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Hectic Holidays

This is a busy time of year! There is the rushing around shopping for all the perfect gifts, the Christmas parties, wrapping all those presents, decorating the house, all while trying to balance work and family. This can easily lead to forgetting what the season is really about. For me this season is about celebrating when the Lord sent His son in human form to the earth to redeem us, to make a way for us to be in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father! But it can be easy to forget that with all the input we receive about holiday shopping! Perhaps this year you and your family can find new ways to focus on the deeper meaning of Christmas. Perhaps you can give gifts that give back such as gifts from Ten Thousand Villages in Cameron Village. Maybe you and your family can put together an Operation Christmas Child shoe box for a child in another country. Maybe your church partners with organizations that help needy families have gifts for their kids on Christmas. Or perhaps you and your family can do something together that helps others - maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit the elderly at a retirement home. These are neat ways to keep our mind focused on others and on Christ this Christmas. I'm sure you can think of other ways too! Brainstorm with your family and come up with a special tradition! 

Easy to Forget

Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle at this time of year, it can be easy to forget what this season is really all about. We get "wrapped" up with so much else going on: shopping, trying to find all the right gifts, decorating, Christmas party-ing, cooking, traveling, and don't forget all the wrapping, etc. So much is out there to distract us, from the sales to the new tech-y toys. I found myself getting wrapped up with my Christmas shopping list and then stopped and realized how much I was in the rush of the season. I'd forgotten to acknowledge the whole meaning behind it during my shopping fury. In the Church calendar, Advent falls before Christmas. It's a time to prepare, anticipate, and get ready for the birth of Jesus. When I was a kid we had chocolate Advent calendars. Each day we'd open a little door, read a Scripture from the Bible about the coming of Christ or prophesies about His coming, and then my sister and I would get to split a piece of chocolate in half and eat! We loved those calendars. I think likely at the time we looked much more forward to eating the chocolate than the birth of Christ. But I think it still taught us about the season of Advent, about being excited about something, anticipating someONE. This time of year has such excitement associated with it. We have Christmas carols whose lyrics get us excited about the season and there are radio stations devoted to only playing said Christmas carols 247 so we can really get excited. There are Christmas tree lots everywhere, the stores and malls are all decorated for Christmas. Why even last year in Raleigh we got snow for Christmas and had a real "white Christmas". It's fun to be excited and enjoy the season, but it's so easy to forget Who is at the center. Have you gotten too hurried this season? Is your focus on gifts and Santa and the things of Christmas rather than the Who of Christmas? When I see couples or families for counseling we spend time talking about their family traditions, their rituals. Traditions and rituals bond families together in unique ways. I talk a little about this concept in a blog post here and here, if you'd like to read more. What traditions does your family have this time of year? Are there any you might want to add?

Giving Back at the Holidays

Christmas can be both an exciting time of year and a difficult one. All the decorations, music and festivities can be great when things are going well for you. But when relationships are difficult, when you've experienced loss or when you are depressed, holidays can be very hard. If you are experiencing a recent loss, consider reading this short article or reading some previous blogs that reference grief. If you find yourself feeling sad or depressed, here's a short article on depression and here are some blog posts about depression. Whether the holidays are an exciting time or a difficult time for you, giving back can be a powerful, wonderful thing! I encourage you to take a look at these Raleigh organizations and find a way you can use your time or your resources to give of yourself! Doing this can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, improve mood and give meaning to your grief and loss. There are so many in need and so many small but meaningful ways you can help someone else. The Salvation Army, the Raleigh Rescue Mission, the Women's Center of Wake County, InterAct of Wake County, SAFEchild, and the United Way are just a few local organizations that have a multitude of ways you can help someone this holiday season. Take some time this week and find a way to give back. Schedule time to follow through. See if it doesn't improve your mood and lighten your load! If you are having difficulty this holiday season with sadness, depression, anxiety, grief or loss, consider giving the gift of counseling to yourself! Allowing someone to walk through your difficult time with you can be such a gift. Happy Holidays!

Winter Raleigh Family Fun - Great Date Idea!

So much to do in Raleigh this time of year. Winterfest downtown is one of those things! There is ice skating and other fun things to explore and experience. Bundle up and head downtown to City Plaza. This would be a great outing for families to do together. It would also be a great date idea. At just $8.00 per person, it's not too expensive either! Ice skating can be a fun activity and perhaps quite humorous even! Make a day of it or an evening of it. Wander around downtown and try some of the great local restaurants. You might find a few great shops to do some Christmas shopping as well! Stitch is a really great store with fun things to buy! Take advantage of your area Raleigh. There's so much to discover. Spend time playing together as a family or as a couple. Then spend some time reflecting on your relationships. I encourage couples and families I'm seeing for counseling to spend time both in "shoulder" time (doing the same things together) and "face" time (intentional conversations about your relationships). These combined help relationships grow and maintain their closeness. What fun holiday traditions do you have? Are there ones you want to implement? What are your favorite holiday memories? If holidays are a difficult time of year for you, share that with each other too. Be intentional about your family outings and your date nights. Intend to grow your relationships, nurture them and watch how spending time together draws you closer together. Have fun this Winter Raleigh!

Gratitude Improves Mood!

Thanksgiving is this week and is a good reminder to focus on being thankful for all we have! Gratitude helps improve our mood in so many ways. It takes the focus off where we aren't, what we don't have and puts it on where we are and what we do have! This greatly boosts mood and can decrease stress and anxiety too! When all we think about is what we are lacking or where we wish we were, we are dissatisfied with life and sad or angry. But when we shift our focus to the positive things about the place we are and the good things we do have, we have a more healthy perspective and our mood improves. In addition, stress and anxiety often decrease. Try making a list this week of all the things you are thankful for, all the things you do have and the things that are good about the place you are in right now. Be specific, think of small things too! For example, do you have a place to lay down at night that is safe and warm? Some people do not. Do you have clothes to wear and food to eat and a way to get from point A to point B? Many people don't. We tend to take things for granted and we need to remind ourselves that we have quite a bit! The fact that I can walk, talk, see and hear are great blessings that I often take for granted. It's good to get in the habit of being thankful for the things and abilities you do have as well as the opportunities available to you; this helps you get outside of your current situations or problems and remember that there is so much to be grateful for in your life! Happy Thanksgiving!


Holiday Family Fun!

I love posting things about Raleigh goings-on because I love downtown Raleigh and there is so much to do! The holidays are here and that means there is even more going on in Downtown Raleigh. This weekend is the Christmas Parade. What a great time to pile on warm clothes, pack up blankets and chairs and head downtown to watch the parade. So much to see and so much fun to be had. This is a great way to get in the holiday spirit and have some fun holiday family fun! I encourage you to grab your family, significant other or a group of friends and head downtown to watch the 2011 Christmas Parade. It's bound to be tons of holiday fun! Enjoy!