December is upon us. Pacing yourself through each day will preserve your energy and heart-strength to enjoy each day. Enjoy our podcast today!
Each December, knowing the stress and busyness of Christmas can create havoc if I let the whirlwind of expectations catch up with me, so I spend some time deciding what kind of person I want to give to my friends and family, how I will simplify. I also want to love Jesus well, but that requires planning on my part.
Especially when they were little, I had to make a plan--how to own my Christmas in such a way that I treasured what was important.
This year, amidst a book deadline and a launch, ministry, activities in our home, I will have my four and now dear Thomas, Sarah's new husband for almost 3 weeks. So meeting needs, celebrating life, eating, cleaning, talking and doing it again and again, will fill my days to overfull, but happy full. Yet, I have to really plan it all to not be overstressed.
But everyone I know must make a plan that suits themselves, their personality, their own unique puzzle of life in order to not be controlled by the pressures of the holidays. And I have never come to a holiday season when I did not have huge stress and commitments piling in.
Today, Kristen and I have recorded a podcast for you that offers a little plan for pacing yourself for this holiday season--a way to put a plan in action so that you can manage the weeks ahead with grace.
The first and most important suggestion on our list is for you to Pause, and make a time just for yourself--to breathe, to listen to your needs, to your own heart, and to write in a journal (or whatever way is best for you,) to get yourself centered. taking time alone for yourself is essential because your attitude, ability to give and serve during this season will deeply impact the way those in your home feel about this holiday. Breathe in rest and grace and then make a reasonable plan for how you want the weeks ahead to play out.
The rest of the plan will be at the bottom of the podcast.
In the end, if we have cherished time to sit and ponder the miracle of baby Jesus coming to save us; if we make sweet memories by being present to those we love and attending to their hearts; if we are able to cultivate peace in our souls, then we will have cultivated a very worthwhile holiday.
Now, letters and emails come from my children who are far away, and family who will be visiting, and friends who expect the events I have always held at my home for years and years play into my planning.
"Mom, let's do all the homey stuff--have breakfast in our jammies, drink tea together and talk and talk by the Christmas tree, every day. Let's make each moment count!"
These are the times that spell love to my children--TIME-my focussed time. And it was so when they were little ones.
Yesterday, I was decorating the dining room table while Clay and Joel worked on the tree. Josh Groben's song, "I'll be home for Christmas" began to play and I teared up, just getting excited, and oh so thankful to have all my children home with me, by my side, in my home, to touch, watch, laugh with and do life together.
And I don't want to waste a minute on busyness and distraction-but I want to plan and work so that I can have the most time loving all of my precious family and friends well.
As I thought about this, I looked through old journal entries, old blogs from holiday times, and my heart was reminded again, what was important--those moments that hold fast in the treasure chest of our children's souls.
And so I share one of my own home stories that I read, once again, that helped put my own heart in a right state of mind. I hope you enjoy our moment shared! This memory of one time, an unexpected grace, to touch, to enjoy, to giggle with, to celebrate life. It was a real life moment when I could enter into the joy of being a mama and celebrate the gift of friendship with my best friends, my children.
Joy and Sarah, had entertained me in their sleepiness a cold December night, just 3 seasons ago.But the memory warms me still because I feel so very close to them--and indeed understood and accepted. They have become my dear friends.
Somehow, as I closed the affairs of a very busy December day and began to climb the stairs to bed, my legs felt heavier than ever. Each step reminded me how tired I was from the day of shopping at three stores, teaching a class, running around to get groceries, to the bank to deposit money a child needed, cooking and eating and washing dishes one more time. I am bone-tired lately at the end of each day.
At the top of the stairs, I heard loud music coming from Joy's room. Multi-colored paisley cloth, buttons, headbands, strewn all around her, as she diligently sowed presents for her friends. "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserable was waxing eloquently out of her speakers. (a song about a young woman who met a man who, "took her childhood in his stride," and left her pregnant, without any support--a truly touching song for us as we ponder sweet, lost women in our own culture.) It is one of our mutually favorite Broadway songs called me to sit on her bed and sing loudly with the lovely voice on You tube.
"You know, Mom, though I do think that song applies to so many girls, I also think that 'On My Own" is just as poignant!" So, I sat on her bed, legs crossed under me, jammied all about, computer on my lap and played this piece loudly, while again singing it from my heart, along with the soloist on you tube, with Joy giggling at me. "I didn't know you had it in you this late at night."
Discussing the depths of these two songs for few minutes, as only a late night brings on, giggling and chatting a bit more, I finally left her to make her Christmas gifts alone. How I do love this funny daughter of mine--the one with a hysterical sense of humor, always singing, always teaching me something from what she has been thinking, a friend of friends.
And so, it seemed only right to push Sarah's door open. "Are you asleep yet?"
"Not much chance of sleeping with you two next door," she commented wryly.
She resting like a princess, with covers up to her chin, long brown hair spread out on her pillow with soft light glowing from one tiny lamp, her Bible in hand. Squishing against her, while sitting on the side of her bed, I asked her how she was doing. With a book deadline looming large and mission trips and college applications to finish, and expensive and challenging decisions to make, she, too, was weary and exhausted.
I reached out and gently massaging her fingers and arms, we commiserated about our own personal loads we were carrying, and talked about yielding them into His hands. I picked up a ceramic rabbit from her table, next to her bed and made it jump on her bed covers, just like I had done when she was a little girl and needed comic relief. (Don't know what possessed me.) We laughed and laughed at some antics that came up between us, and finally I said, "Tell me a Jesus thing before I go to bed. I need something in my mind before I go to sleep."
She smiled knowing me, and how often I live in condemnation for the little failures in my day, and opened the Bible to where she had been reading.
"Oh, how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are."I John 3: 2-3
And suddenly my heart was filled with thanksgiving. Even as I had been delighting in my own sweet children, feeling I could be myself, resting and rejoicing in our mutual, close relationship, with the strings of their heart to tightly tied to mine, I immediately felt relieved in my heart, and accepted and at rest myself, because God also saw me as his beloved, cherished child.
You see, I prefer Joy and Sarah, my very own children. I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on them. I have given them my time, my body, my sleepless nights, cooked thousands of meals, sought to make celebrations so very special in buying them gifts, crafting a life, putting them to bed with blessing on countless nights, forgiven them their attitudes and messes, and still preferred them from all the other people in the world--because they are mine--my very own, coming out of my body, beloved children.
And so God, has bestowed such a great and endless and personal love for me-He has created sunrises and sunsets for me to behold every day. Placing music in my soul, He came to bring peace to my world, delight to my days, to share my moments and burdens and joys, to be my own companion in the beauty of each day.
-I am preferred and forgiven and cherished and served and thought about by Him, because I am His very own child. Even as I can, in my own limited sinful way, enjoy and celebrate my children's lives and moments and be intimate friends sharing hearts, laughter, weariness and needs, so He, as my Father, has bestowed all of His love in these very same ways on me, even knowing me to my depths, and yet willing to keep giving, celebrating life, listening, helping, comforting--because I am His very special, chosen, related to Him child.
Unimaginable, astounding that He, our heavenly Father, should love me so. And that this was the heart of the Prince of peace--to bring joy, light into my darkness, love, humor, grace--peace to my days, especially in December
For you to remember this this day, this month, this year, He loves you so! Prepare ye the way of the Lord to enter your home this season, this day.
And this is what I am most thankful for this year--thankful that I am His own beloved child--that He loves and enjoys me in spite of it all, through my limitations, my weariness, my vulnerable moments, because He is my Father. My thanksgiving days will spill into my Christmas celebration of His choosing to adopt me and longing to love me every day.
This is the thought I want to cherish through my December days--that He prefers me, He longs for my own little girl heart to find rest and comfort in Him and His abiding presence, that it is not the craziness that will bring me through, but the choices I make to prepare the way for Him, His love and peace to fill my heart through all the moments of my Christmas days.
And of course, these thoughts make me so very thankful for my family and thankful for you, my friends, where we will choose to celebrate Him this year together, through each moment of each day.
P is for Pause and take time for yourself to breathe and plan before the month starts
A is for assess the demands, the traditions you have to keep, the gifts to buy, the food to prepare and eliminate as many stressors as you can. Simplify and make your days easier on yourself. An important part of assessing your month is to understand that every day, there will be interruptions. Decide ahead of time to be patient and to flex.
C is for Committing, as an act of worship to our sweet Lord, to cultivating a heart attitude of generous love, and being a servant to those in your life as he was a servant to us. Commit to being patient with that one who naturally irritates you and decide to remember, "A Gentle Answer turns away wrath." Decide what ministry you can commit to, so that you can be generous to others.
E is for engaging personally in the moment with all of those around you. engage in Christ--worship Him through the day. Decide to be present--not glued to social media or to your phone--but present. And remember to keep sweet music always playing--it always keeps us happy.