Tag Archives: Christmas

Travel Tips for a Merrier Christmas

pexels-photo-246576

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15 NRS)

Travel is a holiday tradition dating back to the first Christmas.  Mary and Joseph traveled a moderate distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Magi went on a longer journey.  Even the shepherds had a quick trip from the fields to town. Travel is exciting, but it is also daunting with a child who has fragile health, does not handle changes in routine well, or has physical or behavioral challenges that leave extended family and friends feeling ill-equipped to help. Here are a few ideas to make holiday travel run more smoothly.

While in the Air or on the Road:

  • There are fifteen airports that offer a “dress rehearsal” for travelers with autism.  This provides an opportunity to know what to expect ahead of time. More info here.
  • TSA offers special accommodations for children with medical conditions.  Learn more here and download a disability notification card here.
  • To help shorten wait time at screening, consider enrolling in a TSA pre-check screening program for future travel.  Turn-around time is a few weeks after application so there is not adequate time to enroll before Christmas.
  • Prepare for noise of planes and traffic.  Headphones, earbuds or ear plugs all help reduce sound.
  • Bring plenty of favorite snacks, especially important for picky eaters.  Also, providing sugar-free candy to suck on, or anything to encourage chewing and swallowing, can help avoid uncomfortable eardrums at take-off or landing.
  • Bring lots of activities to fill the time.  Consider getting a toy or activity that is new to your child as a surprise for travel day. Keeping them busy and engaged with something different from the usual may help break up lengthy travel.
  • Bring spare battery packs to recharge electronic devices.
  • If traveling by car, plan on frequent stops and travel at the time of day that best suits your child’s energy level.
  • Notice good behavior and offer frequent praise.

The nice thing about planes and cars is that they go two directions. It is equally possible to receive guests rather than being a guest. This removes the stress of holiday travel.  Sharing a home, whether receiving guests or being a guest yourself, always comes with new routines. Here are a few thoughts for keeping things running smoothly once everyone is under the same roof:

  • Share photos with your child ahead of time so that the faces of extended family are familiar when they arrive.
  • Cousins may have grown and changed since they last saw each other.  Help them connect via phone or text messaging to help break the ice ahead of time.
  • Try to keep the most important part of familiar routines in place: favorite breakfast food, consistent bed time, favorite games, movies or other activities.
  • Educate friends and family about your child’s unique needs (fragile health, food allergies, mobility or communication challenges, and behavioral triggers). This invites dialogue and helps ease concerns.
  • Try to fit in some one on one time with your child to help them feel less over-whelmed with all the new faces and a fuller house.

Wishing you safe holiday travels and a Merry Christmas!

Rev Doc Lorna

 

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Oh Yes, We Need a Little Christmas…

Manuel Joseph photo from pexels-photo.jpg

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7 NRS)

“What do you want for Christmas?” This was the second time my husband asked in as many weeks and I noticed a hint of desperation in his voice. “I don’t know.  I can’t really think of anything.”  He gave me the “you’re not helping” look. I get it.  It’s hard to select presents, but the things that matter to me most aren’t the kinds of things a person can buy.   That becomes a challenge this time of year.  Somewhere along the way Christmas became a too showy, like a competition.  Who can buy the most, decorate the most, host or be invited to the most parties. It’s daunting. It’s also no wonder that December causes a spike in depression and anxiety.

I once took a test that measured life stress, asking questions about health, job, relationships, deaths, etc.  I added a point to my level of stress for each one that was a factor in my life.  One stressor, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” Oddly, celebrating Christmas scored a point on the stress meter, equivalent to losing a job or having surgery.  When did Christmas become synonymous with stress?

Despite the lyrics of Silent Night, “All is calm. All is bright,” that first Christmas was pretty stressful at times, too.  There were two tired travelers bedding down in a stable rated by Trip Advisor with just one star. Granted, it was a pretty big star, but just one nonetheless. Warm? Maybe. Dry? Probably. Clean? Not so much. And a baby chose to be born right then and there. This was not the dream delivery of a nervous, first-time mom. Yes, that first Christmas definitely earned a point on the stress meter.  Except it wasn’t the kind of Christmas we deal with. It was two people coping with the birth of a child as best they could in challenging circumstances. No lists, no parties, no decorations, though there were eventually the unexpected gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  That first Christmas was as simple as it gets, simply the Holy family together marveling at the miracle of new life. I imagine after the excitement of a stable birth it was calm and the future looked bright.  There was peace in the middle of chaos.

That is what I want for Christmas too.  I want peace in the middle of chaos. I want the calm contentment of a family while the world rushes by at its own pace, a pace very different from the one that suits us. I want that sense of hope in Christ that promises a future that is bright even where we cannot see. Years ago we down-sized Christmas.  We buy less, we do less, we stress less and we enjoy ourselves infinitely more. We plan again this year to have ourselves a merry little Christmas. I wish the same for you and your family.

Amazing God, surprise us once more with the meaning of Christmas. Help us to embrace your peace, love, joy and hope, and make us your instruments to share a little Christmas with others as well. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

The Joy of Baking

Ginger Cookies

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  (Matthew 2:9-10 NRS)

My holiday memories as a child are filled with family gatherings, lots of food, lots of cousins, lots of fun. I remember wishing it could be Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Easter every day.  As an adult, I’m relieved they are a bit more spread out.  There is so much to do to get ready for those gatherings! Maybe a little too much? Sometimes the sense of “busy” robs the joy.

This third week of Advent we celebrate joy. To help make my season more joyous I’m embracing some advice a good friend shared years ago.  Simply do what makes it feel like Christmas and let go of the rest. What makes Christmas feel like Christmas for each member of my family?  For my son, it is a batch of his favorite cookies and eggnog.  For my husband it is putting up the holiday lights. For me, it’s time in the kitchen baking.  Flour and butter are like therapy for me. I get tremendous satisfaction out of creating yummy goodness out of a cup of this and a dash of that. For years my father would fly out to visit me near Christmas and we would spend hours in the kitchen together, including making about 15 dozen of great-grandfather Bisaux’s cookie recipe two at a time on his antique cookie press. I’ve not had the courage to break out the galette iron since my father passed away, but this year is the year I will retrieve it from its hiding place behind the stock pot under the stove. There is joy in butter and brown sugar memories.

It used to be that everything we did at Christmas had to be added in as part of the tradition.  We had to have the gingerbread house, and the music, and the lights, and the perfect tree, and garland draped from the banisters, and the mantle decorated just right, and a wonderfully witty Christmas letter, and … It was overwhelming and exhausting.  Now we pick and choose, and in the process got our joy back.  One year the letter did not go out.  Our friends still like us anyway. A few years there hasn’t been a tree, including this year. The world continues to spin on its axis.

There is one more thing that is the central “must have” for Christmas.  Our nativity scene sits on the front lawn sharing the good news, lit with spotlights on a lawn that my husband has meticulously outlined with white lights. It serves as a reminder that Christmas is not about doing, but rather about being. It’s not about who we are, but whose we are.  There is great joy in that gift.

Joyful God, thank you for the gift of the Christ child. Fill us once more with the joy of knowing that we are yours, forever. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: Ginger Lace by Lorna Bradley

 

 

Is it Funny Yet?

Laugh or Cry Signpost by Stuart Miles

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21 NRS)

I opened my door to welcome guests coming for dinner on Christmas Day and was greeted by the saddest face.Naughty Russell

“I know this will be funny someday, but I’m not there yet.  You know the dessert I offered to bring? The one that your husband will love and that I spent hours making?”

I looked about and noticed she wasn’t carrying anything…

“Well, the dog jumped on the counter and ate the whole thing while I was drying my hair.”

I found the latest episode of misbehavior by Russell, the large overly-enthusiastic mixed breed puppy, to be quite amusing. She and her husband got there eventually.

A mother of a medically fragile child shared with me that in her home humor has become the gold standard of how well they are coping. “Is it funny yet? If it’s not funny yet, then you know it’s bad.”

Truthfully, humor does surprise us at odd times, times that are so out of sync with whatever is going on at the moment we feel a little, dare I say, nutty. A little twinge of guilt reaches up and tugs your sleeve, “You shouldn’t be laughing,” it whispers, “What’s wrong with you?”

Well, nothing.  Laughter is part of coping. A proverb wisely notes, “Even in laughter the heart is sad, (Proverbs 14:13 NRS). I recall watching Saturday Night Live when it went back on the air after September 11, 2001. The iconic New York City show at the heart of the greatest grief of the nation opened with first responders standing near Paul Simon as he sang The Boxer.  SNL producer Lorne Michaels asked of New York City Mayor Rudolf Guliani, “Can we be funny?” To which the mayor relied, “Why start now?” There is a line between grief and humor. When is it okay to cross it?

Laughter is a healing balm, even when it pops up at odd times. Jesus promises, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:21 NRS) It is okay to be surprised by humor in the hard places.

One of the dearest memories I have of my grandmother’s final days were of her organizing her own funeral. A detail person to the end, she had everything prepared exactly how she wanted it. She laid back in her hospital bed, a look of contentment spread across her face. “Oh! It will be lovely! When is it going to be?”

Awkward sideways glances passed between my mom and her sister. My mom apparently drew the short straw, “Well, Mom, that is sort of up to you. You know. Whenever you, um, get around to it.”

Everyone burst out laughing.

There are some things in life that will never, ever, ever be funny. But the gift of a little humor in the hard places helps us get through.

Healing God, Thank you for the gift of laughter that surprises us in unexpected ways. Thank you for tears of joy and laughing until our stomachs hurt and we can’t breathe. Thank you for healing us when our hearts hurt and we need relief. Amen.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Laugh or Cry Signpost” by Stuart Miles Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net