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Connection Point: The “shoulds” of the season

Posted by Trevecca on Dec 9, 2016 8:46:00 PM

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This post in part of an ongoing series called Connection Point. Featuring content written by the professors and licensed counseling professionals in our graduate counseling program, these posts are designed to inform and encourage our readers as they strive for total health—mind, body and soul.

When I reminisce about Christmas, I treasure the beautiful experiences that come to mind. I can call to mind images of Christmas morning at my grandparent’s house after a nearly sleepless night. I can almost taste my father’s mouth-watering peanut butter fudge that disappeared all too quickly. The aromatic fragrance of the tree that our family trudged through the snow to procure perfumes my memories. I can feel the warmth of the fire as we all fought to cuddle up with our mother in the few moments that she actually took a break from giving us the perfect experience to just sit, but only for a moment. I can almost hear the Christmas songs reverberating through our house, signaling a season of play, joy, holiness and awe at the incredible gift the Father sent to us in Jesus.  

All of those memories are beautiful and tender, memories that I would never want to be altered. Yet, somehow, my memories don’t resemble the way my clients or I might describe the holiday season today. Often, I hear stories of the “shoulds” of the holidays. I have to get the perfect gift for all the people on my seemingly never-ending list. I have to decorate, prepare, and all then there are all those engagements that I just can’t miss. I wouldn’t describe these narratives or the narrators as marked by peace, joy, or vitality. Often, the picture my clients and I paint of the holidays is that of a campaign to be embarked upon rather than a gift to be treasured or delighted in. As grown-ups we have shifted from being the receivers to the providers. While we delight to be able to provide good things for those we love, it can come with a cost to our hearts if we are not experiencing true life in addition to all of our doing.

Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b NASB). As you approach this holiday season, is your heart full of this abundant life? Or, like others, would you recount stories of just making it through for the good of loved-ones? Perhaps, because of loss or present circumstances, the holidays no longer measure up to what they once were. You are not alone. It is all too easy to lose your grip on the abundant life offered in the midst of the duties, emotions, and memories of the season.

I would like to invite you to take a few moments (even a few seconds can help) to check in with your heart. You might take time and space to reflect on the truth of the moment and the reality of your heart. Perhaps you are savoring all the joys of the season and have space for more. Or, maybe, you will encounter a still small voice inviting you to rest in Christ, as you more fully receive the life that He has gifted to you.

Johanna Powell, MMFT, LMFT is a therapist, a doctoral student, and the Clinical Coordinator/Community Liaison in Graduate Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University.

This article originally appeared in Nashville Christian Family magazine.

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