ep. 80 on when holidays are hard


ep. 80 | When Holidays Are Hard with Amy Waters

On today’s episode of the Journeywomen podcast, I brought back my friend Amy Waters to discuss navigating the holidays when it just feels hard! We covered it all, from unmet holiday expectations to weightier stuff, like gathering together after the loss of a loved one. Amy offers us lots of tips from her perspective as a counselor, and of course, she points us to the hope we have in Jesus as we’re in the thick of the holiday season.

So you’ll know her a little better, Amy is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Women’s Bible Study leader, disciple maker, and self-proclaimed theology junkie. Amy spent nearly 10 years on staff at Pine Cove as a Conference Director, and it was there that God gave her a passion for ministering to women and families.  She earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2011 and is currently counseling at the Alethia Counseling Center in Tyler, TX. I cannot wait for you to hear from Amy today!

  1. Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

  2. As everyone knows, Christmas, and New Years are quickly approaching, Thanksgiving will have just passed when this episode airs, and while that means lots of fun family time for some of us, this is also a difficult time for many. Other than the logistics involved with purchasing presents, eating too much, and being overloaded with parties, what is it can make the holidays so hard?

  3. Why is it that holidays, in particular, tend to draw out even more sadness or friction than every other day?

  4. What is our hope, even when holidays are hard? Even when everything seems to be going wrong, what hope do we have?

  5. What encouragement do you have for the woman filled with dread even thinking about the next few months?

  6. What about the woman who is expecting to have a great holiday season, but who finds herself completely blindsided by unmet expectations?

  7. What would it look like to communicate expectations on the front end, whether they be financial, relational, or logistical? When might this be a good idea?

  8. Even then, if the expectations go unmet, how can we graciously move forward in the hope we have in Jesus?

  9. What would it look like to come alongside a friend or family member who is having a really difficult time with the holidays? How can we love them well, enter into their suffering, and extend compassion (even if we really just want to have a good time)?

  10. What opportunity are we presented with when it comes to the holidays, even if they are hard for us?


  1. What 3 resources would you recommend for someone who wants to navigate this season well?

  2. What are your 3 simple joys?

  3. Who has had the greatest impact on your own journey with Jesus?


“Because families operate as systems, for everything to flow, we have to play our part. So even if that really isn’t a healthy system at all, we really tend to feel this gravitation to play our part.”

“We need to accept that that script is probably what is going to be. And even if we can’t change anyone else’s lines, I have control over what my lines are. If I decide that I just want to be gracious and my words seasoned and ready to give an answer for the hope that I have, sometimes deciding ahead of time what your line is going to be decide ahead of time that I’m going to have different lines this year.”

“In 1 Peter 1:13 he commands us to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation Jesus Christ. That includes the holidays. When I walk into Thanksgiving, when I walk into Christmas, when I walk into Valentine's day, or whatever holiday it is, I’m going to set my hope fully on the grace that will brought to me upon the revelation of Jesus Christ. If our hope is anchored to Christ, our identity is rooted in him and his work on the cross. Our joy comes from being invited to enter into his joy, our victory is connected to the power of the resurrection, then we don’t have to be so self protective. And if we’re anchored to Jesus we can let go of busying ourselves with temporary and fleeting joys and hold onto the everlasting joy.”

“Maybe we aren’t fully set on the hope of Jesus in the holiday because we think holidays are about other things.”

“We tend to grieve to the degree that we are confronted with the loss. So holidays put us in a place where we have no choice but to face our losses.”

“There is a sense where holidays are connected to family in that our traditions are one of the places where we get our sense of us, our sense of who we are. ‘We always do this, we used to do this, what will we do this year.’ There is a sense of community connected to the holidays.” 

“The truth is holidays are meant be played out in community. Holidays are made and created to call our hearts heavenward. They’re meant to be a set apart time for us to celebrate or to worship or to contemplate.”

“Even when we see feasts in the Scriptures, those are set apart to call your heart to some truth about who God is. And we do that with family. But when we switch those and make the object of our worship at the holidays family, of course we’re disappointed.”

“Romans 8:32 says that ‘he who did not spare his own son gave himself up for us will he not also with him graciously give us all things?’ So whatever difficult thing you’ve just experienced at Thanksgiving has also been graciously given to you.”

“We tend to think of those gracious gifts as the happy and joyful. But if God gave you perseverance to endure or to be gracious to someone who wasn’t gracious to you or to magnify the forgiving nature of Jesus as we forgive other people, that was a gift from him, too.”

“We need to be relentless in our hoping. Dread and anxiety are best friends. Part of what I’m doing when I’m dreading is picturing the horrible thing that is going to happen or how this is going to go or how much it’s going to cost me emotionally. And when we are doing that, we have to really actively seek the hand of God.”

“The framework for our counseling is this idea of extracting the precious from the worthless. Can I find the hand of God in the midst of the storm, the chaos, the failure, the disappointment? Where is his hand? Is he teaching me something? Is he sanctifying me? Is he giving me a long suffering that is like the long suffering of Christ? There is the hand of God. Is he showing me this world is not my home and the home I long for is heaven? Well, there is the hand of God. I think we can find his hand anywhere that the believer walks.”

“There is an element of grace that I want to have when I come to the table to not expect sinners to not act like sinners.” 

“Give a gracious view of where people are and be okay with loving people where they are because that’s what he does for us.”

“Two of the hardest emotions to deal with are being disappointed and the only one worse to deal with is being disappointing to other people.”

“The gap between what we want and what we have, there lives disappointment and grief.” 

“There was some contemplation that I needed. Am I making too much of myself in motherhood? Did I put myself up in a position to be admired and worshiped here? As opposed to being so grateful to the Lord that he had given.” 

“If we can communicate early and often and communicate clearly, we can limit a lot of those disappointments.” 

“Gifts ought to live in the world of gifts, not wages.”

“We can’t be held responsible for how someone responds. That really has to be between them and the Lord. When you’re dealing with a critical spirit or someone who just really can’t be pleased, I think it’s good to just go in remembering that’s what it is.”

“When we are in that difficult place, those are the times that we cling to him and we look back and see that part of the gift of that suffering is that we clung to him.”

“There is nothing, including family drama and loss and suffering, that he doesn’t understand. He is Emmanuel, and he cares tenderly for us and came to be with us. He met us where we were in every way.” 

“Or it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m alone. But to remember I have the love of God and he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. And he’s personal and ravish with his gifts.”

“With grief, particularly, we want to plan for it. We want to remember that grief is going to be a part of the holiday. And to pretend like it won’t be is setting yourself up for disappointment.”

“One of the sweetest things that heaven will have for us is we will all be who we ought to be.”

“The expectation that holidays are only wrapped up in happiness is missing some of the depth and the color that God paints in holidays.”



Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper (free PDF!)

Talk through your expectations with a trusted friend


Episode 6 on Relating To Your Emotions with Amy Waters


1 Peter 1:13

Romans 8:32

Jeremiah 15


Pie Breakfast at Thanksgiving

Cup of coffee with her mom and sisters for “happy time” at Christmas


Discussion Questions

  1. Do you anticipate anything being difficult this holiday season? If so, what?

  2. What are the scripts you desire to change?

  3. What is this holiday actually about?

  4. How can we glorify God as we go about this holiday season?

  5. Where can you see the hand of God in your holidays already? Pray and ask him to give you eyes to see him working in and through the coming weeks.


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