Ah mid-December. That time of year when we sing words like "all is calm, all is bright" and "it's the most wonderful time of the year".... even while we find ourselves right in the middle of our own versions of whatever Christmas stresses we may be facing. Some manage it better than others, but I have a feeling most of us carry around some kind of burdens during this season.
Don't get me wrong - there is much joy to be experienced when it comes to Christmas. From singing along with the festive music to decorating the Christmas trees to tasting fresh-baked cookies, I am certainly not a Scrooge who says "bah humbug" to it all. But I also can't deny that it can feel like a bit of a fight to hold on the good things and not give in to the feeling of overwhelm that seems to easily sneak its way into these days.
How does it do that? Why is it so hard to get rid of that pesky feeling? Shouldn't twinkly lights and beautiful singing be enough to keep it at bay? Honestly, why doesn't it just leave us alone and let us have our Christmas cheer without it being such a struggle?
Sometimes I think there is a particular kind of stress that comes into play during this season. I call it "the stress of the unknown". My husband and I recently experienced a bit of this stress as we were trying to make some progress on our Christmas shopping. We have yet to have a year when we feel like we're ahead (or even what you'd exactly call on the ball) in this area, but we had an evening to ourselves and had planned to try to get a few things knocked off our list.
The problem was, our lists weren't very complete. In fact, mostly we just had a list of people we wanted to buy gifts for but no idea what we wanted to buy them. In this case, the stress of the unknown for us was this lack of ideas. We didn't know what to get. We just knew we had people we needed to get things for.
Thankfully once we were able to come up with a few concrete ideas, we did make some progress and the stress levels went back down. It's funny though, how it seems like as humans we don't handle the unknown very well. I can remember another time when I felt totally overwhelmed and stressed by the request of one of my kids to make play dough. I imagined it to be this very time-consuming and hard-to-figure-out thing. But then after I had taken the time to actually look at the instructions, it really wasn't that hard and I felt much less overwhelmed.
Somehow it seems like the less we know about something, the worse we make it in our heads. Or sometimes perhaps it's even worse if we sort of know something but haven't actually walked through it yet or tried it. We just assume the worst.
What are we to do about this problem? Certainly the answer can't be to just know more, because there are always going to be things we don't know. For example, the future - as much as we want to know things about the future, it is literally impossible for us to know anything for sure about the future.
I suppose all we can do is to keep reminding ourselves (and each other) of what we DO know. I wonder if one of the main purposes of prayer is to return us to the things we know. In prayer we can bring to God all of the things we don't know, the things we sort of know, and the things we wish we knew more. We can start with what we don't know, and maybe with God's help, move toward what we do know.
I recently heard someone share that it takes 3 seconds for us to remember something negative and move it to long-term memory, but it takes 30-90 seconds for us to remember the good. Maybe one of the secrets of prayer is to be patient with ourselves, because at first we're going to be drawn to those negative things - whether they are actual real negative things or things we've filled in where there is something unknown.
But if we will linger, if we will look longer and ask God to open our eyes to the good, maybe we'll discover things we didn't see at first. And maybe the stress of the unknown will become just a little less.
Pray with me...
... Father, help everyone in the ACSD community to remember what is good and true
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
... Lord, give us courage to speak to one another words that are true and uplifting
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
... Holy Spirit, guide the leadership of ACSD to walk step by step according to what they know to be true
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at email@example.com.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory