Monday, December 23

How to Be Calm and Carry On (Two Days Before Christmas)!

Hi Sweet Friends,

How are you today? How are you holding up?

Today is Monday, December 23rd and that means so many things. So. Many. Things.

I'm a highly sensitive person with a measure of ADD (legitimately on both of those things), so this time of year can leave me extra overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted if I'm not intentional about making space for my soul to breathe-- even small spaces, brief pauses, little moments-- they can all make a big difference. A difference in my perspective, in my ability to manage the details, in my ability to be present and intentional for the people that I love.

All of this rushing, shopping, wrapping, gifting, decorating, baking, errand running-- much of it is good, and done with the best intentions, but sometimes I feel (in that still small space in my spirit where God speaks to me) that it has gotten excessive and often causes us to place expectations on ourselves that we were never intended to carry.

While I'm not exactly sure how Jesus would want us to celebrate his birthday if he were here, right now, walking on the earth in human form, I can tell you it wouldn't require us to do all of the things we are doing.

As a matter of fact, when I sat down to write this post this morning I had created a list of "10 Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On Two Days Before Christmas". It was a good list. It had great suggestions on it--  like praying, and being silent. Like going for a walk and enlisting help from your family. I was going to suggest journaling and lowering your expectations.

I still believe that all of those things are important.

But, as I sat down to write this post this post and asked myself the question, How would Jesus want me to celebrate his birthday? what came to mind was the story of Martha and Mary.

At the Home of Martha and Mary 
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”   (Luke 10:38-NIV)


Did you read verse 40? "But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"  

Martha was DISTRACTED by all the PREPARATIONS.

Like all of my preparations? Christmas preparations? Preparations for a day meant to celebrate Jesus, but that has become about so many other things.

Sweet friends, I'm not saying we shouldn't work hard over these next few days, or that we should stop everything and be lazy. I'm also not saying that we shouldn't buy gifts, and decorate and bake cookies and go shopping. Those are all good things. They are all sweet things.   Celebrations can be beautiful moments of fellowship, and love expressed. They create memories and sweet moments of fun between friends and family-- the sweetest gifts that life offers.

But, when we have become so distracted by all of the preparations that we have stopped making time to sit at Jesus feet, then we've lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. 

What is that Jesus say to lovely Martha, who is hosting a party for Jesus in her home? She wasn't wrong in her desire to do the work necessary to be a good hostess-- she simply wanted everything to be perfect for him (I would have too!!).  But this is what Jesus says:
"Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her."


Only one thing is needed.

I could have given you my "10 Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos at Christmas" list and it might have helped you find some peace.  As I said earlier, making space for prayer was on that list. But, what Jesus is saying here is even more don't need a list of 10 only need to know one.

We're having a party for Jesus in our homes, and while there is so much that could be done, there is only one thing that is needed.

He simply wants us to spend time with Him. To point our children towards him. To set our hearts and minds on things above, and make space to just be with Him.

I can promise you I won't do this perfectly over the next few days. I can guarantee there will be moments when I will get overwhelmed by all that is left to do-- all that my kids are hoping I'll do (decorate gingerbread houses, bake cookies (we haven't made one yet!), wrap gifts, etc. etc. etc.), but I can also promise you that I will be meditating on these words. I'm writing them on a post it note and at the top of my to-do list for today...

Few things are needed-- indeed only one...

Hugs to you all. I hope you have a blessed, peaceful and very merry Christmas, and that you find time to rest at Jesus feet...even for just a few moments at a time.

Tuesday, December 10

What I Learned in the Quiet of a Local Inn Two Weeks Before Christmas

If you're anything like me, and I have a feeling at least some of you are, then you may have found yourself smack dab in the middle of the Christmas planning/shopping/party/school concert/decorating/cookie making season with everything going whirly twirly all around you while you try to hold it all together (and wondering if you're ready!).

I don't mean hold it together like you're going to lose it and have a meltdown at any given moment (though that happens sometimes when the hormones are flying high and there is I just mean you're hoping you remember to send the wrapped book for the book exchange in with your six your old on the right day, and the lemonade for your 12 year old for her party on another day, and that you don't forget to send the gumdrops and smarties you promised to the 1st grade teacher for the gingerbread houses, and you're secretly hoping that everyone has a Christmas-y looking dress (and tights!) in their closets that actually fit...just in case you need it. And that's just the tip of the proverbial Christmas-with-kids iceberg.

Last week was full, full, full of fun, fun, fun, but left not enough time at home, which means my house is now a mess, mess, MESS!

We went from Thanksgiving celebrations, to visiting  friends in Saratoga Springs (a 4 hour drive for us), to Nutcracker rehearsal and performance week, with piano lessons and a chorus concert thrown in for good measure.

I took this picture of my bed to send to one of my friends who confided in me that she kept moving her laundry from her bed (where she promised herself she was going to put it away everyday) to the floor (when it was time to sleep), and then back to the bed again (the next day when the fresh promise of a new day assured her that certainly this was the day that it was going to get done!) and then back to the floor (so she could sleep again)...over and over again.

I wanted to assure her that she wasn't alone, nor was she abnormal. Or, at least if she is abnormal than she's not alone in her abnormal-ness because at least one other momma (me!) is right there with her.

I'm not sure what this all means...that we all need to slow down (probably), or perhaps just embrace the moments because these memories with our kids are formed in such a short period of time-- time that passes very quickly-- and so it is an ebb and flow of doing (concerts, visiting friends, performances, school events) and being (trying to find time to recoup at home, and be together as a family without rushing here, there and everywhere, and finding some time to breathe).

It can be a tricky balance to find sometimes, but it's the only way forward.

In an effort to find some quiet space I booked a one night stay at a local bed and breakfast last night. I told Scott that I needed some quiet- 24 hours worth of quiet- to process what the last few weeks have held, and prepare myself for the next few weeks to come.

Even though I felt guilty leaving the house two weeks before Christmas, and saying no to several requests yesterday and today...the time...the quiet was exactly what I needed.

I was actually signed up to do Centers in Aubrey's 1st grade class this morning, but didn't realize it until Sunday night after I booked the hotel room. As awful as I felt about it, I knew that this was my only chance to get away for weeks to come and that I needed to prioritize it. After several unsuccessful attempts to find another parent to fill in for me, I ended up sending a very honest apology note to her teacher explaining that I couldn't come in this morning.

I only tell you that because I know, as moms, we often struggle with disappointing people and saying "No", but sometimes-- to make quiet space for your soul-- it's the very thing you have to do.

So  many of us struggle to make space for our souls to rest. We feel guilty or indulgent for even thinking about a night away. Last year, when I did a similar overnight at a hotel and told my mom about it she told me that that she wished she had done the very same thing for herself when I was younger...that she could have used a night away.

I wish I could go back in time and make that happen for her...I think it would have nurtured things in her soul that desperately needed nurturing.

As I sat in that quiet room last night and this morning I thought about a lot of things. I brought books, and journals, calendars, post-it notes, and school papers that needed to be read. There was a lot I needed to do for life, but what I needed more than anything was the quiet. And my Bible.

I needed to breathe, and pray, and breathe and pray some more...I needed to ask God to quiet my mind and my heart so I could see clearly through the fog of busy family life. 

I've been reading through the book of Luke this month (Did you know there are 24 chapters in the book of Luke, so if you read one each day you will read the entire story of Jesus' life by Christmas) and was moved by these words, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16).

If Jesus needed to withdraw to lonely places to connect with his Heavenly Father, how much more do we need to do the same?

I'm not sure what that looks like for you this month, or during this season of life. Perhaps it means turning a cartoon on for your kiddos in the middle of the day and committing that time to prayer, and journaling. Perhaps it means giving yourself permission to head out one night this week to Starbucks with your Bible, and a journal and the bazillion thoughts in your head.

Perhaps it means you drive to a park some night this week, or on Saturday, and simply sit in your minivan and read (I love my minivan quiet times!). Maybe you can actually sneak away for a night this week or next (I give you permission if you can make the logistics happen with your husband or extended family members!) to a hotel or bed and breakfast-- to a lonely place-- and just alone with your thoughts, with your prayers, with God. It may be the best gift you give to yourself all month.

I found it ironic, that just weeks before Christmas I ended up looking for space at a small local Inn (Asa Ransom House in Clarence)-- it reminded me, in some ways of Joesph and Mary.  Even more ironically, my room had a view that looked over the back wooded yard and down onto a small house/cottage (built years ago by the owner of the Inn). Next to that cottage, set right in front of a small pond was a hand built wooden nativity scene where Mary and Joseph looked down on baby Jesus in the stillness and quiet of the night.

I can't quite explain the peace I felt when I saw the nativity and how it reaffirmed what the Holy Spirit had been speaking into my soul for days...that in the middle of the mostly busy, but sometimes quiet moments of this month, but in actuality, every day of the year--God is with us. He is with you, and me, and very much present in our lives if we slow down to notice.

This past Saturday I wrote this at the top of my calendar for the week, "Emmanuel...God with us."

I knew I needed to see those words every day. To intentionally remember why we are celebrating this Advent season.

I don't have any quick tips to simplify your hustle and bustle this month, nor am I going to tell you to do one more thing. The only thing I will say is that stopping ALL.THE.THINGS. just for a few moments, may be the best gift of all.

Hugs to you all.