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Just ‘be’ this Christmas

My sweet friend, Robin Howe, visits today at Strengthened by Grace.  She is a wife, mom of two blond-haired darling girls, and servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.  She blogs at I Get Up Too Early.

Listen as she describes her Christmas this year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .

Christmas is my favorite time of year.  It is also the most stressful.  I know I am not telling you anything you don’t already know.  But I think it helps me to just put it out there, acknowledge the craziness. Adding birthdays, a new niece, anniversaries and family in from out of town, this December is more than a little hectic. 

Yet in the midst of the madness, I find myself not feeling exhausted, but exhilarated!  I love the hustle and bustle.  I love the mall and crowds.  I love the electricity in the atmosphere.

I also cherish the quiet moments in the living room sitting in front of our Christmas tree.  It is so peaceful to snuggle on the couch with my family and just “be” for a moment.  Strangely, it always seems so much easier to do this during the holidays, when days are short and schedules and full.

Maybe because we make time for it.

Maybe because we want our children to have great memories.

Maybe because we want to cling to this time of year knowing January is just around the corner and life will be back to normal.

Maybe because it is in the quiet that we stop thinking about the gifts we need to buy and the parties we need to attend and focus on the true reason for the holidays.

Hope

Love

A fulfilled promise

The Savior

This Christmas I choose to allow more time to just “be.”  Be present.  Be grateful.  Be intentional.  Be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone around me.
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But I want this to last longer than December 31.  I want it to last throughout the year and every year. May we cherish the gift of rest and peace found in Jesus this Christmas, and let’s make the choice to carry it through the year.
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Breathe in, breathe out

Whenever I start a new Bible study, you know I just have to write about it.

A beautiful group of women and I began Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe study which is helping us to a better understanding of the Sabbath.  Being a “good little church girl” who practically cut her teeth on the pews, I should know how to do Sabbath.  Right?  Not necessarily.

As a Christian, I’ve always worshiped on Sundays and considered it our “day of rest,” though I can tell you sometimes it’s been anything but restful.  I’ve spent many a week, Sundays included, going full force, never really pausing to take much of a break.  I’d go from one task to the next, from one appointment to another. There was a time I actually took pride in how much I could accomplish and was constantly tweaking my time management skills to see if I could be more efficient.  Really I was trying to see if I could squeeze in one more thing.

That was when I learned about stress.  It became the catch word in those days.  We were running fast, accomplishing more, climbing the corporate ladder, often leaving the really important things in our dust. We became workaholics, addicts to our behaviors.  Eventually we began to run out of steam.  We became sleep deprived.  Relationships languished for lack of time together.  Oh we talked about quality time over quantity time, but it was more of an excuse to keep doing what we were doing. Instead of trying to do less, we just wanted to know how to manage our stress better.  There had to be a secret way of continuing our rat race without falling over from pure exhaustion, spent and fully depleted.

stressed

It was 2006.  I was at one of the lowest points of my life.  Financially strapped.  Emotionally drained. The future was uncertain and looked rather bleak. My insecurities filled a bushel basket.  I crowned myself “the Queen of Part-time Jobs,” working four or five of them at one time just trying to make ends meet, and perhaps to keep my mind busy so I didn’t have time to think about the state of my life.

I was the proverbial candle burning at both ends.

Enter the Sabbath principle.

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The Spirit of God convicted me about the way I was living my life.  I was acting like it all depended on me.  There had to be a change.  I determined, with the Lord’s help, to try honoring a rest day and chose Sunday after church (church was one of my part-time jobs from 7:45 am to 12 noon).  I decided I would take the remainder of the day to rest, relax and refresh.

The first week, I prepared for the challenge.  I did everything I could on the Saturday before, scurrying around to finish as much as possible before bedtime.  By Sunday afternoon, I closed my day planner, turned off the computer, and refused to do my regular work.

It was challenging that first day because I was not used to doing “nothing.”  I was a work horse who was chomping at the bit to accomplish something even if it was a load of clothes thrown in the washer, a drawer that needed organizing, phone calls to customers, or papers to file.

Instead, I read.  I napped. I leisurely watched a movie.  I walked outside. I visited with people in my neighborhood.

By the third week of this new routine, I began to look forward to my Sunday afternoon.  My mind rested along with my body.  I realized the world would not stop turning and I could still get a lot done in my six days of working.  It was life changing really.

Since then, I’ve made the effort to honor the Sabbath principle in my week.  I’ve not done it perfectly.  I am prone to try to do too much and fill my schedule too full.  I know that about myself and often have to pull in the reigns of this work horse.  I have to guard my time when I could easily fill it with too many things.  Even too many good things can become burdensome.

I have found the gift of rest is exactly that – a gift.  God knows how we are, that we push to the limits. That we try to do it all.  That we think we are invincible.  That we tend to depend on our own strength instead of drawing from His.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are free from the burdens of regulations and rules.  But sometimes we ignore the principles God has given us for our good.  And a Sabbath rest is good for us.  We need it.  We need the space, the balance.

We must remember that we are not in control and the world does not depend on us.  We do better with rest, sleep, and a little down time.  God is the one who never slumbers or sleeps.  He is the one who carries the weight of the world on His shoulders, not me.

Honoring Sabbath puts things into perspective.  I see myself in light of a great and powerful God.  He asks me to work well on six days, then stop and rest awhile.  It is wise.  It is healthy.  It has rewards we often overlook.

A Sabbath rest will look differently for each of us.  But it is something worth considering, worth incorporating into our week and our lives.

Will you take the challenge?  Will you give yourself some breathing room?

Breathing in and out – it is good for the body and the soul.

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For all my musician friends out there. {smile}

stop, rest

A merry little Christmas

nativityWhat if Christmas was not so big, over-the-top extravagant? What if it wasn’t so stressful, so exhausting, so full of the highest of expectations?

What is Christmas was . . . little?

The first Christmas was anything but extravagant but it was everything challenging.  A road trip on foot.  Nine months pregnant.  A town bursting with visitors.  And no room for tired travelers.

Was there a midwife for Mary?  Was hot water available, extra bedding, or a friendly woman’s voice who came to take charge?

Having a baby was nothing unusual, nothing special in Bethlehem.  It seemed very small, insignificant yet this time it was the ordinary done in an extraordinary and marvelous way.   It was the turning point of all history and very God entering the atmosphere of His created ones.

People went about their business as usual.  There was hardly a ripple in the day other than one more couple looking for a place to rest after a long journey.  Nothing new here.

Yet angels sang and shepherds came.  Kings trembled and wise men brought gifts and prophecies were being fulfilled left and right.

Ah yes, it was a night of wonders.

Can we simply celebrate this ordinary becoming extraordinary without killing ourselves with activity? Can we slow down long enough to hear the good news and peer into the manger one more time?  Can we just come, bow down and adore him?

Can we make Christmas small enough to be joyful again instead of so large it labors and burdens us?

Can we try it this year?  I want to.  A merry little Christmas filled with incredible awe at the infant God.  Yes, that’s what I want for Christmas.