For caregiving families, Christmas can bring moments of grief and jealousy. In this podcast, Sandra will walk you through how to respond to grief using Psalm 107 and talk about how to fight against jealousy. This Christmas isn’t going to go exactly the way you plan for it to go, but you can trust that God’s plan for you this year is better than any idol, even the idol of the ideal family Christmas.

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This is self care and soul care for the care giver, and I’m your host—Sandra Peoples. To us, self care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We want to take better care of ourselves so we’re able to care for our loved ones who rely on us.

This is episode two, and we’re doing a series about the keys to a calm Christmas. In episode one we talked about responding to others’ expectations of our families. Today we’re going to focus on managing our own emotions and responses. And for those of us who have children with special needs, the final episode in this series has tips for helping them regulate their sensory needs and remain calm when they are out of their regular routines.

I’m very thankful you’re joining me for the series, and I pray it’s an encouragement to you. Let’s jump in today talking about how we can manage our emotions and response this Christmas season.

My boys have four cousins, two on my side of the family and two on Lee’s side. Two of those cousins were born the same year as James, one just ten days later.

Over Thanksgiving a couple years ago I was texting with my sister while James was in the bathtub. He was playing with little PlayMobile people and we were working on which was boy and which was a girl . “This is a ____? Boy! Good! And James is a ____. Mommy is a _____?” The conversation I had going via text with my sister was a little different. My niece, six months older than James, wants to go to Harvard. At eleven-years-old she’s already working on this goal. We texted about her French lessons and volleyball games and everything else she’s doing. Then I got James out of the tub, said “bye bye water!” with him, wrapped him in his towel (he picked yellow instead of blue), got his diaper on, and put on the outfit he wears every single day he can (red shirt and navy shorts).

And I was fine until I stopped for the night and climbed into my own bed. Harvard? Is that really what other kids James’s age are thinking about? And I’m still putting diapers on him? It launched me into that cycle of grief we all experience at surprising times.

C. S. Lewis’s words are true for many of us: “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.”

The stages of grief take time to move through and hit again and again, but not even time heals like God Himself does. When I run up against the wall of grief, I open to the Psalms. If you can, open your Bible app to Psalm 107. Look with me at the hope it presents:

  • For those who are lonely and have no place to call home, He “satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (v 9).
  • For those in darkness, in the shadow of death, He “brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and burst their bonds apart” (v 14).
  • For those who were fools and suffered affliction, “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (v 20).

These verses also remind me of the practical provisions God makes for us. If James is grumpy, we go through a check list: is he tired, is he hungry, does his tummy hurt? That worked so well, I came up with a mental check list for myself when I’m feeling off: am I tired, am I hungry, am I in any pain, and, is there a hormonal reason for this mood? There’s lots of times I can pinpoint a phycial reason for my grumpy mood. That doesn’t get me off the hook and give me an excuse to keep being grumpy, but it does help me understand why I’m acting the way I am.

As we keep reading in Psalm 107, we get to what I think is the most encouraging sections for those of us who were going down in ships (those of us on a ride we didn’t know we had signed up for!):
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.”

We can follow this pattern when grief threatens to engulf us. We can cry out. We can experience the peace He brings to our circumstances (even if the circumstances don’t change). We can thank Him for His love. We can praise Him with others.

It’s not just grief that sneaks up on me this time of year. Other emotions do as well, like jealousy when I see pictures of friends or other family members having what looks like the best Christmas ever by the smiles in their picture around the tree. There are two truths I remind myself of at times like that:

  1. God ordained my path for me and their path for them. And because this path is from Him, it is for my good because He loves me. Jealousy says to God that I don’t trust His love in my life but I see it in someone else’s. I have to repent from that and remind myself of God’s love for me and each member of my family.
  2. Everyone is fighting battles we can’t see. Ruth Graham wrote a book years ago and I’ve never forgotten the title—In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. Your struggles may not be the same as someone else’s, but no one is without struggles. They may not be as obvious in Facebook pictures, but they are there.

Friends, as we enter the Christmas season, remember there is no shame in the emotions you feel. God created us with all these emotions and called our creation very good. But we do need to meet them with biblical truth, especially emotions like jealousy or anger.

 This Christmas isn’t going to go exactly the way you plan for it to go, but you can Trust that God’s plan for you this year is better than any idol, even the idol of the ideal family Christmas.

 Let’s pray together: God, you give good gifts to your children, and my life and my family are good gifts. But this journey I’m on isn’t exactly what I had planned, and that’s even more clear to me at Christmas time when I can feel overwhelmed by grief or jealousy. Please help me to look to you when I feel like I’m sinking. You can make the storms of life be still. And even when the storm is part of your perfect plan for me, you can keep me still in the middle of it. I don’t want to focus on my expectations this year—I want to focus on you and the gift of your son. It’s in his name I pray, amen.

Thanks for joining me! Since this is our very first series, it would be a huge help if you could take time to rate this podcast and share it with friends! More caregivers need to know they aren’t alone on this journey to take better care of themselves so they are able to care for those who rely on them. Self care and soul care aren’t optional for caregivers!

If you’re on Instagram, I’d love to connect with you there. I’m sharing quotes from the episodes that you can share. My user name is SandraPeoples

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