When I walk around my house, I can easily fill a basket full of pieces. Many days I find several pens and pencils left on our tables and counters. Shoes are huge. Some days I really don’t like shoes. I don’t even like to buy myself shoes because it will just be more shoes in our house, and I don’t want anymore. I have shelves for shoes, organizers, but when we walk in the front door…somehow they just get left there…a lot. The toys that go in the basement are upstairs, and the toys that go in upstairs rooms are in the basement. Books are everywhere. I love books too, but some days there are just too many. Hair clips, legos, cars, candy wrappers, earrings, socks, and towels show-up everywhere. Now, some days we are organized and keep things where they are supposed to be, but there are many days where pieces can drive me crazy. I can spend so much time putting away pieces. If it’s a slow day, the pieces sometimes don’t cause stress. But if I am picking-up pieces with a tight schedule ahead of me…it could be stressful.

Sometimes I pick-up pieces that I shouldn’t though…just so it’s done. As a mom, I am trying to help my children be responsible, but it’s work. It seems it’s more work than just doing it myself, but that’s not really true in the long run. Those are also the pieces that can cause me stress. Those are the pieces that aren’t just being picked-up and tossed into the basket. Those are the pieces that say something. The socks of a baby left on the floor are cute, but the big socks are just dirty, stinky socks that should have a responsible owner… an owner who has been told or asked to pick-up after themselves before.

So we have to watch the pieces, we don’t want to pick-up the responsibilities of someone else . This is true in family life. It starts with young children learning to clean-up after themselves, and it doesn’t stop. Last Christmas break I decided that it was time for my older two children 13 and 15, to do their own laundry. Merry Christmas. It was a great decision for us because I no longer heard…”did you wash” or “why didn’t you wash” whatever the item…less stress for me. Stress can come into our homes when we take on other’s pieces. Listening to those who have more life experience than me has taught me that not carrying my children’s responsibility helps them care for their stuff as they become young adults and older. Stress is picking-up all the pieces in my family. For you it might not be physical pieces, but it might be emotionally stress because you are carrying heavy pieces for your adult children. Becareful. We just need to make sure we pick-up the right pieces.

Pieces aren’t just in our homes. What about work? Are you the go to person on everything even though you shouldn’t be? Do you solve too much? Do you help the lazy or incompetent person? I am not saying don’t help people, but I am saying we sometimes pick-up pieces that cause us stress. We can’t do everything. If we try, we will be stressed, and we can’t enjoy family time, quiet time, or a Christmas meal. God doesn’t want us to be stressed. Our friends and families don’t want us to be stressed even if they are part of the reason because we aren’t much fun when we are stressed. Stress can make us crabby. Stress steals our joy.

Joy is a word we hear so much at Christmas. Do you ever wonder “where is the joy”? Or do you wonder how? Christmas and stress kind-of go together. It’s almost like we are supposed to enjoy being stressed. Clarice, my daughter, and I did our first Black Friday shopping. The shopping at midnight that is. It was fun. Kind-of crazy. It was fun to get some good deals, and she was dying to go out late. But there were some people who looked pretty stressed. Clarice was laughing when the people were grabbing carts. And they weren’t real sweet when the registers went down at 2am. We don’t have to live stressed, but we sometimes allow ourselves to fall into the trap, and we lose sight of an escape. There are some great verses in Matthew 11. I have read them many times recently as I have been struggling with the pieces I have picked-up. I want to share what God has been working on in my heart. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The beginning of this verse is beautiful because Jesus says to come to him if we are weary and burdened, and he will give us rest. If we just do that, life changes. It changes in huge ways. Jesus asks us to come to Him, just as He went to His Father. Jesus lived here on earth. He ate, slept, and worked. He dealt with family and friends. He had great pressure and misunderstandings. He lived REAL life. He dealt with real stress. He was on a time schedule, and He had to save the world…the whole world. He saw all around him for who they really were. He saw their hearts. He did not fix everything. If Jesus didn’t do everything, we don’t need to either. We put that stress on ourselves at times though. What did Jesus do? Jesus took time to get away and pray. In Matthew 14:23 it says, “After he dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” When life is stressful, when our schedule is full, do we stop and pray? Jesus says to come to him.

So why are we weary and burdened? At Christmas we may be tired because we picked-up the Martha Stewart magazine, and we think “she made that”. Maybe it’s the relatives that are coming. It could be the expectations of your children. The dreaded work Christmas party where you have nothing to say. We might be tired because of all the pieces we have picked-up. Sometimes in the midst of the “stuff” of life we get bad attitudes. We get selfish and self-centered. That gets heavy and makes us tired. When we walk in the opposite direction of what we know God wants us to do, we are going to feel it. Heavy hearts wear us out.

I like my kitchen counters clean. But there are times…when there are drawers and cupboards in my house that are disorganized. My silverware drawer can be scary. I don’t put silverware away-at least that’s my excuse. Sometimes in life we try to look good on the outside, but we are a mess inside. We are trying to live up to a standard of someone, or we are trying to follow a set of rules. Both are just outside appearances, and they don’t give us hope. They just make us tired! Jesus says, “Come to me….and I will give you rest.” A good night’s sleep feels wonderful! The first time your baby sleeps through the night. That’s good sleep. Rest helps life. Jesus says that He will give us rest. The rest He gives comes from knowing Him…it’s resting in His promises. It’s resting in His love. It’s experiencing God’s peace in the midst of chaos. Knowing that there is a plan, and that it is God’s plan brings peace and rest.

Let’s picture what’s going on with the “yoke”. This is what was placed on the ox for work. The yoke allowed the farmer to control the ox so he could guide it. The ox was under submission. Jesus says to take His yoke and learn from Him. We are to submit and obey Him. We are going to trade our agenda for His. Trade my plans for His plans. We are going to listen to the greatest teacher…Jesus. What kind of teacher is He. He is gentle and humble. Did you ever have a “best teacher ever”? That’s Jesus. He wants to teach us and guide us. Learn about Him. Read His Word. This is a great month to learn about the Christmas story. Read it for yourself. Read it with a pen or colored pencils. Read it with a journal. Write down the characters in the story. What do you learn about them? What do you learn about God? What do you learn about His love? Allow Jesus to be your teacher…your guide. For the second time in this paragraph we have the promise of rest. Real rest. The rest is from God.

So what is it like to hand over our agendas? What is it like to submit? We like to be in control…don’t we? God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. That’s not really what we picture is it? Is it work? Yes. We were created to work, but it is work with a purpose. Maybe the pieces in life are stressful at times because they don’t seem to have meaning. God’s yoke is easy and the burden light because we are doing what God created us to do, and we are seeing our life through God’s eyes. There is purpose, and there is meaning in everything that we need to do. This Christmas you have the opportunity to look at the holiday in a new way. Everything we do has meaning and purpose. You don’t have to do everything, but do what God gives you to do. It might be showing love to a family that doesn’t really like you, but you love them with God’s love…unconditionally. It might be giving to those in need because God wants us to care for the poor. It might be being in your home…picking-up the pieces.

So what is the Real Help with Stress? First, watch your pieces. Pick-up your pieces…but don’t pick-up every piece…especially the pieces that aren’t yours.

Next, come to Jesus. Just come to Him and enjoy His rest.

Last, grab a Bible and enjoy the Christmas story for yourself.

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