185: Want Connection with God this Christmas? How to Break Free from the Holiday Hustle with Ruth Chou Simons

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Tired of the holiday hustle this Christmas and looking for more connection with God as you celebrate the holidays with family and friends? Many of us look forward to the holiday season as a chance to discover Christmas joy, but often find ourselves swept up in the busyness and hustle. That can create a mindset of overwhelm that may make us not so excited to step into the Christmas season.  

My guest today, Ruth Chou Simons, and I talk about how to cultivate a more Christ-centered Christmas that honors the Christmas traditions, baking and making memories without all the overwhelm and exhaustion. Ruth gives great advice on simple ways to honor Christ this Christmas and create a more restful holiday season.

Does the stress of the Christmas season make you want to run and hide? Ruth Chou Simmons shares about how to break free from the holiday hustle and connect with God.


[05:35] The Desire (and Struggle) to Tap into Peace During the Christmas Season

[09:27] How Ruth’s self-imposed expectations influenced her ability to step into the replenishing gift of Christmas and Advent

[14:22] Reframing your mindset after the Christmas Season comes to an end

[17:13] How the concept of waiting and expectancy can help us tap into the gifts Christmas can bring us 

[23:05] Navigating worry and self-striving during the holiday season 

[28:38] How to embrace worship and adoration of Christ during Christmas time 

[31:44] Examples of idols that Christmas can help us reveal so that we can have room for Him

[34:55] Managing expectations for our kids, especially during the holiday season

[37:03] How to balance both the practical side and deeper meaning of Christmas 

[40:44] Ruth’s personal Christmas traditions with her family 

[42:58] How Ruth uses her creativity to tap into worship for the Lord

[05:35] The Desire (and Struggle) to Tap into Peace During the Christmas Season

For many of us, our childhood Christmases were filled with magical feelings and eager anticipation. Now as adults, it seems that the excitement and longing have been replaced with feelings of stress and pressure.

We really want to tap into that child-like excitement, but as soon as the Christmas decor starts to come out in stores, the anxiety starts. We want to “make the most of the season” and get everything just right, so we create these expectations and keep adding more and more to our calendars, and feel stress rather than the peace we’re actually searching for in the Christmas season.

Ruth Chou Simons shares that her book Emmanuel: An Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always was written from the perspective of someone who oftentimes feels sad, feeling the loss of strong family relationships or physical and emotional distance from loved ones, but also from the lens of wanting to look at the Advent season in a different way – one that can bring us peace and calm.

[09:27] How Ruth’s self-imposed expectations influenced her ability to step into the replenishing gift of Christmas and Advent

Every Advent, Ruth has an intention to either keep some sort of rhythm or habit for 25 days or plans to do something specific with her family. As an ex-approval-addict, she finds that once she “messes up” her intended rhythm, like not completing her planned reading through Leviticus, she wants to give up and start again the following year. 

Her husband will remind her that, even though the situation may not be what they had planned for or intended, it’s opening up conversations about what they find precious about the Christmas season. It’s a great reminder that the short amount of time we spend in Advent helps to prepare our hearts for continuing important conversations about Christ even after the season has ended.

[14:22] Reframing your mindset after the Christmas Season comes to an end

When all the decorations go away and the Christmas season has come to an end, we don't have to say, “did I meet the goal?”, Ruth shares.

Instead, we can say “what was the experience? And what did I receive and what can I bring forward?”

Ruth’s question to all of us is ultimately, when we say, “Jesus is the reason for the season” do we really intentionally pursue knowing him more? Just because it’s the holiday season does not mean that we are immune to tough times so reframing your mindset and acknowledging the true meaning of Christmas can help us stay grounded. 

[17:13] How the concept of waiting and expectancy can help us tap into the gifts Christmas can bring us

Nowadays, the idea of being expectant and waiting is a lost art, Ruth says. Many of us have an expectation for how everything needs to work out perfectly so that we can get what we really want. What we really want is usually what we think will make us the most happy, like a peaceful and clean home, but that is not always enough. 

However, when there was an expectancy for the Messiah, the Israelites knew the treasure was already God incarnate. 

When we come to the Advent season, the change of mindset here is to say,
“Everything I have ever needed to be whole, happy and fulfilled isn't something out there that requires I control all my circumstances to receive. My contentment is actually in Christ and he’s already come. Christ in me is the true treasure.”

Ruth reminds us that if that is the case, then we are receiving what has already been provided and we don't have to go hustle to try to get what we think we need. That simple mindset shift is truly the difference between running ourselves ragged thinking that there's something that we have not yet attained for ourselves in the Christmas season or otherwise. Everything else, all the guests, all the decor is just icing on the cake.

Ruth says that a great example of this is how God created nature, and specifically, trees. A tree cannot produce fruit on its own. It needs sun and water to be able to create the fruit that it needs. A lot of times we are not willing to sit there and wait for that fruit but we are unable to make it appear on its own. This is also one of the frustrating parts about Christmas because we tend to focus on things we can control like the food we eat and the activities we do instead of the deeper meaning behind the holiday season. 

Ruth is a firm believer that what we believe is what will actually determine how we act, and our input determines our output. If she could frame up her new devotional in one sentence, it is to be on a 25 day journey that sows the seeds of truth in our hearts so that we don't have to muster up Christmas joy but that it comes out of the overflow of meditating on the gift of grace through Emmanuel.

[23:05] Navigating worry and self-striving during the holiday season

It is important to take a good look at what makes us the most unhappy and anxious during the holiday season. and in those moments figuring out the root of the issue. For Ruth, the root of the issue is usually that she does not quite trust God to give her what she is seeking at this time. 

She agrees that this can be challenging but one of the best things to do is to slow down and identify what it is that you think God is holding out on you and cannot give you so that you need to go and seek it out for yourself. 

Ruth encourages us to ask ourselves these questions: 

What did the Psalmist tell himself when he was feeling this way? What do the Scriptures say about this? How do I remember His benefits? How do I inform myself that God has provided, He is who he says He is, and that I will never be as good as He is at providing for myself. 

During the holiday season, we are often so distracted by all the shiny things. Ruth encourages us to step outside and slow down enough to remind us of all the beautiful things that God has created long before we put out all the decor for Christmas. 

[28:38] How to embrace worship and adoration of Christ during Christmas time

The subtitle of Ruth’s book is “Invitation to Prepare Him Room at Christmas and Always” is an intentional reminder to herself to leave room for Christ during the Christmas season because it is so easy to get wrapped up in the holiday hustle and bustle and forget about the true reason for the season. 

The goal of any celebration is acknowledging Him and that has to come out of having room in our heart to recognize that we are not the source or the one who is worthy of worship, Ruth  reminds us that it means we need to surrender a lot of things that we are currently worshiping so that we can make room for Jesus. 

[31:44] Examples of idols that Christmas can help us reveal so that we can have room for Him

Ruth says that something is considered an idol when we are willing to sin in order to get it or if not having it causes us to sin. Idols can be material items or even financial stability.

Some examples of Ruth’s idols are wanting her husband to read her mind and thinking her kids should know her expectations about everything without question. Ruth shares that she has even made an idol of relationships within her family. While it is understandable to want peace, we cannot put peace among family members above our relationship with God, Ruth reminds us.

[34:55] Managing expectations for our kids, especially during the holiday season

One idol that Alicia needs to be aware of this holiday season is the want for her teenagers to be well mannered all the time. As a recovering perfectionist, this can be challenging but being able to manage our expectations during tough times is important. 

Ruth points out that although we may want these things for our kids, we are likely making an idol out of our own motherhood and when our children do not follow our expectations to a t, we feel like that makes us a bad mother. We don’t typically view Christmas time as a trap for overachievers and perfectionists but it really is. 

[37:03] How to balance both the practical side and deeper meaning of Christmas 

Most of us truly do have good intentions, but sometimes those intentions fall to the wayside when real life happens. Ruth wishes that there was some formula to ensure that each Christmas was the Christmas that we had longed for but unfortunately, that just is not possible. 

Ruth wrote her book as a 25 day journey, and even though she would love to commit to reading the book each day of December with her kids, realistically, that may not happen and the joy in it is knowing that they do not have to follow it to the letter to still have a meaningful Christmas. We can still benefit from her book well beyond the holiday season. 

Ruth gives us a simple way to refocus on the deeper meaning this Christmas. Instead of taking the time to catch up over a phone call or listen to your favorite podcast, make the 10 or 15 minute car ride to your child’s extracurricular activity that intentional time where you are able to connect with the Lord. It is important to carve out that time in our day to just sit and be with God without any outside distractions. If you find yourself having trouble getting started with this, Ruth’s devotional Emmanuel provides you with prompts so that you can easily fit grace and gratitude for the Lord into your busy holiday schedule. And she reminds us that we as humans make time for the things that are important to us. 

[40:44] Ruth’s personal Christmas traditions with her family 

Ruth and her family enjoy going out and looking at Christmas lights. They also typically host an open house on Christmas Eve and invite people who have no families over to celebrate with them. Ruth also enjoys baking different treats with her family during the holidays. 

[42:58] How Ruth uses her creativity to tap into worship for the Lord 

As an artist, if your work becomes tied to your creativity, then you have to intentionally choose to do creative work that is not for production. Instead of creating in her typical watercolor style, Ruth will opt for clay projects with her children or other ways to make things that are different from her usual work. She finds that doing things that you are a newbie at brings joy and allows you to explore your creativity in other ways. 

One of my favorite words that kept coming up in that conversation was posture. We can't manufacture the Christmas “magic” no matter how hard we try. This Christmas, I challenge you to get introspective and take a few minutes each day to examine your heart and encounter God in a fresh way. 

I'd love to hear from you on Instagram this week. It's @aliciamichellecoach. I want to know what is Christmas like for you typically? Can you relate to some of the things that we were talking about in today's episode? And if so, what can you commit to doing differently this year?

I would love to be able to hear from you about that and cheer you on and even pray for you. Let me know how I can support you as you decide to step out and say “I want to make Christmas more than just rituals and parties and fun. I want to make Christmas about God.” 






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About Alicia Michelle

Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach™, Bible teacher, speaker and host of The Christian Mindset Coach Podcast and You Tube Show. More importantly, she’s a lover of Jesus, a wife of 21 years to her best friend, and mom of four amazing kids ages 19 to 10. Alicia struggled with overthinking, negative thoughts and “being enough” for most of her adult life until God radically transformed her heart after a life-threatening medical crisis. Now through her signature courses and coaching programs she loves equipping women with practical, scientific and biblically-based mindset tools to help them overcome negative thought patterns and discover more confident, joyful lives in Christ. Listen to her on the podcast or on You Tube; download free workshop trainings at VibrantChristianLiving.com; and connect on Facebook and Instagram.