What if this was your last Christmas?

Merry-Christmas-Status-For-Facebook

Can you believe another year is about to close?  It feels like I simply blinked and it was December again! How about you? However, if I take a little time to reflect over the year I realize that within that crazy, busy year there have been some monumental experiences that should not be overlooked; there were so many learning opportunities for me.

One of the biggest “stand out” experiences for me was, unfortunately, a horrific car accident in which my husband and I walked out with our lives and we are beyond grateful.   This unfortunate experience has given me many moments of reflection as I think about the brevity of life; it goes by so fast and sometimes it is stolen from us.

Our car accident has caused me to take a deeper look at my passions, my professional work, my personal life, my meaningful relationships, as well as my physical & emotional health. As I stepped out of the truck that day, badly shaken, my first thought was an overwhelming gratefulness that our lives had been spared but following that I experienced a very clear picture of what really matters in my life~ people.

As you walk through the holidays, how can you navigate the season so that the busyness does not steal from your connection with others? How can you slow the pace in order to share tender moments along the way? Christmas traditions can be so fun, baking and office parties can be invigorating; but taking the time to be certain that those you love know that they matter is really at the heart of Christmas.

What’s tugging at your heart this year? Is there a relationship that needs encouragement? A single mom struggling that needs your touch? Does your spouse need the festivities to slow down so that the two of you can remember what great friends you are; or perhaps work towards being again?

Our unexpected accident has only heightened my awareness that every day is a precious gift!  Truly, the 2016 Christmas season could have been our last! Every day is, indeed, a gift! Instead of chocolate indulge deeply in the relationships that surround and bless your life and in doing so you will have a very Merry Christmas.

This Christmas….

 

random-acts-of-kindness

Sitting in my living room looking out at the blustery snow storm outside, I am pondering what Christmas is like for you this year.  Each year the “feel” of the season may be markedly different from the last.  I have a dear friend who, last year, grieved her inability to carry a child; this year she is in her first trimester of a stable pregnancy.  I have a colleague who is walking through the first Christmas without her spouse by her side.  I have a client who is reveling in the birth of her first grandchild and yet another who just found out that she will no longer have her job in 2016.

The “feel” of the holidays can ebb and flow against the filter of what’s presently taking place in our lives. We all want to be sensitive to others while also being grateful enough to celebrate the joys in our lives as well.  This can be a fine balance that I have not mastered but attempt to be mindful of.  Five years ago was a “blue” Christmas for me as our family was walking through the pain of a dramatic loss in our family.  I don’t think I was resentful of the joys others were celebrating, I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to celebrate that year, I understand the challenge.

What I have learned over the years is that there is always elements of our lives we can be grateful for–some unchangeable areas where our gratefulness can be expressed:

  1.  We have an amazing God who loves us, forgives us, gives us grace, and watches over our lives every single day!
  2. We live in America.  We are not a perfect nation and have much to learn but as of today, we are free to worship, to work, and to travel freely.
  3. We all have friends.  Some years we may not have as many friends as we’d like but if we were honest, we all have one or two dear people who love us and this is a real gift!
  4. If we are breathing and our heart is beating, we still have life within us and the opportunity to love and impact the lives of others around us.

I don’t know what your holiday filter is for you this year but it is my prayer that you will take some time to ponder, even list, the good things in your life as you navigate Christmas Day.  May you begin a New Year with a fresh perspective, renewed hope, and a grateful heart.

Merry Christmas to you all. 🙂

Merry Stressmas?

images

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for women, it can also be the most overwhelming.   From decorating our homes, to preparing and sending Christmas cards, attending Christmas parties, and purchasing gifts that will bless family and friends near and far. We do all of this while working, volunteering, homeschooling, and navigating all of our other natural responsibilities.

The Huffington Post ran a terrific article that may allow you to embrace needed permission to do the holidays a little more stress free! 🙂  Here is a few of the choices to consider:

1. Spending big bucks on the best presents.  A homemade gift can be worth much more.

2. Thinking up the perfect present for everyone on your list.  A gift certificate may not be the most personal choice, but they will really  like it.

3. Giving the same gift to multiple people. Unless they live under the same roof, they’ll never know!

4. Cooking everything yourself. It’s okay to delegate! Costco is your friend.

5. Staging elaborate scenes with your Elf on the Shelf!

6. A homemade pie crust. No one will notice.

7.  Sending Christmas cards/photos. You keep in touch with the people you want to keep in touch with already. Shoot your other friends a “Thinking of you” email and save yourself the stress of staging the family photo.

8. Wrapping stocking stuffers. That’s what the stocking is for!

9.  Accepting every holiday party invitation. It’s important to say no to certain things to say yes to the most imporant experiences!

And finally….

10. Trying to cram in every single Christmas tradition — going out to look at lights, building the perfect snowman, making sure you bake the Christmas cookies, having the house all decorated. If you run out of time for one (or a few!) of these traditions, remember: There’s always next year!

At the end of the day Christmas will always be remembered by the memories we make with those we love……

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of  happy family and friends wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis

 

She misses him~

a2d7dee1103b4dd32b1c0fbc855e0d6b.1000x668x1

Today was a typical pre-Christmas day~~ busy with errands, shopping, baking, and wrapping; my brain even felt busy!  As I pushed my shopping cart through a store packed with people moving slowly, I tried to find the best route to get my shopping done; to rush off to the next errand.  Then she began talking to me.

She said, ” I love your boots, you look so nice; so happy.”  She gave me a wink and said ” you must have a sweet man to love you!”  This 80-year-old lady in old sweats and disheveled hair then said, ” I used to have someone but he passed away; you would have loved Arthur.”

My mind was racing as I realized I was taken aback by her boldness with me and I was feeling the pinch of my tight schedule…….do I engage in what could be a long conversation? Then I heard myself say, “tell me about your Arthur.”  And there we stood for about 30 minutes while Gloria told me all about Christmas’s gone by: parties she and Arthur used to host, food they used to cook, and gifts they used to exchange. She misses him.

Before we two strangers went on our own ways we were able to share a hug and wish one another a Merry Christmas.  I watched her walk away with a sense of sadness but I was also feeling a full heart; I felt like I knew her Arthur and I would have really liked him.

Another amazing reminder to give extra care to those around us during the holidays; we never know who really needs to be heard; for someone to care.

 

Here come the Holidays~Ready or not!

index

 

Welcome to the holiday season — that whirlwind of gift-giving holidays, marketing blitzes, holiday parties and activities galore that begins right after Halloween, builds to Thanksgiving, and continues gaining momentum through the end of the year. You are probably asking yourself, as I am~ How did the holidays get here so fast? 🙂

With all the joys of the holiday celebrations there are also stresses, right?  Every year we commit to ourselves that we will slow down and truly appreciate all that the holidays represent, spiritually and relationally.  Yet, as the holidays roll around again we tend to replay the manic pace of holidays gone by.

Perhaps this is the year to experience the holidays in a fresh way by making some changes that will produce a fresh outcome:

1.  Give yourself permission to say “no” to some activities.  Choose the events you attend well so that you don’t feel like you are “running” all the time.  When you manage your schedule in a manic pace you won’t really have the energy to be present and truly enjoy the memories you have the opportunity to make!

2.  Give yourself permission to keep gift-giving within your budget.  Going into debt, no matter how much you love your family and friends, creates stress!  Think about creative ways to show how much you care.  Some of the sweetest gifts I’ve received over the years were thoughtful and simple; special thoughts,  sweet treats, homemade crafts, etc.  Knowing someone took their time to bless me really meant a lot!

3.  Give yourself permission to reflect on what the holidays mean to you.  Don’t run so fast that you don’t allow yourself to take quiet time to think about the richer meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas for you.  Beyond the gifts, the food, and the activities; What do they mean to your heart?  Take time to be thankful, reflect on all that the Lord has done for you.

4.  Give yourself permission to change old traditions.  Sometimes we can maintain traditions that are time-consuming and lack the meaning they may have had in years gone by.  Or perhaps there is a simpler way to achieve the same goal.  Consider all the details you expect to cover in the short holiday season and take an honest inventory of the “cost” of pressuring yourself to accomplish them all.

5.  Give yourself permission to bless others.  The holidays can be so fun but they are also a huge season of sadness and loneliness for many people.  Make it a priority to be mindful of the needs in your family, neighborhood, or community.  Lending a loving hand will fill your heart with the true meaning of the holidays!

6.  Give yourself permission to keep your “self-care” in tact!  Don’t abandon your healthy eating and sleep schedule whenever possible. Keep exercising; take a long walk, add a yoga class, anything that helps you maintain energy, and helps wear off those extra holiday treat calories! 🙂

This year, just tweak a few old habits and see if you can breeze through the holidays with greater joy! Happy Holidays!

 

Being honest about Christmas~

It’s Christmastime with all the lights, gifts, celebrations, cards, and busy schedules.  All around us we are besieged by products adds, Christmas carols, and the reminder that “If we order today our gifts can STILL arrive by Christmas day!”  Hurry ~~ Hurry!

Let me be honest, I love the Christmas season as much as anybody, yet, as I pay attention to the people around me I am tenderized by the fact that there are many facing challenges and changes IN THE MIDST of this season. Not everyone is experiencing a Facebook Christmas full of photos of fun, food, and laughter.

images

I am aware of folks facing incredible physical challenges, financial pressure, relational pain, loss, and loneliness. For them, the holidays present unique challenges. I see the commercials with the children missing their daddies serving in the military; it takes less than one second for my eyes to well up with tears. I watched a man suffering with Parkinson’s disease carefully taking steps down the aisle at the store slowly gathering up family gifts as his energy (not love) drained with every step; tears again.  I read a blog of a colleague whose son has just married and faced a painful surgery to remove an enormous tumor in his brain; my heart breaks for what this young couple is walking through.

X-Factors-Kingsland-Road-bring-Christmas-cheer-to-Birmingham-Childrens-Hospital-6436210

No, I don’t want to write a blog that brings you down! I don’t. Yet if we miss what is really true during this holiday season we will be unable to be ready to respond to the needs around us. I have simply chosen, in this season, to be very mindful of those who serve in customer care during the holidays; I’ve committed not to be too busy that I don’t forget to thank them by name, smile at them, and compliment them.  It has been remarkable how those soft touches have changed their countenance. This is a little thing!

We all face challenging situations; some seasons are harder than others yet these challenges can just seem more pronounced during a season. If you are in a season where you are experiencing health, peace, and joy then CELEBRATE IT! If you are facing a season that feels heavy and challenging, I encourage you to trust in the One who loves you more than you will ever know!  Deuteronomy 31:8 says ” It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”   I just LOVE that!   That is what Christmas is truly all about!

Even as I write I am keenly aware that many of you are in a tough season, some of you have just passed though challenges, and there will be others whose lives feel incredibly easy at this time.  I wish all of you true joy in whatever situation you find yourself this year.

Perhaps this season, and all year through, we could find the good tension between celebrating our own lives and remaining mindful of those whose lives are facing great challenge.  Let’s be human.

Merry meaningful Christmas to you, my friends.