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Remember this scene from the beloved Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life when George Bailey comes home on Christmas Eve and, stressed that his company is in debt $8,000, takes it out on his family?
It wasn’t too long ago when I spent an entire Advent channelling my inner George Bailey. Thankfully the Church’s recommendation to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation during this season of Advent nudged me into the confessional one Saturday afternoon right before Christmas. It was in the confessional where the priest said some words that were hard for me to hear. Hard, but necessary. He said, “I’m concerned you’re unable to see the joy and beauty around you.” For my penance, he asked me to pray about seeking counseling, to allow the Holy Spirit to shine a light on the areas where I needed God’s healing love the most. I’m grateful to that priest for having the courage to say what I needed to hear. He set into motion a long season of restoration which has helped me better understand how I got to that spiritually dry point in the first place.
The holidays can create unique pressures on us. There are a dizzying array of demands and decisions to make: travel plans, family preparations, finances, shopping, cooking and cleaning to name just a few. Let’s not neglect the expectations and desires of extended family members and in-laws, either. It’s no wonder the uninvited guests called stress and depression can find their way into our hearts and homes during the holidays.
In his book Rejoice! Advent Mediations with Mary, Fr. Mark Toups addresses this anxiety many feel. He writes,
“…perhaps no other time of the year leaves us feeling more vulnerable than the holidays. A lot of us want to run from vulnerability. Either we run away, pretending all is well, or we run into an over-busy, frenetic pace during the holidays, trying to over-manage the struggle within. Perhaps the question is not whether or not we feel vulnerable, but where to turn in our vulnerability.”
Fr. Toups encourages us to share everything in our heart with God, to be honest and real about the struggle of life right now, but to not be afraid in the midst of it all. He encourages us to pray: Father, I ask for the grace today to taste your personal love for me. I beg you to help me wait with you in my vulnerability.
Only when we’re able to do that do we receive the grace allowing us to reframe all those stressors as acts of loving service.
To that end, I’d like to share a poem with you my friend Brigid found online and shared during a recent Well-Read Mom book club meeting.
|Lisa Schmidt has a heart for building community. With a Bachelor of Family Services and Master of Public Administration, her career has been devoted to improving the quality of life for others. Currently on hiatus from the professional workforce to care for the needs of her family, Lisa has become steadily immersed in freelance work through writing, speaking, and founding The Well women’s ministry. Along with her husband Deacon Joel and their four children, the Schmidts are parishioners at St. Pius X in Urbandale, Iowa.