3 Important Questions to Ask when Holiday Stress Looms

Love More

Nearly twenty years ago, I journaled about a holiday moment in my life that was filled with more stress than love. On this particular occasion, I was worn-down by trying to do too much decorating, shopping, cleaning, cooking and entertaining.

At that time, my husband wasn’t as involved in helping me with those kinds of responsibilities, mostly because I didn’t ask him to help.

Love More

Why didn’t I ask him to help? Well, for lots of reasons …

Some of those reasons were …

  • I felt guilty asking him to do things he didn’t like to do.
  • I felt like those tasks were a “wife and mom’s” role.
  • I wanted to impress my family and friends.
  • I wanted to give the very best to my children.

Can you see the pride and fear running through each of those reasons?

Even the idea that I wanted to give the very best to my children was wrapped up in pride and insecurity.

Sadly, as I worked myself into the ground during the holidays, my children did not receive the best of me—more like the worst of me. I was also inadvertently teaching them to be more concerned about the “getting” of Christmas than the giving, as I sacrificed my presence for their presents.

[bctt tweet=”Are you sacrificing your presence so you can give presents to your children this holiday season?” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

I’m currently offering a Facebook study on 6 Shades of Love based on the many ways the Bible calls us to show and experience love. One of the verses and studies that hit me right between the eyes was …

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” ~Matthew 10:37

This verse is not saying we shouldn’t love our parents or our children. It is saying that we cannot love our family members more or even as much as we love Christ, because to do so means we shortchange each and every one of them. That’s what I was doing during that holiday season so very long ago. 😦

Though I thought I was loving my husband by not burdening him with a shared holiday load, I was really loving myself more because I didn’t want to deal with the conflict or awkwardness of asking for his help.

Even though I thought I was loving my children by giving them a beautifully decorated house, filled with thoughtful gifts that were wrapped with care and scattered abundantly under the tree; I was really loving myself more. I wanted them to be impressed by my artistic and sacrificial efforts done for their sakes done for the sake of my own pride. Looking back on it now, I think they might have seen through their mother’s posturing, as most children easily do.

If I had only paid attention to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37 and poured myself into loving Him first and foremost, then I might have seen through some of the lies I was embracing.

I might have recognized that I needed to love by setting limits on what my husband and I could humanly do at a busy time of year.

I might have recognized that, even though my sons asked for light sabers, video games and Legos, what they really wanted was an attentive and energized mom and certainly not some frazzled and cranky shadow of my former self.

It’s always a subtle shift from being cautious about what we commit to during the holidays to overdoing it. We don’t see it snowballing into a huge avalanche until we are barreling midway down a hill at breakneck speed!

So let me leave you with some questions that might be helpful for evaluating each holiday responsibility you’re considering taking on.

Am I …

  1. Avoiding asking for help from others out of guilt, fear or a need to be independent?
  2. Doing certain things in order to gain admiration or attention, more than to show love?
  3. Making the holidays all about getting rather than giving to Christ?

If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then consider what loving Christ above your family would mean instead.

[bctt tweet=”Love Jesus first and foremost and the rest will fall into place. #Lovemorestressless” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Click the link to read more posts from this series “Loving Strong through Holiday Stress.”

What holiday responsibility or experience stresses you out more than it shows love to others?


In what way are you inspired to show greater love to Jesus this holiday season and beyond?


Are you interested in a preview sample of this particular day’s study notes from the “6 Shades of Love” Facebook Bible study? Then click here. Want be added to this private group? Then friend me—Beth Oster Steffaniak— and request that I add you to the group. You can join at any point, accessing the “Files” so you can start and go at your own pace through this six-week study. Once you’re in the group, “you” can also add your own Facebook friends who would like to added to the study as well.

Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayMoments of HopeLiterary Musing MondaysJennifer Dukes LeeBreak Through Homeschooling LinkupCoffee for Your HeartSitting Among FriendsFaith and FriendsFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday


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17 responses to “3 Important Questions to Ask when Holiday Stress Looms”

  1. As ever, Beth, you leave us with powerful questions to journal, sit with, pray over. And I love that you’re putting this all out on the table before the holiday madness sets in.

    Activity wise, this will be a very easy year. Emotionally, I’m not sure how that will play out. The holidays have that propensity to bring an onslaught of aching memories of those dear loved ones that are celebrating with Jesus, face to face …


    1. Thank you, Linda! I love questions, as I’m sure, as a counselor, you do too! I’m not fisherman, but I do think good questions serve as the best bait for catching the truths that lie beneath the surface of our hearts and lives. And yes, I hoped that starting out early with this emphasis would help a lot of weary moms and dads. Thanks for swinging by, my friend!


  2. Bev @ Walking Well With God Avatar
    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Your post brought back memories of me being literally in my closet (thankfully I have a walk in closet) wrapping gifts on Christmas eve. Because my ahem….pride got in the way and I had to have a perfectly decorated house, and cookies, and, and, and, I found myself all alone on Christmas eve instead of being able to relax and be with my family. How crazy is that?? I don’t know if it’s age or wisdom or just plain exhaustion that has made me simplify greatly so that I can really focus on bringing Christ’s love to people by letting them have my intentional presence. Wonderful reminder as we begin to head into holiday dash.
    Blessings sweet friend,
    Bev xx


    1. Oh yes, Bev! Though given the temptation to please my kids, I’m afraid even with all these years of insight, hindsight and age-laden wisdom, I might still try to do the same things! My next biggest challenge will be when grandkids arrive. I don’t have any yet, but I’m sure I’ll get swept up in the wonder of Christmas, often missing the wonderful Savior who made it all possible. Thanks for “presence” here with me today, my friend!


  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth…and the needed transparency must have made it hard to write…this is a brave and noble piece of writing.

    Not having a real ‘holiday’ is hard on Barb…and I think she misses the Holiday Stress, because it was part of the environment when she was growing up. Since I can’t do any ind of social interaction now, and haven’t been able for awhile, she spends part of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day with friends…and perhaps gets a feeling of the longed-for familiar in the bustle and, yes, the stress.

    It may beg the question, how do I feel being alone on major holidays…and the answer’s that I’m OK with it. I was alone for most of my life. I’m used to it, and can celebrate in my own way.

    And Barb doesn’t really like Metallica played at window-shattering volume, anyway.


    1. Actually, I left out a LOT of the details that I wrote about in my journal. It’s always scary to go back to those pages in my past. I was quite the “messy mom” in many ways. In fact, I had one son (who I always felt was my “boundary buster”) but when I read about how I acted with him in another entry of my journal–all in the name of “disciplining him”–I feel huge waves of regret and sorrow for how I acted. It explains why he has been distant with me in his young adulthood. He doesn’t see this “distance” and it is subtle, but I feel it and know I’m to blame. I just pray that God heals his heart because of the damage I did.

      I’m glad that you encourage Barb to go have fun with her friends during the holidays. And you, being a loner, find your sweet spot with “window-shattering” Metallica! ha! Praying for you and your bride during the holidays to find moments of joy in the midst of your pain, my friend!


  4. Beth, I appreciate your thoughts. I’ve learned to say “thank you,” and accept the offers to bring food and help when I host. And I’ve learned it’s better to do less with a joyful heart than do more with gruding one.


  5. Love, love, love this post, Beth! I can so relate. These questions are just what I needed to hear. Thank you!


  6. I hate the this time of year. I really wish I could crawl in a cave and come out in January. I will be using this guide to help me get through it. Thanks.


  7. The holidays are a time when it is easy to lose margin. Both in our time and relationships. Great post with timely reminders, Beth.


  8. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    I am learning to live the Holidays with a Mary, not a Martha attitude. If I wear myself down, I am too weary to find the joy and the blessing! I love the holiday season. I love all the parts of it – and I love the reason for the season, too!


  9. As I read this I thought how true this can be for any area of life, not just holidays. But we must check our motives behind what we do. Sometimes I read/hear something and think yeah I’ve heard this so many times, but we need to hear truth over and over. Thanks for sharing your story.


  10. Hi Beth,
    Yes! I have so often done this! Last year was the first year I looked at my kids and my husband and said, “I just can’t do it.” Our house was still filled with construction supplies here there and everywhere. My nerves were on edge. And we were only partway into the healing phase from the black mold that made us so sick. I felt like the worst Mama alive to not do a full bedecking of our home. But I came to realize that was about my own pride, not reality. What freedom that was. This year we are much healthier and our home is not a construction zone. I’m going to decorate, but under a different premise. One of joy. One that only enhances our family life and our peace! ♥

    Blessings to you, my friend!


  11. Hi, this post includes great reminders for loving ourselves during the stressful holiday season ahead. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup this past week.


  12. This is the perfect reminder for me as the holidays are right around the corner. I did some of the same things you described and ended up sacrificing myself and sanity in the process. Each time I tried to do more i knew i was doing it for myself. There is something about creating the perfect “scene” for others that causes us to lose sight of where Jesus is in the big picture.

    Great thoughts today! Mow that I’m in a new house I’m starting to think about decorating. I need to start praying for presence over perfect.


  13. Wise words, especially for this time of year. Thanks, Beth.


  14. […] 3 Important Questions to Ask when Holiday Stress Looms, Messy Marriage […]


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