Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff ( Pedro Figueras)

Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed and now we are in our last stage of “The Holidays.” First, we all gather with the ones we love and feast, feast, and feast some more on Thanksgiving. Next, we force those loved ones, and more into our budget with rushing the stores searching out the best deals on their wish lists, what makes us think of them, or settling on the best idea for the least money as we gear up for Christmas.

Black Friday usually kicks off the madness, but the times have moved it up to beginning right after Halloween. The stress is overloading us as we try to enjoy that feast, force feeding ourselves on the food and comfort of being home so much that it has become more like a chore than anything else. Stores are stealing us away from that warm and fuzzy feeling with high strung competition with each other, dragging us into their insanity by opening earlier. We shovel the food, lessen our time together, and camp out in the cold just to get those couple of great deals without breaking the bank.

We try to pace ourselves, and our checking account, as we fly through it so fast that it is gone before we can enjoy them anymore. Before we know it, we are looking at the cyclone of empty gift wrapping paper everywhere, loading the empty boxes to the trash, and trying to find extra funds hiding in our accounts, pockets, and credit cards. No funds incognito or disguised as an asset, so we hit panic mode. Now, it is time for those resolutions.

I start considering my resolutions while gouging myself with all the goodies we are supposed to eat for Thanksgiving. Like I said, we are expected to eat, and eat a lot. Just doing my part. So, my first resolution is, “I’m never going to eat again!” Then, while watching my hard earned money disappear into thin air with nothing to show for it, well, except for the joy I’m supposed to feel from giving, I find myself wishing I wasn’t so impulsive. For some reason I can’t even remember for who, or even what, I bought them.

When I go through all the receipts, watch the money disappear from my account each day as I check it online, and while I remember the expressions of some that I bought for, I wonder WHY.

They are probably all going to re-gift what I bought them, heck, I may even see it come back to me next year.” Or it ends up someplace never to be seen again. “Well, it’s the thought that counts, right?”

Playing it all back in my mind, I come up with my next one, “I’m going to only buy for my close family members next year.” So, the resolutions start playing out in our head as we stumble and cry to the Christmas finish line. (

The last few years have been horrendous for my family and I. We went through some of the hardest times of our life and didn’t enjoy a second of our holiday. I promised myself that this year was going to be different. And it was. I made up my mind I was not going to do any retail or work-at-home customer service jobs that stole my time and sanity. My family and I gave into the fact that we cannot afford gifts for each other, we needed to downsize with our big feast for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and just celebrate the REAL reason for the season. It was going to be low maintenance and about us, but most of all, Jesus, who is the true gift and reason for the season. We did our own thing together and didn’t stress once. It was a Christmas miracle.

Last year we couldn’t even afford food. We were having to go to food banks for all of our meals, including our holiday ones. We feasted on what we were given and learned to make the best of things. Even in the worst of times, there are always things to be thankful for. We found ourselves moving closer to our faith and relationship with God, and further away from the usual hustle and bustle of what the holidays always meant in the past. It was more important to me to always have a lot of things under the tree and spend everything on presents, usually ending up having to work a second job for the discount or extra money. Killing myself just to go crazier than I really needed to. It was fun for me to give gifts, but most of all, it was fun for me to spend and shop. That was the reason for it. It was all about buying what we didn’t need, but because it was on sale, and usually piling on debt, paying bills late, or not having enough for what we needed. The stress stripped the joy away.

This year we put up our tree and pulled together to get the food we all liked, and as much as we needed, for the holidays. We learned through our struggles how to pull together and be happy with what we have. My faith journey made me focus more on being grateful for each other, for what we have, and the joy of being together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as, every other day. I’m really blessed to have my mother and my son both with me, and I thank Him every day for them. Most importantly, it taught me that the real reason is to celebrate Jesus and His birth. He came here for us, and that was the true holiday message I wanted to focus on. We made it all about Him, our Gift. ( Bich Tran)

I felt more peace in this season than any other in my life. Sure, I missed some of the things I loved doing; I felt bad about not being able to buy gifts and opening them together on Christmas day. But, we ate our dinner together, watched the mass, and I spent time learning more about the spiritual side of the holidays. I prayed and watched more things about Him. I watched movies that were heartfelt and portrayed the message Christmas was meant to give.

My mother and I spent time watching some of our favorite movies together, and stayed up all night talking about our faith and our Lord. We did everything together and respected the quiet time each other needed, cherishing our peace and our time. Most of all, I didn’t have to work in that stressful environment just to pay for it all. I spent quality time with my family and with Him. I am not worried about not paying my bills because I spent too much at the mall, or worried about how we are going to get through the next month. Most of all, I am deeper in my faith. It’s a great place to be after “The Holidays.”

After going through a few years of struggles and hardship, we are finding our way back to the good life. We are happy, getting more financially stable, and closer as a family unit than ever before. Things are simpler and more relaxed. I’m secure in my life and where I am now while on a journey to something new. I remember making my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year, and unsuccessfully reaching a lot of them. I realize now that our journey and our faith carried us through the worst of times and brought us to the beginning of restoration and renewal. We are rising above the worst of times, with His guidance and help, and now reaching the best of our times. It is only the beginning, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel and His Bright Light.

So, what have I learned going into this final phase of “the season?” The words that play over and over again in my head are “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Everything I worried about, stressed over, cried over, felt my life was over, proved to be “the small stuff.” He took us through it, never left us or let us down, and now in the blink of an eye, we are in the right place. We felt like we were lost, misplaced, being punished, made all the wrong decisions and never going to get out of some of the horrific situations we were in.

Looking back over things the last few days made me realize that we were exactly where we were supposed to be and where we needed to be. Without all of that, we would not have found our way here. We would not have the relationship with Him that we have or our family bond. It was all worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing for how I feel and where I am right now. I’m still on that journey to “recovery” but I know it is going to continue to get better and better. I can look back now and see what each and every moment was meant for. I feel more confident and faithful that this challenging journey was with Him, to bring us to a deeper, happier, and better place. (

So, as I move into my final phase, I feel like each day during “the holidays” was monumental and instrumental in the great change and journey planned for my family and I, to guide us into greatness. It doesn’t matter what I may think I need in this coming year, I know I will get exactly what I need, and at exactly the right time. I know I will be faced with new steps and paths on my journey into my true life that will only be positive and key to rebuilding me. I do everything for Him, I seek Him in everything I do, and I know all I have to do is trust in Him. I am not going to come up with that long list of changes I want to make for the year; those of my own choosing, that I’ve yet to see any success with. Usually, I might start off strong about January 15th, failing by February 28th with some of them.

Most of the time I forget what I even had down on my resolution list after a couple of months. Like the other rituals, it is just one of the things we do at that particular holiday. I realized that I won’t have to seek things out or plan them, just know that they will come to me. He will bring me everything I need, and at the right time, so that I am ready and will appreciate them. With Him, I will be successful with everything I try to achieve or set as a goal. Moving through life in complete trust. That is the new me for New Year’s 2018. Other than chilling out in my faith, the only other thing I have for this New Year’s resolution is “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I’m wishing you and your loved ones a great ending to 2017 and a blessed beginning to 2018, with all your resolutions, dreams and hopes becoming your new reality and peace.

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