7 December Stress-Busters

December dawned a few days ago, but is it possible during this “most wonderful time of the year” that we’re actually feeling a teensy bit of stress? I’d say not only possible but probable—and not only a teensy bit but a pretty big chunk. A chunk that seems to grow, in fact, as the days tick past on the calendar.

If ever there’s a month where my blog series on stress busters appropriate for each month is needed, December has got to be it. So let’s get right to it. May the following stress busters prove to be an early Christmas present for you, my friends!

December Stress Busters 

  1. Take some time each day—even if just two or three minutes—to sit and gaze at your Christmas tree. Take a deep breath, relax your body, and enjoy your tree—the beauty, the nostalgia that Christmas invokes, and the sense of joy and worship that Christmas trees have a way of inspiring.
  2. Plan for simple meals. Fix one meal for dinner each week that will be enough for at least two nights then throw in a night of take-out and go out to dinner once as well. Give yourself a break where you can.
  3. Don’t just listen to Christmas music—sing along. I’m willing to bet it’s impossible to stay all balled up in stress if you’re actually singing the words to your traditional Christmas favorites. Sing while you wrap presents, do laundry, or bake for the holidays. And sing the carols of Christmas during your personal worship time. It will add a whole new dimension of joy and peace to your celebration of Christmas.
  4. Hire a young teen to wrap your Christmas presents. You won’t have to pay as much and the teen will be glad to earn some extra spending money. And as you reduce your work-load, your stress will shrink as well.
  5. Set aside one night each week to watch one of your favorite Christmas movies. Not only will this give you some extended relaxation time, but it will provide a full-circle kind of contentment as you participate in one of your well-loved traditions.
  6. Enjoy the lights of Christmas—both candlelight and twinkling lights. Candlelight is always soothing but seems to take on an extra measure of beauty and peacefulness during Christmas. And the twinkling lights of Christmas? Get outta here. Be sure to go on a light-looking adventure one night and your stress will get lost along the way.
  7. Read Twas the Night Before Christmas and other classic Christmas books and stories to a child. Stress can’t reign if you’re sharing the magical and wonder-filled joy of Christmas with one (or some) of your favorite littles. And if children aren’t in your holiday picture, read aloud to yourself and slip back in time for some Christmas nostalgia.

So there you have it, friends—some ways to trade your stress for joy and peace this holiday season. And remember, over all these methods and any others you may employ, our best stress-relief can be found in spending time with and worshipping the Savior whose birth we celebrate. Come and adore him and you’ll find your stress melting away!

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4

*Which of these stress-busters will you use this holiday season? What else can you add to the list?

Have you subscribed yet to Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue? If not, sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, just scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Jonathan Stonehouse, Creative Commons License

The Season of Rejoicing Is Here!

Anyone else ready to kick off Christmas—the season of rejoicing—in song? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve often celebrated the yuletide season here on the blog by inviting you to join in a favorite Christmas carol, and I’d love to do that again this year. No better way to welcome the season of rejoicing, right?

As always, I encourage you to sing all the verses of the carol and to consider its words with fresh eyes. As you do, you’ll find a wealth of treasure in its message and your spirit will soar in worship of the One whose birthday we celebrate this month.

This year let’s raise our voices together in worship as we sing “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” It has become a favorite of mine in recent years as I sing it during my own personal worship times. I think you’ll understand why as you refresh your memory with its message.

So join me, friends—the season of rejoicing is here! Let’s rejoice together!

Good Christian Men, Rejoice

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! news!
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now:
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Joy! joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened heaven’s door,
And man is blessed evermore:
Christ was born for this!
Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall:
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

(Latin carol, 14th century; translated by John M. Neale)

“‘. . . my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,’” Luke 1:47

*What Christmas carols help you ring in the season?

*Flickr photo by ishane, Creative Commons License

Church in My Backyard

DSC03385*I won’t be posting next week during Spring Break, but I’ll see you back here on March 28!

I’m not the most observant person in the world. Case in point: We helped move our daughter and son-in-law to a townhome in a new city one November several years ago, visited them on the following New Year’s weekend, and then again over the following spring break, but it wasn’t until the trip after that that I noticed they had a church in their backyard—or side yard to be exact. The point is it’s right there.

Imagine my delight when I looked out the upstairs bedroom window early one morning before anyone else was stirring and saw a church tucked behind the stand of trees lining their development. Wow, I thought. They’ve got a church right in their backyard! I could feel a blog post coming on so I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.

Even though Kristin and Shawn didn’t end up attending this particular church, I was still excited to think they had a church—such a visible reminder of God—standing tall and strong so close to their home. A picture of God, if you will, living in their midst, watching over them, inspiring worship and peace for any who would open their eyes and see (the way I finally did!)

Believe it or not, I have a church in my backyard, too. No, it’s not a building made of stone and brick. It’s simply my yard. But it’s filled with visible reminders of God. The trees, the grass, the birds, the breeze all point to him and remind me that he’s living in my midst. He’s watching over me, and yes, inspiring worship and peace when I take the time to lift my eyes and turn my thoughts toward him.

Amazing, huh? I can’t help but proclaim, “Wow—I’ve got a church in my backyard!” How about you?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song…” Psalm 98:4

*Where are some places, other than church, where you’re inspired to worship?

*Hope this slightly revised and updated encore post from March 2010 blessed you today!

*My photo

Season of Anticipation

5387409984_a2e741f923_z*Giveaway winner announced below!

Ah, the days leading up to Christmas… Such a season of anticipation. We find ourselves looking forward to many things with excitement — visits with family and friends, giving our loved ones special gifts, indulging in our favorite holiday treats, helping make Christmas a little merrier for a hurting soul, or carrying out our well-loved traditions. We each could add our own personally anticipated events to the list, couldn’t we?

I pray that reflecting on the coming of our Savior and time spent worshiping Him will be at the very center of our season of anticipation this year. Let’s take time each day to celebrate the fact that our Savior was indeed born so many years ago. Let’s not wait until Christmas Eve to begin our Christmas worship.

One good way to do this is with music. As you sing the carols of Christmas this holiday season, truly think about the message of each verse. With songs that have become so familiar, it’s easy to merrily sing along but fail to actually hear the messages of the carols with our hearts. Let’s not miss those messages this year. Let’s sing with our hearts.

There’s no better time to start than now. Join me in hearing afresh the message of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as we sing our worship today! (This is one of several versions of the Latin hymn, author unknown.)

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23 KJV

*What special things are you anticipating this Christmas season?

*The winner of the Kick Off the Holiday Giveaway is . . .  Joanna! Congrats and Merry Christmas, Joanna! I’ll put your copy of Mother of the Bride along with the Starbucks gift card in the mail today!

*Hope you enjoyed this encore presentation of one of my December 2010 blog posts!

*Flickr photo by johanneschnelldorfer, Creative Commons License

A Sacrifice of Praise

2981762849_f270541979_oOur God is ever worthy of our praise. Won’t you join me in a sacrifice of praise to him today?

Pour out your love to him, pause in speechless wonder, ponder his greatness, and point others to him with your words.

Raise your hands before him, remember all that he’s done, realize the magnificence of our God, and rejoice forevermore.

Approach him with gladness and joy, abide in his presence daily, adore him for who he is, and announce to the world his goodness.

Illumine your darkness with songs of faith, immerse yourself in his love, invite others to join in thanksgiving, and invigorate your prayer life with praise.

Stand before him in awe, savor the wonders of his character, sing from a full heart, and share with everyone your love for him.

Enter his presence with thanks and praise, exalt and lift high his name, entwine your heart with his, and enjoy magnifying so great a Savior!

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Psalm 103:1-2

*What or whom are you praising God for today?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out next week. All subscribers are automatically entered for a giveaway in each of the quarterly issues. A $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble will be the prize in this issue. Sign-up for Life Notes is free and to the right!