This time of year everyone is thinking about 'gatherings,' getting together, celebrating with family and friends. It is easy to get carried away; and spend too much money on things that no one needs. This can cause terrible stress.
It caused so much stress for me, so that right after the new year, in 1988, I had a nervous breakdown. This happens more than the U.S. government likes to admit to Military Wives, and I was a military wife. My list of necessary accomplishments was to help deliver someone else's baby; work full time for next to nothing; attend college on a shoestring; and deal with a nearly 20 year old daughter who wanted me to "stay out of [her] life!" until she needed something. Basically my job was to read everyone's mind and save the world.
I imagine military wives of today face an even greater burden, and my heart and prayers go out to them. Just the thought of the pain of this generation of military families wrenches my heart and sears my soul.
So, my advice, if you will permit me, is to slow down, spend less money, read a book, and look around you. If you have children, parents, friends; a spouse; or no one but yourself. You are still blessed.
Do something for people who have nothing. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a food pantry; bring flowers to a nursing home. Reach out and touch the heart of someone who is less fortunate than you. I can guarantee that you will be rewarded with a warmth that presents and money cannot give you.
And if you fail, that's okay too. You are human. You can try again. One time I had tried and tried, and my health got in my way. I felt like a failure, and I just cried out to God, "How could you place in front of me a need that I would not be able to be faithful to finish??!!" In just a minute, I heard His voice in my heart, as clear as day, "Oh, I didn't ask you to be faithful; I just asked you to show up!"
I think that what God was telling me, is that He expects me to "show up" in my life; in my circumstance; to be willing to do what is necessary, even if "what is necessary" is simply getting out of bed and onto my treadmill. Simply to honor Him. That's all. To 'show-up' before Him and mean it when I say, "Lord, I surrender."
So, while you're gathering, or not; while you're celebrating, or not, take some time -- a few quiet moments -- and show-up in God's presence. Talk to Him, as though He is your friend, because I can promise you, He is.