It’s Hard to be Practical Around the Holidays
The shorter days seem to suck minutes out of each hour—causing me to rush around and get things done at a breakneck pace. Meanwhile, little chores and tasks seem so laborious. Who wants to file the growing stack of papers on one’s desk when the weak winter sun beckons to come out and enjoy its tepid warmth for a few stolen moments of exercise before the thermometer drops below freezing?
Each morning I struggle to hop out of bed when my alarm chimes. Normally, I have no problems popping out of bed at four in the morning, but not in December. Instead of falling back asleep while my alarm patiently counts down nine minutes of snoozing time (who came up with how long one should snooze, anyway?), my mind races through all I must accomplish. My recriminating thoughts have fistfights with each other, and when the bell goes off, no one wins.
I forget that every day of the year has 24 hours and no one says I must accomplish a full day’s compliment of work in the meager nine hours and fifty-eight minutes of sunlight allotted to me. How did I ever cope when I lived further north and had an hour less of sunshine? What do people in Alaska do?
Christmas programs, gift buying, work parties, decorations, real trees or fake, friends, family, the delicate negotiations of who will spend which hours of the holidays with whom and where, cookie exchanges, shrinking bank accounts and expanding waistlines, expectations and always, always, the need for light. The need for Light.
It takes me years to decorate each new house we move into—how will I decorate for a single season before it ends? How does Martha Stewart do it? How does a gal preserve her peace in the season of hustle and bustle and high expectations?
Two Cs: Cling and Change
I find my answer in the lights. They remind me of the Light of the World, who came as a tiny babe to walk alongside us. Immanuel—God with Us. Not just saving us from our sins through his sacrifice, but experiencing our pain as well. Rejected by family and friends, abused physically and verbally, homeless, laughed at, misunderstood, endangered, betrayed—he really was with us. He knows suffering.
And so during these dark days of December, I cling to the Light. I put candles in my windows and wrap sparkling lights around the barren trees outside (ok, my husband does the manly decorating outside). I make a date with the Light the night before and wake up eager not to miss it.
When the alarm chimes, I slip out of bed straight onto my knees and thank God for the Light. I pad to the kitchen and brew myself a decaf skinny latte with a dash of cayenne pepper and then head to my prayer chair. This month I’m copying a passage about the Light from scripture in my journal each morning.
I change my activities. Running makes me happy—but only in the early morning—my body refuses to participate in that activity after eight a.m. I don’t have time to run before work (and can never drag myself outside after work). To get my heart pumping, I concede to riding the exercise bike during the winter months instead.
The transition doesn’t come easily for me. I whine and wish that I could motivate myself to run in the dark and cold, but since I value exercise, I make the effort. My aging joints thank me for the break in routine. My brain reminds me that doing the same exercise over and over eventually causes it to lose its effectiveness.
Two As: Adjust and Acknowledge
Adjusting my expectations helps, too. I will never have a Norman Rockwell or Martha Stewart Christmas. My presentation will never grace the pages of a magazine, and no one will ever remember how beautifully decorated our home looked. But I can host friends and family with grace. I can make each person who walks through my door feel special by asking questions, engaging in conversation and giving the gift of my attention.
I also acknowledge that I can’t do it all alone. As an introvert, doing community does not come naturally for me. This year, I’ve joined a weekly ladies prayer group. As we meet each week, I feel more comfortable in community—freer now that I know I have friends praying for me, and that I can return the blessing by praying for them.
Do you have any practical advice for keeping the holidays happy? Share in the comments.