My friend has a special noise she makes when she’s overwhelmed. It’s somewhere between a sigh and a groan and a moan, and it sounds like BLEHHHARRRRGGGG. I wish I could send you all this sound that you can press like a button every time you feel overworked, under appreciated, out of time/money/energy/joy—so all of us around the world overwhelmed in this season can collectively sigh-groan-moan together and take a deep reset.
The problem with “blehhharrrggg” during Christmas is that we want to be joyful. We want to experience the peace and beauty of Christmas, and we want to be in touch with the things that really matter. But the THINGS overwhelm us, the cards, the cookies, the presents that need wrapping, the extra holiday parties, the perfunctory office or school gifts. It’s not one thing, it’s all the things together that threaten to steal our joy away forever, to make us the biggest Grinch and the scraggiest Scrooge of all, and BLEHHHARRRGGGG I really don’t want to be that! So this morning I’ve resolved to do some things different in the two weeks left before Christmas, and I share them with you in the hopes that we all might take a deep reset and renew ourselves in the true joy of Jesus’ birth.
Find something to subtract for the next few weeks. For me, I need to dampen the sheer volume of noise coming into my life since there are so many more tasks required in this season. I use SaneBox to filter my emails and I’m taking a social media break until the New Year. These choices are hard to make, but once I delete the apps off my phone and stop incessantly checking my email filters, I find that I’ve recaptured valuable minutes in my day.
I once watched my sister-in-law address 40 Christmas cards, all while she made dinner. She had gathered all her needed tools–stamps, address list, cards–and she just ticked it off her list between chopping vegetables and setting the table. Multitasking may sound contrary to #5, but I found that gathering my needed items and standing at my counter to handle Christmas cards makes the task go quickly and feels far less overwhelming. Set up the stations you need to knock stuff out and hit one thing a day in your in-between moments. I also love to use time doing cookies/cards/wrapping for podcasts, which feed my soul. (Public service announcement: I just did a week long podcast with Discover the Word and I LOVE their stuff. Deep, soothing, true, FREE. Check it out.) Also: I only send Christmas cards every other year–survival tactic.
Take a moment right now and think about what actually brings you joy at Christmas. Not the answer you feel like is the right one, not the answer for your kids or your church or your spouse or your best friend–what’s your answer. Think back to when you were a kid. What brought you joy? For me, it’s sitting under the Christmas tree (yes, literally under) and looking up at the lights, and making Christmas cookies. Decide you WILL enjoy this season, and you WILL do that thing that brings you joy. Don’t let the pressures of serving/performing for others keep you from making an intentional choice this season that actually feeds your soul.
#2: touch beauty.
I was with my
hairdresser therapist friend ok, hairdresser/therapist/friend and in between highlights, I lamented my complete lack of confidence and joy in decorating my house. (PS, at this time, her house was perfectly decorated with Halloween, and she was striking the cute-not-creepy chord perfectly). She said to me, “it’s the small things, and you gather them one at a time.” I was so overwhelmed by the idea of a perfectly decorated house, I was paralyzed into complete inaction. But her words stuck with me, about gathering one a time. I realized I needed to create little moments of joy in my path, in a way that wasn’t about perfection, but about perspective. So I bought these little reindeer last week on a whim (my friend’s dad made them, which adds to the charm).
This is where I spend a lot of time (moms, can I get an AMEN about the amount of time you stand at the sink?!?), so it’s the perfect place for me to touch beauty every single day.
#1: choose joy.
At the end of the day, all will not go well. Yesterday I woke up with the Christmas tree fallen over on the ground. This is the first time in our almost 20 years that our tree decided to take leave of his position and make his home on the living room carpet, with a glorious shattering of ornaments and a blizzard of pine needles, scattered from end to end in the living room. Not only did I have a fantastic mess to clean up before a sip of coffee, but I also was MAD. I was resentful and irritable and burdened by the mess. I tried to blame anyone (dogs and husbands usually come first) for the issue even though it truly was JUST LIFE. Sometimes trees fall down. Sometimes kids get sick even though it’s Christmas break. Sometimes they don’t like the present. Sometimes the cookies burn. This idea of letting things be enough has been a mantra for years, and it rings true today.
The disappointments are a reminder to fix my heart back on the One who will never fail me. The chaos reminds me that there is only One in whom I can have true peace. I can’t wait for the circumstances to get in line before I decide to choose joy. I just have to set my heart, mind and will on the truth and then ask God to refresh my joy each and every day. And here’s the thing–He does it. He shows up every single time. He is the One in whom there is never disappointment, never chaos, never sadness. In Him is fullness of joy.
And that’s the actual place where Christmas becomes Christmas.
Merry Christmas everyone. I love you deeply and am so glad to share life with you, through writing, and teaching, and blogging, and social media. May God bless you richly in this season with a true sense of his peace and his joy. Choose to make the space for Him to work–and then breathe in this beautiful angel song:
“Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth, peace to men, on whom his favor rests!”