Are you ready for Christmas?

It’s a busy time of year in the church calendar as well as the secular calendar. Getting those two calendar listings to mesh into any sort of organized, manageable time frame can be challenging, to say the least. Family customs and new traditions often involve detailed plans all with a time deadline of December 24 and/or 25. Perhaps it’s your turn to host a large family gathering. Perhaps you have invited family and friends to join in a day of making cookies or even lefse! There are musical concerts, programs, events to add joy to the season – for both audience and participants. All these activities reflect spiritual beliefs, personal family values, customs and priorities.

This is surely a season that celebrates all that is good about family. We appreciate the positive results of time well spent in preparation; we credit ourselves and others for all the effort; we applaud success; all are blessed in the glow of Christmas. By the end of the Christmas season, perhaps one can even feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in packing away the last box of decorations. It was time and effort well spent. Can you apply the same planning and organizational urgency to another task that will be of benefit all year, every year?

The ultimate gift to your family is to put time and effort into planning and documenting your own wishes for healthcare decisions at the end of life. This is known as an advanced care directive; the process is also called Honoring Choices. Planning for future health care choices involves thinking about and discussing sensitive, personal and sometimes difficult situations. It is important to talk about your choices with those closest to you, so they know what your wishes are. Putting this in writing is called an Advanced Care Directive. It is a document that specifies your wishes for medical treatment in case you are unable to speak for yourself when that treatment is needed. A directive is intended for anyone 18 years of age and older; it should be shared with your medical care providers for them to keep on file with health records.

The best time to develop an advance care plan is now, not when faced with a crisis. As your parish nurse, Dorothy Ellerbroek is available to begin the conversation, answer questions and provide additional information. The process of creating an advance care plan is similar to planning for other important events, such as Christmas. Such healthcare conversation includes family values and beliefs. It does take time and effort, but is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your loved ones.

RECIPE FOR YOUR HEALTH

Eat: a variety of foods; bright colored foods tend to have higher nutritional benefits; limit second helpings of dessert; holiday time is not the best time to ‘go on a diet.’ Be realistic.

Play: Include exercise most days of the week; be realistic; accept any physical limitations; adapt to those limitations while keeping active with what you are able to do.

Love: Emotions impact our well-being, for better or worse. Work at maintaining positive relationships;adapt an attitude of gratitude. Be more kind; show more understanding, practice forgiveness.

Drugs: Keep up to date on vaccinations; take prescription drugs as ordered by the physician; avoid drugs or substances that may be habit-forming. Drink more water.

Rugs: Remove scatter rugs from your home; falls are the most common cause of disability and death for people of all ages. Be mindful of hazards in the home and workplace; prevention is prudent.

Rest: Maintain a regular, regenerative sleep routine consistently. If you have chronic difficulty getting enough sleep, seek assistance from a physician who is a sleep specialist.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
— 3 John 1:2

AS SEASONS CHANGE  . . . How does a person keep up?

Even before the leaves turn color, the end of summer is punctuated by the beginning of the school year for many people. Routines change, with bedtimes and homework for many, in addition to putting away the golf clubs and tennis racquets in anticipation of skiing and sledding and skating. For those who no longer manage family and school routines, there are still changes of the fall season. As children are busy with challenges and stressors of school, some people are facing an empty nest or job stress.  And then, on top of that, Pastor Samuelson has retired and we need to get used to the guy in the bow tie! Thankfully we have come to know Pastor Jacobson over the past several years, but now he is in a new role as senior pastor – and some people have anxiety about what else may change, with new leadership. Even positive and good changes cause stress and require adaptation.

It would be short-sighted to gloss over all life changes, at all times and in all places. There is age-related stress on those grade-schoolers learning to adapt to new teachers, perhaps new friends, new expectations – which also is true for college-bound persons as well as those changing or seeking employment. It is no easier for adults to make changes, but it is quite likely adults have had to make more changes as the years have gone by. Typically they have faced the challenges, have learned new skills (again), and have more experience with adapting to a “new normal.”

There are some guidelines to assist in integrating a new normal. Remember, no one can know everything! Accept assistance, accept that offer of support and understanding of difficulties, when the challenge may be physical, intellectual, or emotional. Give yourself time, assuring yourself (and/or others) that adjusting to changes and challenges is a process that takes time.

It may be helpful to realize and observe that not everyone wants to ask for help. Be proactive to offer a hand or an arm to support someone’s imbalance or uncertainty with vision changes, for example. Adapting to changes can stress any of us, which leads to the question of how to cope with stress. Even in the process of change, continue opportunities to do those things that you enjoy or that you know will relieve stress – enjoy doing or watching some fall sports, or take time to clean closets, basement, or garage.  Pace those activities, it’s not realistic to do all in one day! But also, celebrate your accomplishments with the enjoyment of a wood fire, perhaps an opportunity to roast marshmallows or make smores. Face the reality of coming winter by making positive plans. Examples of that might be to plan for a “getaway” to warmer weather sometime during the winter, i.e. “spring break.” Put reading materials in an easily-accessible spot, find puzzles that interest you and your family, make plans to share rides when needed, review your favorite recipes for soup and stock up the ingredients.

For all ages, it is helpful to tend to the following aspects of healthy living: 1) get enough sleep every night; 2) maintain a healthy diet; 3) keep brain exercises in your routine, from elementary school through late ages and stages of life; 4) volunteer and otherwise participate in community service or activities that you enjoy to keep social skills current, and you will find it enriching in all areas of life; and 5) maintain participation in our faith community, live with purpose, seek out time with other people.

May the peace of our Lord walk with you in all times and in all places, as the leaves change color.