The Dark Side of the Holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side of the Holidays

By John Thurman

While I absolutely love this time of the year, there was one Christmas Season where, at least for a few moments, I thought about ending it. Much like George Bailey, the lead character in Frank Capra’s, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I was pretty close to rock bottom.  I had gone through a job loss, was renting a house from a friend, at a gracious rate, and was barely making enough to make ends meet. I was in a place where I was questioning God, my move to New Mexico, my calling to ministry, and the poor way I was providing for my family. I was overthinking about how sad, this Christmas would be because I barely had enough money to buy a tree, much less look at nice gifts for the kids. I will never forget the moment when I had a breakthrough, and it came from one of the most unusual places.

I was at a red light listening to Focus on the Family on KFLQ, Family Life Radio. I really was not paying attention to the storyline when all of a sudden Carry Underwood and Micheal W. Smith’s song, “All is Well,” began to play. As the light turned green and I started to move through the intersection the gentle lyrics and the heart-tugging melody got into my heart and head to the point where my vision was becoming cloudy because of the tears coming from a place deep inside of me. I pulled over and absorbed the lyrics.
This particular portion of the song is what helped me pull back from that dark place:

All is well all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well.           Lyrics by Michael W. Smith and Carrie Underwood

For me, in that at that moment, it was as if the Lord was gently reminding me of his purpose and his call on my life and that He would provide for my family. Without going into detail, at least for the moment, that powerful moment of surrender slowly opened a new door of opportunity for myself and my family.
For many, the Holiday Season is not the “most wonderful time of the year.” For some of you reading this, the dark side of the holiday season is the harsh and sometimes brutal reality of the heartache of loneliness, loss of a family member or friend, the ending of a relationship as well as financial strain, depression. You may be feeling this overwhelming sense of loss and sadness as you read this. While I would never minimize your feelings, let me encourage you to hang in there. Hope is coming, help is on the way.

This morning, my wife, Angie and I were doing part of our Sunday morning routine, when I saw a promo on an upcoming segment about the rapper Logic. I was intrigued because I had seen his performance of his triple-platinum hit, “1-800-273-8255”, on this year’s MTV’s Video Music Awards show. 1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Hotline 24/7 number.

This young man has experienced some of the deep dark shadows of life, but has come through them with a sense of honest perspective and wisdom well beyond his years. The CBS reporter stated after his performance, the National Suicide Hotline calls increased by 50%. This portion of his song powerfully points the feelings of so many:

I know it, I know it, I know I’m hurting deep down but can’t show it
I never had a place to call my own
I never had a homeAin’t nobody callin’ my phone: Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your mind?
They say every life precious, but nobody cares about mine.
“I want you to be alive
I want you to be alive
You don’t gotta die today
You don’t gotta die.”

In the past three weeks, because of the type of work I do as an Employee Assistance Consultant, I have had the daunting task of consulting a couple of client organizations who lost employees to suicide. While nobody really likes discussing the topic, this is the season of the year where we see more people attempt and complete suicide, and it does not have to be that way.

Suicide is a permanent fix for what could have been a temporary problem.

With over 50,000 hours of counseling individuals, couples, and business leaders, I have shared many hours with clients trying to help them sort through the aftermath of suicide. I have also had the opportunity to be a small part of helping some make the decision to move through those suicidal thoughts, deal with their issues and go forward to lead a vibrant and rewarding life.

Let me be honest as I can here, if you are feeling suicidal, you do not have to suffer in silence, call the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255. Another organization to contact is Focus on the Family. 

Their number is 1-800-A-FAMILY, or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.

If you are a Veteran, like me, and you need to reach out, call the Veteran’s Crisis Line. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online or text message 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If you are a family member or a lost a freind to suicide, I know that the holidays can be a very tough time. Make sure that you minimize the temptation to isolate from others. You have family and friends that want to walk through this trying time of the year. Please let them.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

In closing, I want to share a verse from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, it is found in Chapter 43 verse 2-3a.

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of o

ppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

There is help, don’t try to tough it out on your own.

My prayer for you is you will experience Peace and a renewed sense of purpose this Holiday Season.
Jesus is the Reason for the Season, not gifts, not parties, nor anything related to the commercialization of Christmas. The baby Jesus, whom so many love, grew up an became a man. He was crucified, dead, and was buried. The third day he rose again from the dead. Jesus came to give hope to lost, sight to the blind, comfort to those who need support, and healing to those who are sick. This holiday season, I want to challenge you to think about beginning a relationship with him.

I would love to hear from you as well as some of your thoughts about this article.

Cutting Down Holiday Stress


Well, we are officially off to the retail madness of the Holiday Season with yet another Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday. As I pen this post, I am having a flashback about spending three Christmases managing a Christian Gift Shop in at the Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia. At the time, I was grateful for that chapter in my life, but I am glad is in my past.

For many people, this time of year is about as exciting as being told you need a root canal immediately. There are countless individuals feels an overwhelming sense of dread, worry, anxiety, exhaustion, and isolation. If you feel like this, you could be the victim of the Christmas Blahs, the Hanukkah Malaise, Kwanza Dullness, and for my neo-pagan friends, the Solstice Slump.

If you are someone who struggles with this time of the year, I am going to give you some mood lifting, stress-busting tips which could help bring joy into your life.

Sheila Moss (www.humorcolumnist.com) has a few great lines about Christmas.

Santa is watching; please do not do anything that will embarrass him.
The commercial spirit of Christmas is a mysterious force that causes people to max out their credit cards.
You cannot string more lights than your redneck neighbor.
The harder you try to diet, the higher the likelihood you will get candy for presents.
Famous last words-“I have plenty of time left to shop before Christmas.”

A friend of mine who has been a broadcast journalist was interviewing me a few years ago and asked me to come up with Twelve Stress-Busting Tips for Christmas. The good news, he gave me two hours to come up with them. Thankfully, they were a hit, and over the years I have adjusted them to be current. I hope these thirteen tips will help you enjoy the Advent season, lighten up your stress, and help you catch your breath.

13 Tips for Cutting Down Holiday Stress

1. Shop for the significant people first.

2. Stay active, move around, see the lights, do something to break up your routine.

3. Think before you speak. Consider ruling out all conversations which involve your job, health, marriage, the past, the future, or the present. Keep it “Holiday Light.”

4. Re-read the Christmas story, go to a Christmas musical, or even visit a church. For those of you who have not been to church and feel like the roof might collapse when you walk in-I have great news; churches have particular roofing material can handle the shock of your presence.

5. Stay loose; 21st-century families seem to always shift and change.

6. Look for and pray about creative solutions from problems that might arise during the holiday season.

7. Mom and Dad-let your married kids develop their own holiday traditions.

8. Take your medication, supplements, and vitamins.

9. Limit let eating and drinking be the focus of your Holiday gatherings.

10. Buy an Advent calendar, even if you don’t have kids-it is fun to open the tabs
.
11. Watch movies like The Christmas Star, or a Wonderful Life at least one time.

12. Take some time to be alone and reflect. Relax, catch a breath, smell the fragrances of the holidays.

13. Remember the “Reason for the Season.” The Gospel of Luke 2:11, “The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (NLT).

Would love to hear how you manage holiday stress! Please leave a comment.

Twenty-Four Stress Relief Strategies

I have literally just come back from a two week deployment as a Stress Counselor working with the FEMA Call Center in Denton, Tx. The folks at this facility take the calls from Hurricane survivors in all manner of stress, including life and death situations. My job was to be with them ans share tools and tips that could help them deal with the sometimes intense nature of the calls.

My freind, Maggie Anderson from Albuquerque is currently in Tx working with a ministry team to help the Harvey survivors begin the process of recovery, I am thankful for her photo.

Here are twenty-Four Stress Relief Tips.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know men and women are continually being bombarded with stress. Whether you are married or single, young or old, stress is an ever-present challenge. Stress-related illnesses are on the rise and have you noticed all of the sleep aid ads on television. With all of this stress we are faced with I thought it would be a good idea to give you Twenty-Five Stress Relieving Tips.

  1. Quit whining and try smiling.
  2. Take a walk and walk and walk and walk.
  3. Remember the lyrics to your favorite song, as long as it isn’t Johnny Cash’s version of Pain, you should be okay. Danger, if you find yourself singing an ACDC, Donny and Marie Osmond, or a Metallica tune call me, you might need some therapy.
  4. Remember it’s not about you.
  5. Hold spouse’s hand for ten minutes, with no expectations of anything else. He or she will love it.
  6. Pray and meditate. You could start with the 23rd Psalm.
  7. Get rid of your grungy shower curtain.
  8. Admit you were wrong, confess your mess, and clean it up.
  9. Shake it off. Have you ever watched athletes limber up their arms, legs, and head? Research shows  “shaking it off” actually helps release stress.
  10. Go to Starbucks with some friends.
  11. Forgive someone who hurt you. The only one who pays the price of unforgiveness is you.
  12. Go to church.
  13. Water a plant.
  14. Find a great view and savor it.
  15. Let someone cut in line.
  16. Download Tactical Breather and chill out for a few.
  17. Add ten minutes to your Estimated Time of Arrival. Go ahead and drum on your steering wheel or dashboard. A study in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine showed group drumming alleviated stress. A drum solo may bring similar benefits.
  18. Hold your tongue. When you want to answer someone quickly, respond slowly. The Bible says God gave you two ears and one mouth. Apply liberally.
  19. Focus on the good in a situation. Robert Allen, a bestselling author, says, “No thought lives in your head rent-free.” You always have the power to choose your thoughts. If you opt to focus on negative, non-productive thoughts, it will cost you time, money, health, opportunity, and happiness.
  20. Walk barefoot in the park, just watch out for dog flops.
  21. Write a gratitude letter. This message can take one of two forms. First, sit down, with a pen and paper (no keyboarding) and begin to work on a list of things you are grateful. Be creative. Second, think of two people you are thankful for, a spouse, friend, mentor, or parent and write them a gratitude letter. Let them know what impact they have had in your life.
  22. Get out of Debt Denial. Research shows  getting realistic about your financial situation can lower your stress.
  23. Drop the butts, if you still smoke, quit.
  24. Trip silence. A tough one for me since I am a little ADHD. Try taking a trip without the radio, CD, or your iTunes or MP3 playlist turned off. Trip silence can be a welcome break from time to time.