Tending your soul in the midst of holiday stress!

  IMG_2765My favorite strong cup of cappuccino with just a tiny dollop of real whip cream atop—in a real cup. –makes me happy!

Tending Your Soul for the Holidays

By this time of year, all of us are up to our eyeballs in S-T-R-E-S-S if we are alive. All of my precious ones are home and we are in an eat, clean up messes, cook and then all over again  in food, dishes, and loud conversations. Two of us have had a bad case of flu—me—(don’t ever remember aching and chilling so painfully! I don’t get sick very often, but this one got me down for several days.)

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. And I want to bring peace to my family in the midst of all of their tension and needs. It takes intension and 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  noone 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 is so very rare.

Making personal goals so that I can 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 and most years 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!

I have a few goals that I make sure to keep each holiday season to help me make it through with grace and to see that I am filled up along the way.

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! (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, and 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, The City of Bells by Gouge, and Isaiah a tiny bite at a time. (As well as looking at a couple of favorite magazines with one of my girls, 5 minutes at a time.)

4. Identify some small items that give you pleasure that you can find every day to add atmosphere to your room/home. I always have music to turn on as it lightens my mood. (Pandora or play lists—on my phone, computer, always near by.)

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’s 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 then I have to decide if my need is more for sleep or for relaxing—but the bath salts are there waiting for me!)

5. Call, write, 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, and a couple more who truly give life and breath to my weariness in the midst of my days.

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, don’t go to that place of darkness. (So many women I know feel they have no true friends.) Go to a favorite book, a favorite author, 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—to notice God’s fingerprints, to see the colors and beauty and to 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.

Most of all, breathe of Him—rest in Him, ponder the baby Jesus and the generous love of our humble God and you will be more likely to give His peace, love and patience to those who need your patience, love, help and service. He wants to bless through you and bless you in the midst of it all.