It’s that time again. The holidays are upon us. We are being bombarded with commercials to buy new cars, perfume, alcohol, the list goes on. Advertisers are also guilty of showing happy families sitting down for the holiday meal, each nicely dressed and chatting politely. You can almost smell the heavenly food as they politely pass around each dish. I have lived through 57 Thanksgivings and Christmases. Through the years I have spent them with my immediate family, friend’s family, boyfriend’s family, husband’s family, my sister’s family, total strangers on a cruise ship, and completely alone. As we age, the families grow and begin to divide. For those who never had children, holidays become more difficult once our parents pass on and other family members move away or become more distant. Lively neighborhoods bustle with the sounds of family and friends gathering across the street for the celebration we long for with our loved ones.
It has been a myth that suicide rates tend to increase during the holiday season. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience a high incidence of depression. High expectations, money woes, and other holiday hazards can spell trouble for those prone to depression. every where you turn, you’re being told how much you should be enjoying this time of year. You know you should be happy and having fun, but it just isn’t happening.
I remember the first Christmas after my mother had passed away. I was only 24 years old, single and no children. I had an older sister that had three boys living in the same town. That fall, I enrolled in a college class that dealt with holiday depression. I knew it was going to be difficult so I was trying to be pro-active in planning. One of the many things suggested was to plan a vacation. Go some place different. Being as how I lived in the pacific northwest, Christmas season was always cold, wet and dreary. I opted for a cruise to the Bahamas. I worked a second job for eight months just so I could pay for it. I had a wonderful time. It didn’t feel like Christmas day as I laid on the warm white sand with the sound of the ocean and gulls flying above. For four days I was able to escape the traditional holiday and enjoy my first Christmas without family and minimal depression.
As a Christian and an older adult, Christmas means something totally different to me than it once did. I no longer get caught up with all the reckless spending. My husband and I usually splurge and go to a nice restaurant for dinner and then enjoy a quiet evening watching holiday movies. We appreciate the fact we don’t have to deal with family bickering and their Olympics, annoying discussions and tired, unruly children. We celebrate the birth of our Lord and give thanks to Him. What is truly delightful is that when January rolls around, our budget still looks the same as the month before.
As Christians, it’s often easy to spot Satan in the world. Anytime we hear of a shooting, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, kidnapping corruption and a host of other events we know the evil in the world is Satan doing what Satan does best. Whether you call him Satan, Lucifer, or the devil, he’s a beast with even more faces than he has names. You may have on your armor of God, but be aware that Satan can masquerade as anyone or anything just to lure you in to his trap.
A personal example of just how Satan works was years ago when I was wanting to make more money. I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss. I prayed and prayed about it, asking the Lord to give me a sign. Shortly there after, my husband was unable to continue operating his business for personal and health related reasons. I saw this as a sign from God. I stepped into the position and began making changes. I was assertive, friendly, honest, enthusiastic and ready to make a difference in my community, our household income and grow professionally. It was an answer to a prayer, and each night I gave thanks to the Lord for assisting me in this endeavor. As time marched on, I found myself giving more and more to the business. My husband and I were spending 10-14 hours a day at the office. I was periodically traveling out of town for business meetings, trainings, and conferences. I was going places I’d always wanted to go to and making more money than I had ever made in my life. For several years, life was good. I had reached the point in my company that I could afford to hire employees to help carry the load. The business was growing and I was so proud that I was able to help my husband take his business and take it to a whole new level. This was truly God’s blessing, or so it seemed. I found myself apologizing to God regularly for not attending church any longer. But I was certain He understood just how busy I’d become with the business. After all, He was the one that made this possible. He wanted me to be successful and enjoy the fruits of my labor. This was a God thing, right?
I never thought I could fall victim to unethical business practices, but I did. Of course, I was able to rationalize my behavior, but I knew some of the things I was doing were wrong. In the business world, in order to stay on top, you can be lured and tricked. I was changing, and I knew it. I was beginning to hate myself and what I was doing. How did this happen? My employees were beginning to turn on me and participate in destroying my company. I felt like I was in a free fall and didn’t know what to do. I cried out to God. I openly confessed to Him my wrong doings and my love of materialistic things. I was so stressed living under the pressure of having to keep the business going. I was in way over my head and I wanted out. I begged and pleaded for the Lord to help me. I was willing to do anything if I could just get out of this mess, out of the business and start a new life. The Lord heard my pleas and asked me, “Are you sure you are willing to give up everything and follow me, making me first in your life?” Yes, I was. The next few months were pure hell. I was now under investigation and had a client suing me. I was scared, but I knew this was part of God’s plan, so I stood strong and allowed the chips to fall. My husband and I knew we would be unable to stay in our town and find work. We prayed and asked God to help deliver us. The stress was getting to the both of us so we decided it was time to just pack up and take a vacation allowing the dust to settle. We decided to look for a new place to build our lives, but it had to meet one criteria. It had to be a strong Christian community and preferably in a conservative Christian state. We found ourselves traveling through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. We attended a church in a town in Idaho on Sunday morning and both felt the calling. We were certain this was where God wanted us. Again, we prayed and asked God for a sign. Once we got back home, we put our house on the market and began looking at property in Idaho. We closed the business down and tied up lose ends. The investigation ended, we settled with the client and things were beginning to fall into place. We found the perfect home in Idaho, put the earnest money down and within six weeks, our house sold, leaving us with what we needed to relocate to our new home and our new life. We are now active members of our church and have more friends in the four years we’ve been in Idaho than the entire time we lived in Oregon. We now live on a very modest income and have just what we need. God does provide, but he isn’t the only one who can open doors. I learned to listen for God’s voice before assuming that something is a sign from God.