Christmas Lessons

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Just about a week and a half ago, Colbie Caillat’s Christmas in the Sand album seemed ever-so relevant. In West Palm Beach it’s all about the sand tree and Sea-Suns greetings. My dear friend believes that she did in fact see Santa in his bathing suit.

I am now back in the Midwest celebrating Christmas in Wisconsin, home for the holidays. I flew into General Mitchell airport in Milwaukee and landed amongst a grey fog. The white snow covered yard that I had hoped I’d be coming home to turned out to be sunless days of peaked grass and icy mist; the kind of weather that beckons for a roaring fire in the fireplace and a hot mug to hold and warm frigid hands.

This morning I woke up to a sliver of a sunshine blaze lining the horizon. I sighed with relief knowing the sun was planning to appear today. It provided hope and relief to what had been a blistering, cold, wet week. The sun’s appearance provided the calm of a deep breathe, it felt like cool water quenching a parched body; such reprieve to this sun-spoiled Florida dweller. I reflected on the hope and relief of the sun on this peaceful, holiday season morning, but the bliss of this sun-soaked morning was such a miniscule taste of the everlasting peace that God gifted to the world many years ago. The hope, peace, and joy that the birth of Jesus brought to this world is truly incomprehensible. What liberation and call for celebration for this weary, grace-needing sinner!

Whether in the Florida sun or wintery Midwest, I choose to hold on to peaceful, hope-filled mornings like this one, because they provide tangible reminders of God’s faithfulness. Tomorrow, I will walk with into my family’s Christmas Eve service with immense gratitude remembering this morning.

‘Tis the Season

The day before Thanksgiving I went to Trader Joe’s, one might say this was a decision rooted in pure stupidity. The parking lot was full…of crazy people who were just as crazy as me for going to the grocery store that Wednesday. The store itself was packed with people scurrying around and blocking aisles. Others were running back and forth from the checkout line grabbing things they forgot on their list. “Tis the season,” the cashier stated.

Then it dawned on me. Everyone is in the store running circles around each other all for the purpose of practicing and celebrating gratitude with family and friends the following day.

This thought occurs to me every year…and a lot of other people too. It certainly isn’t new under the sun. Putting it into practice; however, is a whole different scenario.

What is even more humorous and amusing, I had just had conversations with friends and family about how content and at peace I was, celebrating God’s faithfulness and His provision of hope-filled moments; choosing a joyful heart and contentment over disgruntled bitterness and stress of things to come.

I hate to admit that I didn’t learn my lesson from that Trader Joe’s outing.

During the Thanksgiving break I started updating my planner…and in shear panic, beads of sweat gathered around my forehead, as I looked at all that the next months had in store for me. December- holiday hustle and bustle; January – new semester with practically every week jammed to the max, February – no less crammed for responsibilities and activity. I experienced something similar to “syllabus shock” the first week of classes in college. That stomach-knotting, overwhelming view of all that has to get done. Why do we do this to ourselves? I find that so often, I allow stressors, frustrations, and the busyness of life to erode my joy and contentment. I can’t help but believe that I am not alone.

Contentment is a precious gift, arguably one of the most rare gifts experienced by humanity. If this is so, I don’t want to lose it.

I want to be the joyful, content me wherever I am. Wherever God has placed me today, I want to be the best me and actually enjoy it! Enjoy the moment and enjoy the people…not arrive haggard and not-so present. As we move deeper into this holiday season, inching our way toward Christmas, the calendar is no less full, but I am taking the words of Jim Elliot to heart, “wherever you are be all there.” I encourage you to do the same, be present and enjoy where you are….even those long lines at Trader Joe’s.