Beating the Christmas Cinderella Syndrome – One Day at a Time!
- 2002 9 Dec
Before the school supplies have been broken out of their packages, manufacturers start pumping the airwaves with propaganda about the perfect toy, the perfect diamond ring to prove your love and the perfect food for the perfect, warm fuzzy family celebrations!
Our minds race with too many decisions: What to get for the person who has everything (probably almost everyone on your list), where to get the money for those perfect gifts. What to wear, how to lose that extra ten pounds so you can get into last year's dress, if you can handle the anxiety of wearing last year's dress! Talk about STRESS! Someone has defined "anxiety" as the inability to cope with stress. Is anxiety the context in which you are living out a "holiday" that represents peace and stability to the Christian world? Are you experiencing the Cinderella Syndrome, wishing a Prince Charming would swoosh in and swish you away to a place where every one else does the cooking, cleaning, baking, buying, wrapping, and worrying?
If so, take a deep breath and consider incorporating some of these ideas into your every day life and beat the Christmas Cinderella Syndrome, one day at a time.
Don't Miss Christmas!
The night of the death of our son, Mark, we fleetingly thought about Christmas. How will we ever celebrate Christmas again? We wanted to skip right over to January. But instead, we leaned into the pain and did things a little differently, in order to honor the One Who gave us hope in the midst of death. We describe how we faced this difficult time in our special broadcast "Preparing for Christmas in the Midst of Grief".
Since losing our son, it has been easy to resist the secular view of Christmas. It's not about toys, Santa Claus, lights and food. It's not even about you or me. It's about the glory of God! Be intentional about how you will express His glory in the midst of this broken world.
Too many people miss Christmas because of exhaustion or worry over extended credit cards. Prayerfully consider your gift giving and estimate what you can spend. Ask God to help you be creative. This might be the year to exchange names with extended family. How about a gift with a message?
Share the Workload!
In our second inner-city pastorate, we invited the whole church to come to our house every Christmas Eve. This traditional celebration became the high point of Christmas for many of the dear friends in our church family. This night was our gift to our congregation so I refused all offers of help. "I could do it - no problem!" My good intentions sometimes ended badly. One year by the time our guests arrived, I was smiling on the outside but knew that sleep would elude me because of all the unfinished Christmas wrapping that still waited. Another Christmas Eve our four and five year old children spent most of the day sitting on chairs because I had so much to do and they were misbehaving! I missed Christmas that year, and so did they.
Don't make the same mistake. Be realistic about how much you can do in one day and plan for delays and unexpected interruptions (traffic jams, a sick child, a flat tire, a cashier who doesn't know what he is doing, long lines). Ask your family members what they like about Christmas - what are "non-negotiable" traditions. You might be surprised to learn that what you think absolutely must be done, no one else really cares about! Make lists of every job - even the smallest - and prioritize tasks. As Christmas grows closer remember the reasons for the season and be willing to cross off your list some of the unfinished tasks. Enlist your children. Tell them ahead of time what your expectations are and assign specific responsibilities appropriate for their age. Even little ones can fold napkins or empty trash cans!
If you are unwilling to share the work load, check out your motives.
Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
Too often we allow the media to define the perfect Christmas. Such a perfect season is incomplete without softly falling snow, piles of packages, food beyond our ability to consume, free flowing liquor, and a table surrounded by happy, happy people. Jesus is absent from this picture of warmth and "love". Or we have a special childhood Christmas memory with which we compare every other Christmas. For some, Christmas memories are painful and they are determined that their children will experience Christmas in a way they never did. Or they try to ignore Christmas altogether. Unrealistic expectations lead to major disappointments. The brother who makes fun of your gifts, the critic who has a better way to do everything ("Why are you mashing the potatoes THAT way?"), the alcoholic mother who always shows up drunk, disrespectful children or adult children who don't get along. They aren't going to change so that you can have a perfect day! Change the things you can, accept the things you can't. Remember the reason for the season. Expect people to act as they always do! The presence of Jesus in the hearts of His children equips us to reflect His love and compassion when others disappoint us. Spend extra time with Him when you know you will be around people who are difficult. Ask Him to help you be a picture of His peace. Memorize specific scripture and ask Him to remind you of it when you are tempted to forget the "reason for the season".
Intentionally Extend God's Compassion
Ask God who He wants you to touch with His love. Perhaps this is the year to plan a neighborhood Christmas celebration where you serve light refreshments and have a friend share a brief testimony of God's transforming love.
Take Time to Play!
Ask yourself, "Am I fun to live with?" Would you want to spend time with you? Are you reflecting the love of Christ in the dailiness of life? Are you nice to the clerk who is slower than molasses going up a hill in the winter and you are in a hurry? If not, ask the Lord to extend your sense of humor and to help you enjoy even the most mundane tasks. Make a private game out of surprising store clerks with a nice hello or heart felt thank you.
Guess what? If everything isn't done, you can still relax! Sit and read or play a game with your little ones. It's not the pile of gifts that will create the satisfaction in a child - it's the relationship. Laugh and giggle about silly things. Take a walk and breathe in the creation of God. Play in the snow! Surprise a friend with a batch of homemade cookies and invite them to walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the lights.
When you're tempted to voice discontent, choose to be thankful instead. Refuse to feel sorry for yourself. Are you alone? Ask God to bring to mind someone else who is alone and invite them to join you for a meal or a trip to the mall.
Perhaps the best way to experience joy is to give joy away. Ask God to show you a way to share His love with someone who needs a special touch from Him. Joy and ministry to others are linked. Joy comes when we know we are serving our Savior by serving others.
Take Time Out to Pray
When Jesus got busy, Jesus slowed down. He deliberately withdrew for a while (Mark 1:37-39). He invites us to come to His fire for refreshment. To stay focused on Christmas, read the Christmas account in the gospels or do a study of the women in the genealogy of Christ. Study the Magnificat, the song that Mary sang in response to Elizabeth's words. Memorize several verses to remind You of God's love and great gift of His Son, Jesus.
The Christmas Cinderella Syndrome
We have a choice this year. Experience genuine anxiety - the inability to cope with stress and miss Christmas altogether. Or when you feel like a Christmas Cinderella and things are getting out of hand, choose to do as this unknown writer expressed:
"I think I'll find a house of God
And stay on bended knee
Till I have calmness in my soul
And Christmas catches me."
Abundant Riches Newsletter, MARK INC Ministries, Bear, Delaware, Winter 2002.