to the alternatives that we need, that Jonathan is doing much better, and that we have been blessed to even have a diagnosis for him and a path to his healing. And on a slightly deeper level, if the biggest thing I have to complain about at Thanksgiving is that I have to come up with a homemade cream of chicken soup for my dressing, well... that's not a bad life to have. I know so many people who are dealing with actual heartache and real difficulties and, in comparison, my slightly complicated meal plans don't really qualify. Perspective can be a wonderful thing.

SO, in the spirit of being thankful and positive (not necessarily my go-to demeanor, teehee), I've been reading and listening to a whole bunch of resources in the past few weeks to help adjust my mindset and prepare my spirit for this holiday season. I thought I'd share them here in case anyone else is in need of a little assistance with "catching the gratitude attitude" (a Patch the Pirate song reference. I am actually turning into my mother).


The Emotionally Healthy Holidays Series by Pastor Cary Schmidt
-This is such a good jumpstart to dealing with the "soul work" of a healthy holiday season. I haven't even listened to the whole thing yet and it's already helped me! (Also check out the Emotional Health weekend sessions by Jonathan Hoover, also on EBC's podcast channel. So good for the holidays and any time!)

Ten Steps to Creating Your Own Traditions by The Lazy Genius. Kendra is my lifestyle guru. I absolutely love her advice because it's less "here are a zillion Pinterest ideas that will overwhelm you" and more "here's a gentle, mindful way to think about a topic." She has a ton of great holiday-themed podcast episodes, but this one was particularly relevant to me this year as we strike out on our own for the season. =)

Choose a Holiday Motto by Gretchen Rubin. Happier is one of the first podcasts I started listening to years ago and it has remained a favorite. Gretchen is so very practical and smart and I love the idea of a short but punchy reminder that I can repeat to myself in my moments of Scrooge-ness.


Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall. This is a short little book with lots of great reminders and practical tips on simplifying and prioritizing your holidays. Craziness is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be out of control.

The Characters of Christmas  by Daniel Darling. This book highlights each person in the Christmas story--Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, etc.--and gives more cultural and historical insight into the entire backdrop of the nativity. It's a great read to kickstart Advent and a wonderful way to focus our attention on the reason for the season. It would make a great family devotional book, too!


Okay, seriously, I could name a million different songs/albums, so I'll try to keep it brief and present these without comment because I could gush about each of them. (Every item listed is the entire album.)

Prepare Him Room by Sovereign Grace Music
Unto Us by JJ Heller
Christmas Together by The Tenors
Simply Christmas by Leslie Odom, Jr.
Winter in the Air by David Archuleta
Christmas with Julie Andrews by Julie Andrews (duh)
Sweet Hymns of Joy by Amanda Montepeque (my sister... shameless plug)
It's Finally Christmas by Casting Crowns

Okay, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving and a happy holiday season! To quote favorite new (to me) Christmas song, "We wish you the merriest!" Have the best week and may you have a beautiful food-induced coma by Friday. =)