Christmas feels very different this year. I’m simplifying. I’m doing less. I’m spending less. I’m crazy less.
I like it.
What am I doing differently this year?
I’m letting go.
Letting go of some obligations, the self-pressure, and some (working towards all) expectations.
It feels very good. Like drawing full, deep breaths into clear lungs after a dreadful bout with bronchitis.
I’m simplifying because I want more peace in my life. For years, I felt about age 55, even when I was older. This year…I feel the brunt of 63. It snuck up on me about six months ago.
And it just hit me that all the Christmas stuff I’ve done over the years…it’s all pretty in the moment, but overall, it’s not that important. It’s certainly not long-lasting.
I prayed about it, and the message I kept getting regarding all the Christmas frenzy is…let go.
Just LET GO.
I cut back on baking.
Instead of making five batches of Grandma Nellie’s sugar cookies (for everyone we know), I made two batches and presented a plateful to the people who really want them. (Many people are getting away from sugar these days.)
I cut back on decorating.
I’ve hung up stockings, received Christmas cards, and a wreath. (We haven’t had a Christmas tree for a few years. You can read about that HERE.)
No Christmas cards.
With today’s social media, we’re all in touch with friends and family. It’s great to see the new brides, the new babies, the new puppies, the new cars, the tender, aging grandparents, and family reunions. We read about current ailments, and we are alerted to prayer requests for various issues. It’s a full and comprehensive (and often immediate) check on what’s going on with loved ones. And it feels like enough. Any card or letter I would write would contain old info., so I’m happy to save some trees and take some weight off the mailman.
We reduced and altered gift-giving.
Typically, in our family of 9 adults, we have drawn names for gift-giving. This year, we all decided to combine funds and, through our church, sponsor a child in Uganda. Our pooled money gives a child schooling for one year and daily lunch as well. This effort warms my heart immensely. Much more than collecting stuff that is likely to end up at the thrift shop a year from now.
You know what else? We’ve all realized, if we really want/need something, we simply get it ourselves. We all know we are blessed to be in this position. Added note: We’re still open to giving gifts to the four-year-old and 6-month old grandsons. 🙂 There is a delight in that, and that’s what I’m after this Christmas…efforts that bring me delight without stress and fatigue.
I’m making peace with my untidy stable.
I hate clutter, and I do what I can to corral and put away the paraphernalia a house collects. But, the time it takes is beginning to wear me out. I don’t have a dirty house, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that some disarray is not terrible. It’s not a reflection of my worth or ability to care for our family. It’s not a reflection of anything. As Rosanne said, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.” Yep.
I’m spending more time in prayer.
I mentioned in my previous post that I started saying the Rosary in May. Surprising blessings have occurred since then, which draws me closer to God, because I want more of His goodness. I’m like a kid following the Pied Piper, who’s dropping dark chocolate malted milk balls. More, more! I’m so glad God pursues us.
Anyhoo…with simplifying comes more time. Not huge chunks, at first, like hours at a stretch, but minutes and moments. Pockets of time where things are quiet. Still. Which reminds me of my fall-back scripture for everything:
Be still and know that I am God.
I cannot tell you how many times this scripture has calmed the chaos in my brain.
Stillness is one character trait of God. He is quiet and orderly and smooth. He brings peace into our lives, not disorder and mayhem. When I have too much on my plate, disorder is what I feel. Commotion and jumble. I have to say, I have experienced those things too much the past year. The Rosary and Mama Mary have made me aware of that lately. So, I’m making some changes. Starting with Christmas.
Without so much holiday preparation and “show” (for lack of a better word), I’m enjoying some down time this week. My husband and I watched a new version of A Christmas Carol (on FX) yesterday (spookier than earlier versions, but good.) I’m making a point to play soothing holiday music on Pandora (Josh Groban has the best stuff, IMHO.) I spent a quiet afternoon making a holiday stocking for our 6-month old grandson, praying for him as I worked. It was a precious time.
Today, there is no last-minute rush before a Christmas Eve visit with my folks.
There is a season to all things, and for years, while raising three youngin’s, I embraced the optional extravagance of the holiday season. I loved it. There’s nothing wrong with all the extras.
I’m simply entering a different season, and I love it too.
I’m reflecting more on the yet unwed, likely teen-aged Mary, lumbering through a foreign countryside in search of a comfortable place to deliver her baby. She would not find it, but instead, an unclean, makeshift stable with smelly animals nearby. I cannot fathom birthing a child on dirty stone, or possibly hay, groaning in agony as the grip of labor takes hold. The doubts and fears that must have gripped Mary’s heart as well. How I revere her efforts and sacrifice.
I think of Joseph, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He had fears of his own, the scandal of this mystery pregnancy, being yoked to this young girl due to an angel’s command. What a crazy story. But he stayed the course. Joseph is the hero in this journey.
There is nothing like a newborn to bring hope and promise into the world. We were blessed with a newborn grandson in May, and he is pure innocence and perfection straight from Heaven. All babies are.
I imagine the infant Jesus, as fresh and snuggly as this little guy, but delivered into very different circumstances. In spite of the squalid surroundings – no eggnog, Christmas cookies, or greeting cards – Jesus was equally loved and swaddled and nourished.
There was sparkling Christmas light on that historic eve – a luminous star that drew strangers to come meet this newborn. And there was divine music – angels singing in celebration of this new life that would save us from ourselves.
However you prepare for and celebrate Christmas, I pray your heart is refreshed and renewed by the pure and tender babe that arrived modestly and unadorned in an unsanitary shack.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.