We are mere moments away from ringing in not just a new year, but 2020!!! Can you believe that?
It’s the perfect time to reflect on the year we’ve had and plan for the one to come. Matt and Brandy share their favorite episodes of the year, some lessons they’ve learned, what they’re looking forward to in 2020 and some changes that are coming to the show.
Christmas may be the hap-happiest time of the year, but it can also be the saddest. Tune in for this brief look at 12 things you can do this holiday season to help you stay grounded, focus on what matters, and enjoy Christmas even in the midst of pain.
On the 1st Day of Christmas – Let Go of Expectations
We all have an idea in our mind about “how” Christmas ought to look. We’ve all seen the magazines and Hallmark movies. We know there ought to be decorations galore, fresh baked cookies piled high, and perfectly wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree. But the simple truth is, that’s just not realistic. And if that is someone’s reality, they are definitely the exception to the rule.
Most of us just don’t have the time, money, or energy to have that kind of idyllic vision of Christmas, but somehow we still manage to be disappointed when we don’t deliver the kind of holiday glow we envision.
This year, let it go. Especially if you’re in a new season due to the death of a loved one, a recent divorce, a newly empty nest, or any of the other hundred things that might have you feeling anything but merry and bright. It just doesn’t have to look the way you think it “should.” Do what you can – and want – and know that it will be enough.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas – Meditate on Scripture
Read John 1:1-9 and reflect on what it means that Jesus came as a light into this world. What about the world was dark? Why did we need light? What kind of light did He provide? What is the quality of His light? And finally, how does His light influence your grief or pain?
On the 3rd Day of Christmas – Set Boundaries
“No” isn’t a word any of us like to hear, and quite honestly it’s a word most of us have a hard time saying. But it’s time to work out your “no” muscles.
Only you can determine what is actually reasonable for you to do this holiday season. Maybe hosting everyone you’ve ever known feels overwhelming this year. Maybe baking cookies with your favorite 5-year old exhausts you before you even get out the first mixing bowl.
Figure out what will drain and deplete you and then say no to it.
I promise everyone will survive, as much of a shock to the system it may be to hear you say it. Who knows? It might even encourage someone else to step into a role that they’re quite gifted and enthusiastic about. Or not…and that’s okay, too.
On the 4th Day of Christmas – Write Down Your To-Do List
But don’t stop there.
Write down everything you want to accomplish this holiday season. Put up lights, trim the tree, bake all the cookies, make snow angels, feed the homeless, start a diet, wrap the presents…
You know the list. It’s a mile long and just seems to grow.
Once everything is written down, I want you to evaluate it and cross off 3 things.
There. You’re done. You don’t have to do those 3 things. Give yourself permission to let them go. Ask someone else to fill in for you if it’s something that MUST be accomplished, otherwise…your list is now a little bit lighter and Christmas will still be just fine.
On the 5th Day of Christmas – Turn Off Social Media
Pinterest. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. TURN THEM OFF.
For one day this holiday season, just do it. Stop comparing your experience with everyone else. I promise they are also having anxiety, stress, sadness, and feelings of isolation and inadequacy. They might be hiding it behind a filter, but it’s there.
Today, don’t get caught up in the madness. Turn it off and just enjoy where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing without turning it into a social event for the world to see.
Likewise, when you do look at social media this holiday, remember that the people you’re viewing are only giving you what they want you to see. It’s only a piece of the bigger picture.
On the 6th Day of Christmas – Find Ways to Serve Others
One of the best, and quickest, ways to get out of an emotional funk is by serving other people.
It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a fact. When we take our eyes off our own troubles, as real and as big as they may be, and we serve people around us, we recognize that we truly aren’t alone in our suffering. It turns out, everyone has pain. By working to encourage another person, whether it’s through charitable work or by simply opening a door for someone, we see humanity all around us and realize that we’re all in this together.
This won’t solve all your problems. It might not even dull the ache for very long, but it will take you outside of yourself for just a moment and maybe in that moment you’ll see there is room for hope.
On the 7th Day of Christmas – Light A Candle
Find yourself a quiet little corner of the world and light a candle. Then, reflect back on the passage in John 1:1-9. You’ve had a few days now…how have your answers changed? Are you beginning to feel The Light stir inside your heart?
On the 8th Day of Christmas – Allow Yourself to Be and Feel
Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of grief, it seems impossible to let out emotions out. Laughing feels disrespectful to the enormity of our pain and crying feels so useless and unproductive.
But the truth is, God has given us our emotions. They are a good thing. Today, just let yourself feel.
If there’s something that tickles your funny bone, go ahead and laugh! Laughter really is great medicine for the soul. But maybe you just can’t take another Christmas carol and the sight of others with their joy and glee is sapping you of any energy you have left. That’s okay.
Just be there with your emotions. You’re not going to let them control you or take over your life. You’re going to honor them today by feeling them and acknowledging them and letting them co-exist with you.
On the 9th Day of Christmas – Journal Your Gratitude
Even in our darkest days, there are still things to be thankful for. They may be hard to find, but I want you to dig deep and find 3 things you are thankful for. Write them down and write down why you’re thankful.
It seems like it’s good enough to just do this in your head, after all, it’s not like anyone’s going to be checking your work, but you will benefit more by actually taking the time to write them down.
And hey, if you get done with that and want to keep writing whatever is on your heart, go for it!
On the 10th Day of Christmas – Take a Walk in Nature
Now, for you city folk, this might be a bit harder. But…find somewhere you can go today that is as far away from the noise and the hustle and bustle.
Then close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just listen.
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you right now?
Take some time to get quiet and see the trees and birds and leaves. Really look at nature. Examine the details. What do they tell you about God?
On the 11th Day of Christmas – Create a New Tradition
A new season in life often means we’re leaving behind something that we valued and grew accustomed to. Things are different now. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bad.
This year, find something new to incorporate into your celebration. Maybe it’s as simple as driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or maybe it’s serving in a shelter for abused women. You could do something fun and silly like eat only desserts for an entire day or have a crafting day.
Whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and start doing it this year!
On the 12th Day of Christmas – Take A Nap!
Whatever emotional roller coaster you’ve been on the past few days, weeks, months, or years, emotions are exhausting! Even laughter leaves us all tuckered out.
So today, find a cozy corner with your favorite blanket and let your eyes and soul rest.
You’ve done a really big thing: you’ve made it through what’s arguably the hardest holiday season. You’ve faced your emotions and felt them, you’ve worked on managing your expectations, you’ve tuned out toxic (albeit addictive) social media…You’ve done a lot.
You deserve a rest.
May God bless you this holiday. Merry Christmas, friends!
In the wake of my grandma’s recent and sudden passing, I wanted to take some time to talk about grief. It’s one of those experiences that we’re all going to face at some point in our lives, whether it’s due to losing a loved one or losing a pet, a dream or a career. Loss is simply a fact of life and with it comes a process of grief.
In this episode, you’ll learn the 5 stages of grief according to the DSM-5 (the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). More than “stages” these are 5 ways your grief may be experienced. They don’t always follow any kind of order and logic and will often come again even after you’ve moved to general acceptance.
The 5 Stages of Grief:
Denial and Isolation
Listen to discover how each of these stages may present in your own experience, as well as how to help someone else who is going through the grief process.
*Note: We are not medical experts and this is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. If you are experiencing debilitating grief or thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek immediate medical attention.
For the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
A few things to note about grief:
*Grief hits us all differently.
*There is no RIGHT way to grieve.
*Whatever you’re feeling…it’s probably normal.
*Allow yourself (or others) to grieve.
*Grief is a process that takes time. For some of us, that time isn’t very long. For others, it lasts a lifetime.
*You are not weak for grieving.
*You are not weak for seeking help as you grieve.
As well as a discussion on grief, this episode is also a tribute to my grandma, Lila Lee Barr. She died at the age of 92 on November 6, 2019. A lover of words and rhyme, Grandma was an avid writer, even starting up her own newspaper, The Town and Country, in Maupin, Oregon in the late ’60s. She was a prolific poet and I am honored to share a few short pieces that she wrote at the close of today’s show.
(Lila Lee Barr circa 2014)
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Steve Austin was in the throes of serving as a pastor when he found himself in the darkest place he’d ever been. Two hours from home, isolated and depressed, traumatized by a past he hadn’t faced, he made the choice to end his life.
Last week, the world suffered yet another tragic loss when Pastor Jarrid Wilson, from Harvest Church and co-founder of Anthem of Hope, “a Christian mental health organization dedicated to amplifying hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction and suicide,” ended his own life by suicide.
The fact is, depression and suicide are not uncommon to man, even if we are followers of Christ.
What is uncommon, is our lack of willingness to talk about this very difficult subject in honest and vulnerable ways. But if we hope to be a beacon of light to a hurt and broken world, then we must acknowledge our own hurt and brokenness.
This week, I had the honor of sitting down with Steve Austin, who fortunately survived his attempt to end his suffering through suicide. Instead, he woke up in the ICU and eventually found restoration and healing that continues to this day. In a raw and honest conversation, Steve shares his journey from “the pulpit to the psych ward.”
Join us as we talk about hard things. Then share the conversation with someone you know who is also struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Share it with someone who’s not. Just share it. We can only overcome the darkness when we’re willing to shed some light on it. That starts here. That starts with you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
To learn more about Steve or to access any of his free resources,
including his free book, check out his website catchingyourbreath.com
Consider walking in or sponsoring someone walking in the Out of the Darkness walks, raising money and awareness about suicide and the prevention thereof American Foundations for Suicide Awareness (I’m walking in our local walk and have a page HERE if you’d like to contribute!)
Finally, please reach out to us if you are hurting and don’t know where to turn. We will help find you resources as best we can. You can EMAIL US anytime. We’d love to pray for and with you.
According to recoverymonth.gov “National Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. This observance celebrates the millions of Americans who are in recovery from mental and substance use disorders, reminding us that treatment is effective and that people can and do recover. It also serves to help reduce the stigma and misconceptions that cloud public understanding of mental and substance use disorders, potentially discouraging others from seeking help.”
As a huge proponent to the belief that we’re all a little broken and we all use potentially harmful coping strategies to varying degrees, I am an avid supporter of recovery programs. There are a variety to chose from, from Alcoholics Annonymous, to Celebrate Recovery to my own favorite, The Genesis Process, there is something out there to help absolutely anyone. These don’t even take into account one-on-one counseling, group therapy or residential treatment.
The fact is, the only reason we stay stuck in our negative cycles is that we struggle to even acknowledge that we’re using faulty coping mechanisms. Like the Big Book says: The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
So what about you?
Do you find yourself, like the apostle Paul continuously doing the very thing you hate and unable to do the thing you want? If so, you are not alone!
Join me as I sit down with my own recovery mentor and guide, Dr. Kathy Rodriguez, PsyD, to talk about what recovery looks like, who needs it and, its place in the Church.
Be sure to comment or email and share your own experience with recovery. Or, if you are realizing that you’d like to find a recovery program but don’t know where to start, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to help you find some resources that are local to you.
If you happen to be local to my area, near Sandy, Oregon, I will be starting a Genesis Change Group at our church in October 2019. Again, feel free to let me know if you’d like to be a part of it!
Truly…from the bottom of my heart…I don’t believe my family would even still be together, much less thriving, were it not for the hard work that happened through recovery groups. It’s a difficult and on-going journey, but the rewards are too numerous to count and I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to examine the unhealthy areas in your life and then do the hard work of surrendering the root problems to God, who knows you better than any doctor ever could, and has the answers for your heart’s greatest longings.
Enjoy this conversation with my friend and mentor, Kathy!
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
What if we have it all wrong? What if being a peacemaker means we actually ruffle some feathers. Turns out, that’s exactly what it means. Peacemaking isn’t for the fainthearted. It’s messy work, but it’s what we’re called to.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” – Matthew 5:7
Mentioned well over 300 times in the Bible, mercy is a word we probably ought to pay more attention to. Especially in this day and age when politics and religion are getting co-mingled in ways that often make us forget that first and foremost, we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The biblical definition for the word mercy, as used by Jesus in his sermon on the mount, is this: to be compassionate (by word or deed, specifically by divine grace); have compassion (pity on).
Meanwhile, Webster’s New World Dictionary defines it this way: 1. a refraining from harming offenders, enemies, etc., 2. imprisonment rather than death for a capital crime, 3. a disposition to forgive or be kind, 4. the power to forgive, 5. a lucky thing; blessing.
This episode, as well as talking about what mercy is, we also focus on how to live a life of mercy in our day to day lives. We’ll look at 1 Peter 3:8-12 in the ERV (Easy to Read Version).
So all of you should live together in peace. Try to understand each other. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Be kind [compassionate; merciful] and humble. Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult anyone to pay them back for insulting you. But ask God to bless them. Do this because you yourselves were chosen to receive a blessing. The Scriptures say,
‘If you want to enjoy true life and have only good days, then avoid saying anything hurtful, and never let a lie come out of your mouth. Stop doing what is wrong, and do good. Look for peace, and do all you can to help people live peacefully. The Lord watches over those who do what is right, an, and he listens to their prayers. But he is against those who do evil.’
Listen in to this week’s episode to see some examples of how this might look in your own life.