As we get nearer and nearer to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get so excited, but also, I experience that moment (or several moments) of overwhelm, closely followed by the thought life is moving way too fast and I just need a moment to be still before it's over. At the end of every December, I look back and think, wait, it's over? Where did the Christmas season go?
This past weekend, I attended a women's conference at my church. I'm still mulling over a lot of heart stuff that got stirred up, but for now, I'm so glad for a heart check in, now, before the craziness sets in.
But here's the thing―do we have to partake in all the craziness? I don't think we do.
What I've noticed is that the busier my schedule is, regardless of the season, the more still and distracted my heart is. I want to maintain a soft, open heart in these next two months. I want to maintain an expectant heart, one looking for God to move and bless and surprise me. And I know myself and my tendencies to get preoccupied with all the things to do, so I want to be prepared now, so I can go slow into this season.
Practically, we're nearing the finish of our Christmas shopping, and I think we'll be done by December first. Shopping for other people occupies a rather large part of my brain, as does making my own Christmas "wish lists." There's something about perusing the internet to find things that I want other people to buy for me that makes me feel unsettled and preoccupied. That said, we're so thankful for thoughtful gifts and family that want to buy us things we'll most enjoy and find useful, I just don't want to stretch out the list-making for months on end. The act of searching for things that I want fills up my brain, and then there's no room for anything else. Instead, having lists and shopping done in November frees up my head and heart for thankfulness and peace and true enjoyment of the season in December.
Ways we're slowing down the season:
- Little to no shopping in December
- Committing to more consistency in Bible reading and more scripture memorization
- Not over-committing to the handmade (knitting, sewing) portion of Christmas gifts
- Only putting out decorations that we love. Today, I spent 10 minutes putting out my very favorites, and I left the rest in the box. We'll put up our special shared advent stocking and the tree after Thanksgiving.
- Not overbooking our calendars. We're opting for more days at home, if possible.
- Participating in the season with activities that don't include accumulating more stuff, like watching Christmas movies
- Drinking fun seasonal drinks, like apple cider and peppermint coffee
- Prioritizing relationships
- Listening to (remarkably moving) Christmas music, specifically this part from I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day:
And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor does He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.
I love the line, "God is not dead, nor does He sleep." For all the joys of the Christmas season, there is heartbreak and loneliness for many, but the story doesn't have to end there. Today, I had coffee and knit with two of my dearest friends and we talked about enneagram types and how God is working in our lives and how He's recently answered prayers years after we first prayed them. The Christmas season is a season of wonder. Let's spend more time preparing our hearts for the wonder of what our King is up to, in this season and every other.
My sweet college friend, Annie, organizes something called The Contentment Project each November and it's so encouraging on this front! She wrote this in an email:
What I am getting at here is that though I've given up spending in a couple of categories, I need to make sure I'm not compensating by spending more money or time in other areas or ways to fulfill my desire for more stuff. or for other worldly things. Entertainment, approval, control... the list goes one. Is my desire for these earthly things and desire to replace one selfish practice with another revealing the true, weak nature of my desire for God? I think it is. And I definitely want to take this seriously. I am reminded of the passage in Colossians 3 that talks about putting OFF and ON. Paul tells us we need to put on the new self! We are instructed to put to death the things of this world, the things that are "earthly in us." The list of sins are ugly, shameful and all too familiar. It's easy to feel discouraged when we think about just how many of these things apply to us. But then we are reminded that we can be renewed in the knowledge of our Creator! We are God's chosen ones! Holy and beloved! And by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, we can put ON newness and Life. This list is beautiful, life-giving and so appealing! Just reading the words compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love fill me with hope! We can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. We can be thankful. It's a choice- it's all about what we choose to put off and put on.
So let's choose wonder and calm and awe of our God (and grainy photos, sorry guys!), in all the little ways we can, shall we? :)
Now that we're firmly in mid- to late-January, I feel as though my thoughts are a bit more orderly and I've had time to sort out photos too, including some from Christmas. It seems a shame to bypass any note of how we celebrated this year, so even though this is very late, I still want to record our Christmas, with joy!
It's the week of Christmas! Advent has felt different this year, faster and slower than prior years. There are a million things to say about this year, but on the best of days, it highlighted the joys of being still, living a quieter life, being at home. Here are some other little bits of joy in the last couple of weeks:
And just like that, it's December, and the start of Advent. We've been making our home cozy, and I've especially enjoyed figuring out how to decorate our new space. Little pops of Christmas cheer, wherever we can.