Balancing the Holidays

As if regulatory day to day concerns and tasks aren’t already mind boggling, the holidays can add to the overwhelm.  The season presents us with the challenge of limited time with an intimidating number of items getting added to our calendars and to do lists.  The holidays can feel like it is about making everybody else happy in exchange for ignoring our own need for calm, routine, and peace.

As a pastor, I had a love hate relationship with the holiday season. I loved putting together meaningful celebrations for our church to recognize their own gratitude and celebrate the birth of Christ. However, for so many years I felt disconnected from the reasons for the celebration because of my own sense of disrupted life rhythm and depression.  As I have acknowledged this harried relationship with celebrations I have learned how to manage so I can take in the holidays with enjoyment instead of dread.

4 Steps to Balancing the Holidays

  1. Take breaks: Taking a break with a book, cup of coffee, mediation or a good movie is good for the soul to rejuvenate and be at its best capacity to continue to give to others. This isn’t wasting time – this is important mind rest that can re-charge your batteries for the next task.
  2. Acknowledge and nurture your own needs: Even in the midst of the craziness we need to care for ourselves.  Don’t neglect sleep, good soul care, and nutrition. While these seem basic the holidays tempt us to push beyond our limits which diminishes our ability to sustain health through the season.
  3. Prioritize life giving relationships: The holidays can bring a challenge to us of socializing with strangers or with family that doesn’t bring you joy.  While avoiding those interactions may be impossible balancing those with relationships that bring you life, joy, hope and peace will keep your tank fuller.
  4. Be realistic: Our budgets, bodies and calendars can only carry so much.  Recognizing that there are limits and being ok with that is so important to our mental health. Saying no to some things helps make room for the really important moments

It is truly all about creating balance in your life so you can enjoy this wonderful time of year instead of dreading it!


Much has been in the news lately about forgiveness. I have my own battles with the concept.  I have been asked many time how I can forgive those who wounded me, stole my innocence and wielded the Bible as an excuse to abuse me.

There was a time when I had to say to myself, almost every minute “i forgive”. It was a blanket statement covering all who I felt offended or hurt me. But by saying it over and over on repeat it slowly became less of a mantra and more of a lifestyle. Forgiveness isn’t solely about a moment. It is truly an attitude that stands witness to the fact that even the most egregious of faults can be overcome by a grace that doesn’t come from ourselves but from our faith.

At some point I didn’t have to remind myself every minute that there needed to be forgiveness for me to walk forward. It became every five minutes, than every half hour until only in the moments when I hurt the worst and wanted someone to blame did I need to recall and breathe the words “i forgive”.

Church members stood up at a my custody hearing and swore my mother would never hurt me. They swore on the Bible that she was a good parent and couldn’t possibly do the things I said she did.  I forgave them because they didn’t know any better. I didn’t blame the church or God or my faith for the hurt that caused. I held people, fallible, human people responsible for their actions and I forgave them.

At the end of the day isn’t that what we all want? To be recognized that we are people who make mistakes. There is accountability, reconciliation, restitution and consequences for our actions. But to those who harm others we must also consider that grace was offered freely to us and others deserve that also.

Forgiveness has not wiped away the memory of what was lost, stolen or what hurt was caused. It does however free me repeating a pattern of hurt and hatred that was offered to me. On good days I offer grace. On bad days I repeat to myself “i forgive” – hoping others will offer the same to me.

Prioritizing Self

Its been four years since I was hospitalized. I would like to say that I’m all better. I’m healed. I’m back better than ever. But mental illness doesn’t work that way. It is an ocean of high and low tides that roll in and out. Depression, anxiety, and flashbacks roll in but so do joy, peace, and thankfulness.  Its a mixed bag of balancing the past with the present, not allowing the past memories to hijack the beauty of the moments I have been given.

However, I am so grateful for the time that I was able to be inpatient in a treatment facility not just to identify my illnesses and to focus on what needs to happen to keep me healthy in the future.  Always the over achiever, when they told me that trauma treatment was a three- five year journey I was sure I could eagle that hole and finish in 3-5 months.  It has been four years of ups and downs and certainly of learning who I am and I plan to spend my life time pursuing that goal.

I was given the gift of time to reflect on my life but every one of us has the opportunity to do that. Perhaps we lack the motivation to take time out of our busy lives to reflect because we don’t understand the gifts on the other side of reflection. When done well the other side of reflection on our lives and our place in the world there holds better understanding of self, renewed focus on what is important, better physical health, improved mental and emotional health.

Take the time. Set aside the calendar and prioritize you. You are worth it and, here’s the bonus, absolutely no bad can come from focusing on yourself for even a short time. Don’t wait until you are at your end. Do it now.

The kissing booth

I have a gallon size bag of medication that I have acquired over the last four years of Complex PTSD treatment.  I’m fairly certain I could earn a fortune selling little goodie bags of my drugs on the street.

Over the past four years medications have walked in and out of my life with alarming rate. At doctors directions I keep trying them all on for size to see what is the best fit.  I’m a med serial dater. It’s like the worst kind of kissing booth at the fair. Some prospects are are friendly but others are completely unfortunate looking, sloppy and lack manners.

I’m a gyroscope on a rollercoaster. My sense of balance and orientation is all dependent on the correct combination of sleep, food, activity, inactivity, interaction, solitude, spiritual balance and of course meds. If even one of those things is out of balance I feel like I will hurtle off the track and go crashing on the ground.

This journey has been about adjusting. Its been about acknowledging my illnesses, which I don’t like, learning my limits, which I suck at, and admitting my need for help, which I hate. However, whenever i get overwhelmed I have to remember and be grateful for the fact that I don’t have a life threatening illness, terminal diagnosis or malformation of my physical body that would keep me from moving forward in life.

But, I will be grateful for modern science which helps keep me balanced and I will quit hating them for their needfulness in my life.  

A realistic self image

I live in hiking and backpacking country. In my mind I am a hiker. I am cool and sporty like the people in the Patagonia ads. Lean, athletic and tan I embark on outdoor adventures, my happy face tanned, barely glistening with sweat. My legs are capable of scaling tall peaks without fatigue. In this fantasy there are no bugs, no need for awkward outdoor bathroom breaks and plenty of snacks to go around.

Recently I embarked on a two State, two national park tour with a friend. There was plenty of wildlife and beautiful scenery to view from our car windows. However,  many of the parks best features required some physical exertion to see them. We hiked up walkways to view magnificent thermal features. We inched down steep walkways to glorious waterfalls and trekked miles of trails around peaceful glacial lakes. It was pure joy seeing some spectacular natural wonders.

Ok. I’m lying. It wasn’t spectacular because I’m out of shape and I don’t look like a Patagonia ad. I huffed and puffed up hills barely the size of molehills and swore in my head up the steeper ones.  My face was covered in sweat and my feet were chaffed and dirty while in sandals. When they were in hiking boots they collected unsightly blisters like warts on a toad. I began every hike wondering how long it would take for me to get back to the car and air conditioning. I looked at gorgeous views wondering why I didn’t just pay the $3 for a postcard of that view instead of walking the trails with my bug repellent and bear spray. I viewed fit hikers with disdain and envy, secretly considering tripping them as they sprinted up the trail ahead of me leaving me behind, single on a ski lift.

It appears I am not a good hiker. Snack stands, gift shops, indoor bathrooms and visitor centers are more my speed.

Often the image we have of ourselves we have is not accurate.  In my mind I’m a slow thinker, bad writer and overweight behemoth. The facts don’t support those thoughts any more than they support me being hiker.  I’m a great thinker, an above average writer and not a behemoth.

This week be kind to yourself and accurate about who you really are. Congratulate yourself on your good and giving self and realistic about your negative thoughts.  Chances are your week will be better if you make a commitment to look at your mental mirror with clarity and grace.