Monthly Archives: December 2013

Crunch Time

busy at the holidays

It’s crunch time. The week before Christmas, and for us Event-Planners (see The Perfect Holidays) there are thousand details to attend to before The Holidays. There are Christmas presents to wrap, groceries to buy, a house to clean, food to cook, relatives to see (or feel guilty about not seeing), Christmas tree to decorate, school programs to attend, teacher presents to send, cookies to bake, cards to address, and –in our house anyway–football to watch (how ‘bout them Packers?).

All those thoughts of peace and joy at the holiday have vanished as we round the curve for The Final Stretch. We are a jockey riding a horse named Holiday Expectations, high in the stirrups on the straightaway, whipping up momentum to carry us through to the finish. (And frankly at this point we don’t really care about winning, we just want to cross the line in one piece.)

And the last thing on our mind is quiet reflection.

Quiet reflection. [sigh]

An oasis. [ Big Sigh ]

A calm in the middle of the storm. [Big Sigh x 2]

A pipedream? [blink]

Our heart says:
Quiet reflection. Yes, this is what you need. This is what will set things right.

Our mind shouts:
This is not happening. Are you crazy? There is no time for this. There is way too much to do.

OK mind, HEAR THIS TRUTH:
You are too busy not to pray.

Now–In our busiest time– it is doubly important to stay committed to 30+ minutes a day connecting with God in solitude and silence.

God knows. (hellooooo. He IS GOD. He knows Everything.) He knows all the things on your to do list, and even some you forgot to write down. [Now don’t stop reading to start thinking about what these might be.] He knows what you expect of yourself and why, and what others (you think) expect of you. And He definitely knows your energy level and your limits usually MUCH better than you do.

God wants more for you and less from you this holiday season

He wants more for you, and less from you–less activity anyway. He wants different things. What he expects of you—what He is guiding you to do– is doable; it is less stressful, and way more fun. Jesus said

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

[Rest—doesn’t that sound wonderful?]

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

Take a minute and just breathe in those words:

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

Remind yourself: There is plenty of time to do in this day what He would have me do, without rushing.

Try THIS:
1. Find your to do list. Put everything you can think of on it.
2. Set it down (turn it over so you won’t keep glancing back at it), and pray:

Father I leave this list at Your feet. Please direct this day, and help me to know what you would have me do, what are the most important things. Direct this day. Thank you that you are within me, and will guide me in each step, including all the unexpected things that this day holds.

3. Get out a fresh page, and number it one to five. (No cheating – you can’t put for #2 “do everything on my other to do list.”)

TO DO:
1. 30+ minutes a day in God’s presence, soaking in His love, remembering His wisdom, seeking His guidance.
2. ____________
3. ____________
4. ____________
5. ____________

Pray:

Father, thank You that there is plenty of time to do in this day what You would have me do.

  • Thank you that you know my limitations of time and energy and endurance, even if/when I forget them.
  • Thank You that You will lead me to do the most important things, and lay aside those that are less crucial (although they may seem most urgent right now.)
  • Thank You that You accomplish what concerns me. That as I restore my soul in You, and fill up with Your presence, I fill up with Your peace and purpose and joy as well. I reclaim life, and reject worry and stress.
  • Thank You that I only have one person to please in life—You–and what you want is simple: my love and trust.
  • Thank You that You really do know what is best, and I can trust Your presence within me as You guide me this day.
  • Thank You that I am protected by You, even from my own compulsions. Help me to remember to live in Your care, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1 NASB)

Shine Your Heart with God’s Love

God's love

I love silver.  I have collected many pieces of silver over the years and have probably given away more than I own!  Below is a note I have given some people with their gift of silver, a reminder to be loved, and to love:

My prayer for you with this one piece is that it would be a reminder to you to polish your heart with the sweet presence of God, your loving Creator, every day, so that He can shine through you.  

When this piece of silver darkens and dulls, and you get out the polish and start buffing, ask yourself….

“How is my quiet time going?  Does my heart feel tarnished and faded?  Am I restoring my soul every day in God’s presence, being aware of His love, filled with it, and overflowing with energy as I love others?  Or is my life consumed with ‘to do’ lists and busy-ness?”

You may have to set aside the polish for a bit in order to make time for that most important thing—spending time with God, and being filled with His amazing love.  His refreshing presence reminds you that polishing your heart is so much more beneficial for you (and those around you) that buffing a piece of silver, or completing any other number of worthwhile tasks.

Remember.

Be loved, and then love.

It’s the most important thing.

We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19 NKJV)

The Perfect Holidays

“Hon, how bout I take care of Thanksgiving dinner this year?”  Andrew asked me a couple of weeks before this year’s holiday.   I gave him “the look,” of course–the “are you crazy?” look. I know what his question meant.  If he “takes care” of Thanksgiving dinner it means we will go out, very likely to Burger King, his (I’m not lying) favorite restaurant.  And then I smiled, because I knew that underneath his question—and he was quite sincere in his offer, BTW–what he was really doing was asking me to remember to not stress out over the fast-approaching holidays.

perfect Thanksgiving

Being a mom, especially at the holidays, is hard.  You are the producer for the “biggest show on earth,” creating “memories for a lifetime”.  And you also happen to be the director, writer, actor, stagehand, caterer, props person, sound and lighting tech, cameraman, set maker, stylist, promoter, event planner, waitress, cook…  and of course, custodian.   You have expectations, and you have standards—your own and Martha Stewart’s—for what “success” at the holidays must look like.  And year after year you throw yourself into the fray, trying yet again to achieve the elusive “perfect memory.”

I have chased perfection many holidays:  ribbon-decorated baskets filled with homemade treats for the neighbors, wrapped gifts mailed to 20 (count ‘em) different relatives, Christmas cards–complete with letter, personal note and family picture—sent to 100 of our closest friends and family, 2 dressed turkeys with all the trimmings, matching sweaters for the Christmas Eve service, a personally cut tree piled high with gifts, a lovely party for the office and another for a few friends, the school play and the church musical. Unfortunately I also know the cost of such “perfection”—stress, anxiety, exhaustion, short tempers.

Perfection is an ever-changing specter that vanishes just when you close your hand around it.   The irony is, when you chase after it, you are certain not to achieve it.  Because what happens—and believe me, I know from many years of experience—is that you will miss joy altogether.

I suspect that what you really want this holiday, as I do, and as I am sure your family does, is not really perfection, it is joy. Don’t make the mistake I have often made, chasing perfection to try to achieve joy.  The two are in completely opposite directions.   As you neglect everything else in your drive to attain perfection, what you do is stress yourself out, and then stress out the people around you.  Somewhere in your head you reason those you love must see how near and important the “perfect holiday” is, and must do everything in their power to help you accomplish it, just as you are. It is “for them,” after all.  But is it? For them?  Or for you, so that you can feel good about yourself for one brief moment in time?

In your drive to “succeed” you are choosing to fail in what you really want most, and certainly what your family wants most—joy, fun, contentment, peace-for your family, and yourself.

If you are not careful, the holidays will become something they dread (as you often do) instead of something they look forward to.  What you dread is the never-ending to do list, the nagging sense of not ever doing enough, or doing it right.  What they dread is the tension, the crabbiness, the rush to finish and do and go and see.

The Perfect Holidays

So choose to change your goal this season.  Change your goal of what “the perfect holiday” is.  Change your belief.  And then change your plans.  It won’t be easy. If you thought trying to achieve perfection was hard work, try the work of changing your expectations.  It takes intentional

reprogramming after years of data entry from Southern Living, Real Simple [boy is that an oxymoron of a magazine], and every TV commercial you have ever watched in the months of October thru December.  But this is effort that truly has dividends.

It helps to remember that a “joyful holiday” is not perfect.  It is the lopsided tree you got from the lot this year that someone forgot to water, and turned brown before Christmas, tinkling needles every time someone brushed up against it.  It is the turkey that looks great on the outside, but is hard as a rock—still frozen– when you tried to slice it. It is the sweet potato casserole lighting on fire.  It is homemade presents and paper chains on the tree. It is ordering takeout on Christmas Eve. It is everyone going to church in whatever outfit they happen to have on.  It is the camera not plugged in, and the Christmas letter mailed out in January (if it gets mailed out at all). It is gifts from the thrift store, a puzzle with a missing piece, planning meals around football games. Inviting someone new to dinner.  Or going out.  For dinner.  (At least considering the idea.)  It is a mom who is relaxed and laughing and having fun. Because just as “when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” the converse is also true:  when momma is happy, everyone else tends to be happy too.

Burger King for Thanksgiving?  No, it didn’t happen this year.  Not quite there yet. But I am getting closer.