Letting Go of “Lots” for Christmas


Throughout life, but especially right now in the Holiday Season, I am finding more and more each year, that I am having to let go. Not of people necessarily (though that does happen) but definitely let go. I am having to let go of plans and expectations, of details and striving.

I really wanted this year to be different, simpler. Doesn’t that sound odd, though? Striving for simplicity? I tried to lower the number of gifts bought (losing battle, usually, but maybe I’ll try something different next year). I have tried to embrace the quiet moments (difficult with a rambunctious five-year-old and the never-ending work of teaching). I tried to get everything done early (yeah…was still ordering gifts as recently as Saturday morning). I feel like I’m constantly striving for a goal but missing it somehow and then having to let go of what I thought were pretty good plans. Even worse, I’m having to let go of expectations that I somehow managed to place upon myself without even realizing the weight that was settling on my shoulders. You, too? Well, welcome to the club. More and more I am feeling like Cindy Lu Who, wondering what happened to my joy in Christmas, while, all the while, I’m rushing around like mad, the same as every other Who in Whoville. After all, there are still Christmas programs to attend and participate in, pitch-ins to cook for, papers to grade, and presents to wrap.

Every year, I say the same thing and I feel like I fail at that one thing: a simpler, more meaningful Christmas. I feel as though I lose myself in the attempt to make sure that it’s special for my dear ones–which is, of course, important–and I forget to enjoy it myself. Then I blink and…Christmas is gone.  The season is over and the softness of the lights becomes glaring, a reminder that it’s slipped through my fingers again.

Is this you, too, by any chance? Well, then. Trust me, dear one, you are in excellent company. The rush of the world is hard to resist and sometimes we just end up striving anyway and feeling like we never get much of anywhere. But there is good news! Christmas hasn’t passed us by yet. Like Scrooge, we still have a chance. We still have a chance for a glass of wine/hot chocolate/egg nog/cider before the silent glow of the Christmas tree. We have a chance to find those little moments of peace and quiet. We still have a chance to let go of some “lots” for a bit more of “best”.

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Taking the “Should” Out of Christmas.


The Christmas Season is in full swing and I’m already feeling the stress. My daughter is now old enough and aware enough to realize that she wants things, wants specific things, and so, this year, we have been presented with a Christmas list. Two things on that very specific list, however, have proven difficult to obtain: a doll that looks like her Daddy (they just don’t make male dolls with facial hair; tsk tsk, representation, people!) and a talking Pikachu. The latter is this year’s hottest toy, which she saw on a commercial for ten seconds while at Pizza Hut for lunch (curse my love for their salad bar) and is now obsessed with. That day, she spent the rest of the afternoon telling anyone who would listen that her grandpa is going to turn into Santa Clause (honestly, Grandpa is the foremost of the two figures; Santa looks like Grandpa and NOT the other way around) and bring her a Pikachu “that talks out of his tummy”. I have looked and shopped and searched and that Pikachu can be found nowhere for a decent price, “decent” being less than forty dollars at this point. It’s out of stock in all the local toy stores (and Toys R Us apparently won’t ship it from a warehouse, only fulfill the order from a stocked store) and the third-party sellers on Amazon have to be making a mint off these things, the way they have priced them up. Profiteering, I tell you! So, yeah, no pressure there. I am also already freaking out because I still have people on my list for whom I have bought zero gifts as of yet. My Christmas cards haven’t been sent out because I haven’t picked up the prints of our family portraits yet. Yes, I know it’s only the 6th but, in my mind, I’m already way, way behind. I should have gotten most of this done already.

It’s admittedly very, very, VERY hard to stay mindful and focused on the season, never mind relaxed, when you are bombarded on all sides by the STUFF of Christmas.  The doing, the decorating (don’t have those up yet either), the cooking, the socializing, the performing…it’s so much, isn’t it? There have been too many Christmases that I have regretted getting caught up in the stuff and missing the beauty of Christmas, the quiet moments, the mindfulness and remembrances because of all the stuff that I think I should be concentrating on. Wait, there’s that word again. Should. There are so many “shoulds” in Christmas, aren’t there? Should there be so many “shoulds?” I should cook. I should get those cards done. I should have gotten all my gifts already. I should help with all the events. I should get the decorations up before people come over. I should, I should, I should, I should!

“Should” wears me out. “Should” makes me want Christmas to be over already. I want to get rid of “should”. I want “I will” this Christmas. That is what I want.

Yes, I will read you a story.

Yes, I will watch a movie with you.

Yes, I will have another cup of coffee.

Yes, I will listen to you.

Yes, I will take a walk.

Yes, I will sing a song.

Yes, I will sit alone in the quiet for a bit.

Yes, I will pray with you.

Yes, I will laugh.

Yes, I will help you.

Yes, I will let good be good enough.

I want this to be an “I will” Christmas. I will slow down. I will do my best and not push for perfection. I will be happy with smaller decorations, fewer gifts, and quieter moments.

I could blame the rush on being back to work full-time this year and not having as many free hours in the day for all the “stuff”. No, I won’t do that. Instead, I can just say, “I will do what I can”. I will  do what I can to make this a lovely holiday for my family and for myself. I will give myself permission for quiet moments, for time alone, to do things that I enjoy as well as what I think others might enjoy as well.

Let this be a Christmas of “I will”. Let’s give ourselves a break, take a breath of cool, clean air, and gift ourselves with an “I will”.

Sweet Floating


The other day, as I covered my bed in freshly laundered linens, I paused for a finishing touch. I took some air freshener and sprayed my pillow and side of the bed lightly, the apple-cinnamon aroma making me long for bedtime to come, when I could bury my nose into my pillow and allow that sweet scent to soothe away the day’s care and busyness and lull me to sleep.

There are few scents in the world more calming, lovely, and soul-soothing to me than apples and cinnamon (except for Glade’s creamy custard/apple cinnamon 2-in-1 candle; that reminds me of my favorite My Little Pony when I was a little girl, smells just like her). The scent calls to mind all the time of the year from autumn harvest through Christmas. It warms me in the midst of the earth being in its winter bones outside. It calls me to comfort and peace and rest. I will re-scent my pillow and blanket later on so I really can’t wait to go to bed tonight.

 

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Peaceful Sleep by Chujian Ou

 

 

 

Hymnal Thoughts


Before now, I have been hesitant to state which is my favorite Christmas hymn, and honestly, that is because I couldn’t decide. But now I have an answer. Definitely have an answer.

As I drove around through the cold January air, the rain falling in sheets and the sky a slate grey blanket above me, my car was full of warmth. Yes, I was listening to Christmas music in January, plainly breaking the family “rule” about no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. (When I am alone in my car and no Doc McStuffins soundtrack is being requested, I shall listen to what feeds my soul, thank you very much!) This song came on and stayed on repeat for most of the rest of my errand trip. I couldn’t get enough of hearing it, of singing it, of feeling it.

Without a doubt, “The First Noel” is my favorite Christmas hymn. There is no song that elicits that sense of thrumming anticipation and elation that the season embodies like it. No song that fills my soul to the brim and overflowing with that peaceful expectation, that serene joy that is all that Christmas means to me. It feels like song reaches into every part of my soul, flooding it with warmth and the desire to see light and love and hope everywhere, to see with my heart rather than just my eyes.

I want to keep that song, keep its core, its joy, anticipation, and watchful spirit alive in my life all the year through, not just Christmas. I want it to echo in my heart and in my life and spread out to others in the way I live each and every day.

PS. Thank you to my music teachers all through school for teaching me how to find and carry a part in a choral arrangement! I cannot tell you the joy I had finding that I could still sing along well enough to enjoy vocalizing along to this wonderful group of vocalists in their beautiful rendition.

NaBloPoMo Day 30: Advent


As I sat at my kitchen table, eating my breakfast of warmed apple dumplings and doing some research, I found myself pondering Advent. As you know, Christmas season has officially begun and this past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, which continues over the four Sundays before Christmas. I have refilled our chic little Starbucks Advent calendar with my toddler daughter’s new favorite “Chifee” (Christmas) candy, peppermint, and I couldn’t help thinking on how and what we will teach her about the Christmas season as she grows older.

Growing up, Advent was not made a huge deal of in my church community. I do not recall any advent candles or calendars, although that may just be a flaw in my recollection and not an absence in my experience. But, still, in our current church home, advent candles are lit, one added on each of the four Sundays before Christmas Day, with the fifth and center candle lit during the Christmas Eve service. Hope, peace, joy, and love–these are the themes of Advent, per my recent research and reading. These are themes and thoughts that lift my heart and soul. I have been researching Advent-themed devotionals, blog posts, and articles to share on our church blog and I can only pray that these posts will speak to people’s hearts and center minds and spirits for this season, bring them joy in hope.

I try to live my life with the goal and intention of living in peace, showing love, sowing hope, and (hopefully) exuding joy. I am so grateful for all that God has done for me and how He makes his presence known in my life, lifting my heart and soul in differing ways. Providence in circumstances, a perfectly-placed or timed song, or the spoken or hugged-out love of a friend or loved one. All of this has made an incalculable impact on my life and all I really desire is to live an encouraging, edifying, loving life in return, to share that peace, hope, love, and joy that has been lavished on me over the years.

Casting Back Through Memory


My earliest memory. Honestly, it’s very difficult to differentiate between what I remember and what has been told to me about my childhood. But one memory that I clearly have is of Christmas.

When I was a little girl, there was a gentleman down the road from us who set up a grand Christmas display in front of his house. Lights, winter scenes, animatronic deer and Santa and elves puppets/figures that put on a show in a theatre that he built up around a wall in front of his driveway. The whole place glowed and was positively magical for me. People from all over the neighborhood would come to see this display. It was the first grandiose Christmas lights display I ever remember seeing. I remember going there after church one Sunday night with my parents. As they stood and chatted with other adults, I wandered over to where an animatronic doe with big brown eyes was and, since she was close to me, I reached out and touched her muzzle very carefully. She was soft, velvety. Then, as the Christmas music and puppet show started, I twirled and danced around in my frilly, lacy church dress. It was like a Winter Wonderland for me and I hated having to leave.

Over the years, more people on the island began to create such large Christmas displays, especially the more affluent neighborhoods on the south sound of the island. They would turn their large yards and gardens into Christmas walks full of lights and music, cottages, and displays. To this day, I can feel the awe and wonder well up in my heart at just the thought of such beautiful, Christmas-y places.