FamilyLife Today® Podcast

How to Deal with All the Feels at Christmas: Bob Lepine

with Bob Lepine | November 28, 2022
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Are joy and peace a far cry from your holiday? What if you're even angry, or sad? Author Bob Lepine talks about handling all the feels at Christmas.


  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are joy and peace a far cry from your holiday? What if you’re even angry, or sad? On FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson host author Bob Lepine, who talks about handling all the feels at Christmas.

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How to Deal with All the Feels at Christmas: Bob Lepine

With Bob Lepine
November 28, 2022

FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript

References to conferences, resources, or other special promotions may be obsolete.


How to Deal with All the Feels at Christmas

Guest:                         Bob Lepine

From the series:       How to Deal with All the Feels at Christmas (Day 1 of 2)

Air date:                     November 28, 2022


David: Hi, there. David Robbins here, president of FamilyLife. I’m joined with my wife, Meg.

Meg: Hi, everyone.

David: Before we get started with today’s show, I want to first thank you for joining with us in delving deeper into all the issues we tackle, here, on FamilyLife Today.

Meg: Yes, listen to this comment from a couple, who was impacted by FamilyLife; she said: “Our communication was basically broken and silence was eating us away. You’ve renewed hope and given a path back to communication and oneness. You’ve let us see ourselves clearly and given us tools to bless each other. Thank you, God, for giving us a place to restart and restore.”

David: Man, I love stories like that we get every single day. As a donor-supported organization, we can only bring these programs to the hearts that need to hear them with the support from listeners, like you. We want to share with you some incredible news. Some generous friends of FamilyLife have joined together and offered a matching-gift campaign of $2 million; meaning, when you make a donation today, your gift will help twice as many families. You can find out more later in the show, or go to

Bob: We come into the holiday with expectations about what this holiday is going to produce for us—we come in, thinking: “This is a season of joy and of peace,”—and then, we find out it winds up being a season of disappointment, and stress, and sadness often. Why is it that, what we’re longing for at Christmas/what our soul longs for, winds up getting taken in so many different directions?

Dave: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Dave Wilson.

Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at or on the FamilyLife® app.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.

Christmas is coming.

Ann: I’m so excited.

Dave: My favorite time of the year.

Ann: It’s not your favorite time.

Dave: Go ahead: tell them what the Wilson house is like—well, it isn’t anymore—but it was, for years, on Christmas morning.

Ann: Oh, I really love Christmas—I love everything about it—the birth of Christ; we’re celebrating this—family’s together; food. I’m going to admit—

Dave: —you love gifts.

Ann: —I love buying people gifts.

Dave: Yes, you don’t even care about getting a gift.

Ann: No, I don’t care about that.

Dave: But you go a little over the top: when I come down into the family room and I can’t see the tree, because there’s so many packages in front of it.

Ann: No, this is not true; it’s been very meager lately—

Dave: —meager? [Laughter] Are you kidding me?

Ann: —meager; it’s been meager.

Dave: The other day—I think it was Cody—one of our sons was talking about Christmas morning; he goes, “All I remember is Mom’s just having the time of her life; and there’s Dad, sitting on the couch, like,—

Ann: —totally depressed;—

Dave: —"‘Are you kidding me?’”

Ann: —no, angry; you’re angry—

Dave: Yes.

Ann: —because?

Dave: I struggled with the stress of the money part of it.

Ann: Christmas—let’s just admit—Christmas can be incredibly stressful.

Dave: Yes, and there are a lot of emotions.

Christmas is coming up. We have the guy in the studio—Bob Lepine is back with us—you wrote a book on the four emotions of Christmas. But Bob, let me say this: “Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Bob Lepine.” [Laughter]

Bob: This is so weird. [Laughter]

Ann: Isn’t it weird? [Laughter] Bob, it’s so good you’re here; it feels so good to have you back.

Dave: In almost 30 years of broadcasting on FamilyLife Today, you were never the guest; you were always the host.

Bob: Actually, when we found out Mary Ann was pregnant with David—this in 1994—FamilyLife Today had been on the air for two years. Dennis Rainey, the founder and president of FamilyLife, said to me, “Let’s do a series where we talk about getting ready for a new baby in your home, and we’ll just talk about what you guys are doing.” I was the expert for that series; there were just a handful of times [I was in that position].

But you guys and I—we spent a couple of years, every day here, talking to folks/doing this—so it just feels natural to be right back in the saddle with you. It feels like we never missed a beat. Great to be here.

Ann: I agree; and we’re excited to have you, too, Bob. For our listeners who don’t know: you mentored Dave and I for two to three years as we became the cohost. But you founded FamilyLife Today and started it with Dennis Rainey.

Dave: Yes, so we sit here in these seats because of you and Dennis. Thank you.

Now, you’re the expert—[Laughter]—and you’re the expert on Christmas—just a little thing called Christmas.

Ann: I love it that you wrote a book about Christmas.

Bob: I’ll tell you: I recognized that, at Christmas time, our emotions are heightened.

Ann: —and necessary. [Laughter]

Bob: It’s a time of year when we get more emotionally engaged—whether that’s the emotions we’re hoping for during Christmas or the emotions we actually experience during Christmas—which are often two different things.

Honestly, the genesis of this book was sitting down with some of the team, here, at FamilyLife. The vision was: “Let’s create a resource”—I don’t know how long it’s been since you went and bought a birthday card for somebody, but birthday cards cost a ton—“What if we had a book that had the gospel message imbedded in it that would be something that they would go: ‘Oh, I’m curious about this,’ that you could give to co-workers, neighbors, relatives, unbelievers. Something they’d look at and go, ‘That’s interesting; I’m curious,’ that would open up the gospel to them.”

As we were talking about a book like that, we kicked around ideas. I said, “What if we talked about what all of us experience at Christmas—and talk about emotions, both the positive and negative emotions—but talk about how the emotion we long for: joy is actually the emotion that God promises at Christmas through Christ. And see if this is a way to open the door, evangelistically, for other people.” We don’t want you to get a copy of the book; we want you to get multiple copies of the book.

Ann: —at least four.

Bob: Here at yearend, you know that this is a critical time for us to hear from listeners. We’ve got a matching gift that’s at work, and we’re hoping to be able to meet that matching gift. Here, early in the month, we wanted to say to listeners: “Help us meet the matching-gift total.” But if you’re able to help with a donation, not only will your donation be matched, we want to send you four copies of the book, The Four Emotions of Christmas.

We’ll send them along with some cards so that you can figure out: “Who are the four people”—start praying now—"who are the four people you want to give this to?” Use it as a way to invite them to the Christmas Eve service at your church; or if your church has got a special pageant—along with the plate of cookies you’re going to give them or whatever else is a Christmas gift—this is a way to say: “Merry Christmas.” They will not be offended, getting a Christmas book at Christmas time.

Ann: And it’s a beautiful little book too.

Dave: I don’t know a person that wouldn’t get the title of that book, and wonder, “What are the four emotions?”

Bob: That’s why we decided: “Let’s talk about emotions, and it will peak people’s curiosity.” Then you get into it, and you think, “Everybody’s experienced these kinds of emotions.” Before I talk about that, if you want to make a donation, you can go to to donate online; or you can call us, toll free, at 1-800-FL- TODAY; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Ann: This is a great gift.

Bob: Well, I hope folks, in addition to the gift, I hope they’ll support the ongoing work of FamilyLife; because it’s so needed.

Dave: One of those emotions I’ve already sort of brought up, because I’ve felt it. But I don’t think I’ve felt the stress anywhere near what Ann has felt; because she has said to me, for 41 years: “Men do nothing at Christmas; women do everything.” [Laughter]

Ann: Bob, when I was seeing these emotions and stress—I love Christmas—but most of the time, I’m totally stressed at Christmas; and most of the time, I’m mad at Dave at Christmas. [Laughter] I’m telling you: most of my friends feel the same way.

Years ago, when our kids were little—when we’re buying gifts, and we’re wrapping gifts, and we’re cooking food, and we’re making cookies—I came across this old poem. I have to read a segment of this; this is what it says:

See Mother. See Mother laugh. Mother is happy. Mother is happy about Christmas. Mother has many plans; Mother has many plans for Christmas. Mother is organized. See Mother smile!  Mother smiles all the time. Funny, funny Mother.

See Mother. See Mother smile. Mother is happy. Mother has finished shopping. See the children watch TV. See the children change their minds; see them ask Santa for different toys. [Laughter] See Father taking a nap. See Mother go shopping again. See Mother is not smiling. Funny, funny Mother! [Laughter]

I’ll cut out some of it. Listen to the end of this:

See Mother. See Mother wrap presents. See Mother hunt for Scotch® tape. See Mother run out of Christmas wrap. See Mother hunt for Christmas cards. Searching, searching. Go, Mother. See Mother go. See Mother go to store seven times in one hour. See Mother go fast. See Mother go faster. See Father taking a nap on the sofa. [Laughter] Run Mother run. See the kids are fighting. See Mother screaming. Mother is not funny anymore.

At last, it is Christmas!  See the happy children!  See the happy Father. Father loves Christmas. The children love Christmas. See Father smile. See the children smile. See the happy, happy family.

Look, look!  Where is Mother?  Mother is slumped in a chair. Mother doesn’t look so good. Mother has dark circles under her bloodshot eyes. [Laughter] See Mother stare into space. Why can’t Mother be like happy, happy like Father? [Laughter]

Ann: Isn’t it funny?

Bob: That nails it; doesn’t it?

Ann: It nails it. We want to be happy at Christmas, but there’s a lot of stress in Christmas.

Bob: There is. We come into the holiday with expectations about what this holiday is going to produce for us—we come in, thinking: “This is a season of joy and of peace,”—and then, we find out that it winds up being a season of disappointment, and stress, and sadness often. That’s really part of what is addressed in this book, is: “Why is it that, what we’re longing for at Christmas/what our soul longs for, winds up getting taken in so many different directions?”

You’re right; we have so much on the calendar/so many objectives that we’re trying to accomplish during the month of December. If you pulled back, in any other month of the year, and said: “Let’s talk about this coming month,” and “Let’s add more activities than we ever have, as a family, during the month. Let’s add shopping priorities to the top of that; let’s add entertainment priorities/parties.” There’s work-related stuff; there are kids’ activities. You start to load up the calendar [with] all of the expectations that get piled up. We think, “Unless we accomplish all of these things/these are necessary components for us to have the kind of holiday that we want to have.”

We’ve found that this grows exponentially throughout your marriage and throughout your family; because the more kids you have, the more activities you have; the older they get, the more activities there are added to that. Then, there are traditions that just keep multiplying. For example, I talk in the book about how fajitas became stressful for us at Christmas. You wouldn’t think fajitas would be a big deal; right?

Ann: Let’s add: you’ve been married to Mary Ann for 43 years; you have 5 children and how many grandchildren?

Bob: We have ten grandkids; that’s where we are.

When our kids were little—in our neighborhood in San Antonio; we lived in San Antonio for a while—we would put out luminaries, brown paper bags with sand and a candle in each one. We would do this, I think Christmas Eve—we would have the luminaries out—which meant somebody had to get the brown paper bags, the sand, and the candles; right? I don’t remember ever doing any of those things, by the way. [Laughter]

Dave: You didn’t do that? I thought you were going to say you did it.

Ann: “Funny, funny Mother.”

Bob: No, that’s right.

Dave: “Funny, funny Mary Ann.”

Bob: Somebody had to assemble all of that stuff; and then; on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when you don’t have anything else to do, you’re out putting luminaries. Now, we did this because it was beautiful; and it was a nice tradition.

Because all of that was taking place on Christmas Eve afternoon and early evening, we weren’t going to try to make dinner; we were going to go grab carry-out dinner. In San Antonio, carry-out dinner means you go to the local fajita place; in our case, the Alamo Café. Back in the day, you could get a pound of fajitas, with rice with beans. We’d get a side of queso; we’d get tortillas and all the rest for like under 20 bucks. The kids didn’t eat the fajita meat much. They’d just eat refried beans on a tortilla—they’re fine—or a quesadilla; they’re fine with that. It was a simple/cheap—and it became a tradition for us to have fajitas on Christmas Eve—just kind of a special thing.

When we moved to Little Rock, out first Christmas away from San Antonio, I wanted to keep a little of the San Antonio magic in our Christmas; so I thought, “We should make fajitas.” There’s nobody selling the discount pack of fajitas in Little Rock; so I went around to the grocery stores, trying to find skirt steak, which is what you use to cook fajitas with. Nobody knew what skirt steak was at the butchers in Little Rock. I finally found skirt steak—bought it; brought it home—and made homemade fajitas with store-bought tortillas, and it was fine.

Well, the next year, it was: “We should make our own refried beans instead of canned refried beans; we should make our own.”

Ann: Oh, no.

Bob: The year after that: “What if we had both white queso and yellow queso?” All of a sudden, this has become, now, an elaborate production. After doing this for 15 or 20 years, Mary Ann says, “What if we skip the fajitas this year?” I looked at her, like, “Why don’t we just cancel Christmas too? [Laughter] Skip the fajitas? How can you have Christmas if you don’t have fajitas?”

She looked at me and says, “You have no idea.” I said, “I’ll take care of it. The girls and I, we’ll cook the whole fajita dinner; you don’t have to worry about a thing.” You guys know Mary Ann well enough that, when I said, “You don’t have to worry about a thing,” she’s still worrying about it. [Laughter] Even when I say, “Stay out of the kitchen; don’t worry about a thing,” she’s still concerned that it’s all going to get done properly; get done right. She doesn’t have confidence that I can pull off an elaborate fajita meal—and with good reason—she doesn’t have confidence on that. But that’s one component.

Now, here’s the other thing[s] she’s thinking of:

  • After the fajitas on Christmas Eve; and after then, we go to the Christmas Eve service at church; then we have to come home, clean the kitchen and all the pots and pans.
  • Because tomorrow morning we have the special Christmas breakfast coming—and we’ve got to get all the presents wrapped for that—and I’ve got to start working on getting the Christmas breakfast ready after the Christmas service.
  • Oh, by the way, after the special Christmas breakfast, we’ve got the big Christmas lunch we’re going to….

In a 24-hour period, we’re having 3 elaborate meals, plus Christmas on top of that.

She goes: “This holiday is no fun for me; there’s no joy. I thought this was going to be joy; there’s not a whole lot of joy here.”

Dave: So many listeners can relate.

Ann: Every woman is relating to this because we struggle.

Dave: Don’t leave the guys out—we relate in a different way, but it’s/we’re carrying—we’re all carrying something.

Bob: Yes.

Dave: You want to be joyful—you want to be focused on the real meaning of Christmas—and yet, you lay in bed, at night; you can’t sleep. I was sleepless because of the money we were spending.

Ann: —the money, yes.

Dave: How do you navigate it? How do you dig out?

Bob: I don’t want to downplay; I mean, there are families that have a really hard three months after Christmas; because they didn’t handle the money rightly.

Ann: They’re in debt.

Bob: They think to themselves: “I have to do all of this: with gifts, and money, and stuff in order for this holiday to win.” So they are willing to go into debt. Then they find themselves in February, going, “Why did I do that?”; and they’re stressed out.

This is a holiday—that if you read the Bible—talks about the Prince of Peace coming to bring joy. [Laughter] People are going, “What happened there?”

Dave: We’ve all been there: “How do we dig out?” Because peace is what we want; peace is not what we often feel.

Bob: We have to pull back—at the beginning of the season—like right now. I think we have to look at what’s coming our way—fajitas and all; right?—we have to say: “Okay; let’s right-size what this season is going to be about. First of all, let’s determine what’s most important about what this season looks like. When we get to December 26, and we look back, and we say, ‘You know, that was a great Christmas,’ what will be the things that we’ll look back on and say: ‘That’s what made it a great Christmas’?”

I think what you’ll find is that there are going to be spiritual moments that you have, as family, that are going to be more meaningful to you, after the holiday’s over, than a lot of the busy activities that you went around and did—or a lot of the cookie making, that may have been a sweet time; and you may have enjoyed that—I’m not saying you get rid of all of it. But you have to cherry-pick those things that are really going to make it good. If fajitas are the thing you need to say, “No,” to—I mean, in recent years, we’ve gone out for fajitas on Christmas Eve instead of making them—because it simplifies everything for everybody. Right sizing is the first way to get rid of the stress.

And then, asking the question: “What are the priorities that really matter during this season?” and planning out your holiday with those priorities at the centerpiece. I’d get the calendar out—husband and wife sit down, look at your calendar and say—“What do we know we’ve got going on?” You know you’ve got the fixed events, like: “The small group is having a Christmas party this night,” and “The office is having their Christmas thing this night,” and “The kids’ thing is this night,” and “The church pageant is this night.” You’ve got those all mapped out on the calendar.

But then you need to say: “Okay; are we going to do a Christmas movie or two with the family? Which ones do we want to watch? What nights do we want to schedule those?”

Then if you start to look at every night in December is filled up, you’ve got to say: “Time out; we’ve got to have a rest night. We’ve got to have a night there’s nothing going on; we need to have some margin built into our schedule here.” And you start to remove some things. What doesn’t get added in is the trips to the grocery store and the trips to the mall; that all is just expected to happen in the margins.

You’ve got to build a list of: “What are the priorities?”

  • There’s gift buying and gift wrapping priorities.
  • There’s the cookie making or the baking.
  • Or if you’re going to go sledding one day.
  • Or if you’re going to some kid’s activity.

You’ve got to kind of map out the whole month.

Then I would say, once you’ve got it mapped out,—

Well, I’ll tell you: when I worked on the Art of Marriage® video series for FamilyLife, I got all done with the series; I showed it to the staff and everybody; and I remember Dennis coming up to me, and he said, “It was really good; you did a great job on that. Go back through and cut ten percent out.” [Laughter]

I went, “No, wait! I liked every part of it.” He said, “Yes, go cut ten percent out.” He was right; the stuff that wound up on the cutting room floor, that I’d fallen in love with over the time, it was good to have it condensed down and make it more bite-sized for people to be able to engage with.

—look at your holiday schedule/look at all of the things you want to do. There are going to be some good things you’re going to want to do—cut ten percent of them out—and just say, “We need some breathing room.” And then, write me a note after Christmas, and say, “Thank you for that advice; that was good advice.”

Ann: You’re saying: “Be intentional.

Bob: Yes.

Ann: “Make a plan together with your spouse.”

I would add, too—especially, if you’re the wife, and you have this list of things to do—“Don’t do it yourself. Ask your husband specifically—give him a list—'Could you do these things this year at Christmas? That would really help me.’” Be specific. I know, for me, I can be very picky about the things—the way they’re done/how they get done—if I’m feeling like that, I need to say to Dave, “Could you do it this way?”

I know that some of you are thinking: “My husband would never do that,” “My kids would never do that”; but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Bob: That’s right.

Dave: I’ve also found—sort of the Advent Season, early December—start reading Scripture daily.

Ann: Me too.

Dave: It sort of reminds you—of course, what the real story is—but it lowers the stress. You’re like, “Wait, wait, wait; I’m getting all caught up in things that are important,”—but not this important when you open the Scripture every day.

As a preacher, I’m getting ready to preach on that Christmas story; I decide: “I’ve got to read this multiple times.” I’m sort of doing it for my sermon; but that passage in Matthew and Luke changed me; it sort of said: “Slow down the RPMs. What matters, right now, is: ‘Focus on Jesus. What matters, right now, is the people I’m doing life with; and I need to center myself there.’”


Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today.

Bob, this is a book that’s really meant to be given away more than it is kept; is that right?

Bob: When I think about this book, I’m hoping FamilyLife Today listeners will, not order a copy for themselves, I’m hoping they’ll get four copies and give them to people, whom they know, who maybe aren’t going to church regularly. My prayer for this book—and I’m so excited about it—my prayer is that this is a book that will cause a lot of people to scratch their head, and go, “Oh, yes; I should be thinking about this at Christmas.”

Then, the people who give it to them—who invite them to the Christmas Eve service—who follow back up, and say, “Did you get a chance to read that book that I gave you? I’d love to get your thoughts on that book,” “I’d love to hear what you thought about that book; I read it.” Maybe you read it just so you can have this conversation with them later on.

But wouldn’t it be great if, this Christmas season—there were thousands of FamilyLife Today listeners, giving tens of thousands of these books to non-Christians—and we see what God does with it?

Shelby: Yes, that’s really exciting to think about. That’s why we’re excited to be able to offer you a few things this December. It’s four copies of The Four Emotions of Christmas by Bob Lepine and six greeting cards, hand-selected by David and Meg Robbins. These make a great tool to share with the loved ones in your life.

That’s our gift to you when you go to and help families this Christmas season. Thanks to some generous donors, your gift, whatever you give, will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2 million. Again, head over to, or give us a call at 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

I just wanted to remind you that today is the final day to get up to 60 percent off

12 products on our FamilyLife Christmas Gift Guide. You can head over to to check out that guide and grab a great gift for someone this holiday season.

Let’s talk about the holiday blues. [Blues music playing] No, no; I’m not talking about this type of blues. I’m talking about the sadness you can feel around this time of year. Well, tune in tomorrow on FamilyLife Today; because Dave and Ann Wilson are joined, again, with Bob Lepine to talk about finding joy during this holiday season. I mean, we sing about it; why not actually experience it?

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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