Time Alone: Tending Your Soul for the Holidays
Recently, I felt like I was all a mess inside and couldn’t put my finger on why. Finally, one of my friends commented, “Everyone wants something of you all the time. You must wish there was a place in your life where no one wanted anything from you.”
She was right. I give, serve, babysit. love, work, podcast, blog and then do it over again. And I was not centered. I love my life and all the people I serve, but then it hit me: I had not had any time by myself to regroup for almost 4 weeks. People in and out of my home had been lots of fun, but in a tiny space with multiple people sleeping in my bedroom, even there was not a haven. And so I went out by myself to a little hidden cafe and hid for 3 hours and read, wrote in my journal, drank several cups of coffee and then went for a long walk—by myself.
By this time of year, all of us are up to our eyeballs in S-T-R-E-S-S if we are alive. When all of my precious ones are home it’s constantly eating, cleaning up messes, cooking and then all over again, all accompanied by loud conversations.
If I want to be an agent of peace, I have to sow peace in my heart by the ways I am living in my moments. I want to bring peace to my family in the midst of all of their tension and needs.
It takes planning.
Every year at holiday season, I mean to be more at ease, more prepared. Yet, when life is flying by at light-speed, it is difficult to catch a breath in between the demands. However, if we purpose to take time for our own souls, to invest in thinking of Him in such a way that our moments are full of His life, then even in the busyness, our lives will be different—lighter, more joyful, extending generous, gentle love out of a full heart.
For me it starts with: Time alone—where no one needs me, no one wants a bite of whatever I am eating, and I can sit or read or just breathe for at least 30 minutes by myself! But finding this kind of time on a daily basis can be difficult.
Making personal goals to avoid exploding during the holidays and other such busy seasons is so very important to a mom’s life, because the journey of motherhood is so long without a break! Mothering has been an almost 30-year journey for me, and so far, the demands on my time and life from my children has not grown smaller. We are still the main friends, supporters, encouragers and coaches to our four adult children, and now their needs and demands are just more adult and more expensive! And of course there’s my wonderful son-in-law and baby Lilian to love.
I set a few goals each holiday season to help me make it through with grace.
Everyone should have at least 10 minutes to sit—sit and stare, do nothing, breathe in peace, let burdens lift to heaven off of our shoulders, to discover what is on our heart—to center from the stillness of not being engaged in anything!
1. Make a short list of what your personal needs are and then put a plan into action for this month so you can be sure to fulfill them. If you don’t give your ideas feet to walk on, you will not end up doing as you planned! (I have to have a quiet, one woman tea time every day for at least 15 minutes to be still and to sit by the lights in our living room—to still my soul.)
2. Plan an outing, just for you, that will give joy to your soul. It may be having lunch with a special friend or going shopping by yourself, or a quiet walk in the silent snow. For many, many years, I asked Clay for at least one Saturday off a month where he would take the kids out for a play day—museum, movie, playground, park, out for breakfast/lunch, on a hike, Christmas shopping, or whatever. We planned that it would be for at least 4-5 hours. By him taking my children away, I could just sit in my jammies at home and do whatever I wanted. Sometimes, I would go out during the time for myself.
3. Keep a stack of books and or magazines that you can just pick up at the spur of the moment. Keeping your mind filled with inspirational thoughts, or giving yourself a little quiet time, is more likely to happen if you have an immediate set of resources to read. (No internet will substitute for this time—your mind needs filling with great reading to keep alive and to give your soul food for thought through the moments of your life. I have been reading a C.S. Lewis Day by Day devotional, A City of Bells by Goudge, and Isaiah a tiny bite at a time, well as looking at a couple of favorite magazines with one of my girls on occasion!
4. Identify some small items that give you pleasure that add atmosphere to your room/home. I always have music to turn on as it lightens my mood, with Pandora or playlists on my phone or computer, always nearby.
I keep a stash of dark chocolate, salted almonds just for a nibble when I need a treat.. Also, I try to keep at least one room (the living room) where it is orderly, picked up, civilized. Then when I sit there, I don’t always feel like I have to pick up something.
Candles are lit, just because I like candles.
Bath salts are on the side of my tub, so that if I can squeeze in a hot bath on these cold winter nights, I can luxuriate for a few moments. For me, this would be after 10 or sometimes 11 at night, as I do not get a break from people before then—and I have to decide if my need is more for sleep or for relaxing—but the bath salts are there waiting for me, when I decide!)
5. Call, write, or make a coffee or tea date with someone who fills your heart’s needs or inspires your soul. Though I am blessed with friends from many different places, there are a few very special ones who fill my soul just by being with them. Actually, my children are now some of my most alive friends and fill me up just to be with them.
We all need emotional affirmation for our well-being as much as the body needs calories for physical sustenance. You have to take responsibility to nurture your own soul as usually, in this busy, fast-paced culture, no one else will think of it for you.
If you do not currently have a soul-mate, go to a favorite book, a favorite author, and have time at a private, more quiet coffee shop with your book, your journal, your Bible in hand and fill your own heart with the love from that book or from the Lord. My quiet, alone times in the midst of all my moves when loneliness threatened became a foundation for my soul-life. Lonely times can be strategic times of holding all that is dear and stretching toward God. My life-messages have truly come from these times in my own life. Turn despair into hope, and you will find light in your darkness if you turn your heart towards Him.
And most of all, clothe your heart with a decision to take joy every day—notice God’s fingerprints, see the colors and beauty, and breathe the moments of every day into your memory with as much grace as your heart will allow. This is the day the Lord has made---practice rejoicing and you will find yourself more content.
And lastly, give yourself generously to someone who needs a lift, a word of encouragement, a call, hope—give one bit of yourself to someone outside of your family, and your heart will be lifted when you exercise compassion on someone less fortunate than you.
I pray you will find peace this holiday season as you take time to intentionally tend your soul!