Sunday, November 15, 2015

One Urgent Question You Must Ask Yourself Before This Holiday Season

Winter is coming 'round the bend full force.

And not because the weather has turned blustery and brisk.

It's just that all of a sudden, November's half over.  And I'm not ashamed to say that thanks to the marvels of relaxed online shopping, almost all of the kiddos' gifts are bought.  

Yes, indeed.  

And as of this evening, the lights are twinkling bright in the windows.

Really.

'Cause Christmas preparation starts early around here.  I just don't like the pressure that December brings.  Not one bit.  So I give myself plenty of unfrenzied time and gentle space to prepare.

Why?




Because that frantically frenetic pace is beginning, very slowly but oh-so-surely.  And if we're not careful, we'll be caught in that powerful annual undertow that will leave us exhausted and spent before December 25th makes its sacred arrival.  

The catalogs are beginning to cram the mailbox half full.  The glossy pages are sporting red plaid articles of clothing that you'd never be caught dead wearing.  Lavishly decorated felt stockings and toys galore, expensive munchies and enough knit sweaters to sink a ship beckon with each flip of the page.

Stores are clearing out the last tired remnants of anything orange or autumnal, and shelves are filling to overflowing with red and green and shiny objects that demand you open your wallet and tote them home.  And even as we speak, the endless jolly Christmas music and incessant TV commercial shouting loud about the ideal presents are making their 24 / 7 debut.

And before we know it, we're going to be bombarded with demands and lists, opportunities and invitations.  And yet this one simple question works for me.  It whispers quietly yet persistently, just begging to be asked.

What's essential?




The answer to these two words will be the key to our stress-less delight and His sacred honor this year.  It's a meaningful question that's meant to be calmly pondered somewhere deep and still.  There's no one right or wrong answer, no one-size-fits-all.

Because the most necessary gift isn't one we're going to find under the tree come December 25th.  It's the priceless gift we choose to give ourselves.

The lovely ability to say with a gentle confidence, 'yes, please' or 'no thanks' to each request that calls our name.

For all of us who are prone to be people-pleasers, this is a hard one ... especially this time of year.  But let's encourage each other to not waste valuable time wringing our hands, fretting over the endless expectations people will so readily place on us.  A gracious setting of boundaries will only help us keep our sanity and lend us a calm focus and a peace-fueled serenity that will truly enable us to truly cherish this coming season.

So may we seek out solitude before we're swallowed alive by our jam-packed calendars.  May the Spirit give us discernment to figure out what to claim and what to release.  May we be sweetly gutsy and simply brave enough to let our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no' be 'no,' so that His nativity season will shine bright and meaningful, yet restful and uplifting.

And may we graciously allow others the same guilt-trip free space to make their own decisions.

We each get to figure out what is truly essential so that we can say, with hearts overflowing with adoration, 'Happy Birthday, Jesus.'  With a relaxed joy and plenty of time to savor this one truth ...

It truly is all about Him.


Dear friend, what do you want to say 'yes' to?

And ... what just might need to go?

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Please feel free to share this post on your favorite social media hangouts.
I bet your friends will thank you!  The links are below.

connecting with kindred spirits at Anita's  .  Kelly's  .  Holley's  .  Lyli's

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58 comments:

  1. This is good. Such a difficult thing to really grab a hold of though. I have had a season where I have had to say no a lot more and even to myself. Just to ideas or to do lists that I come up with. Then of course there are all the outside opportunities that I have also struggled to turn down. But there are some yeses in there too. Thank you for this reminder because you are right, the Holidays don't have to be overwhelming.

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    1. Hi Natalie! You bring up a great point ... those 'nos' free us up to say enthusiastic 'yeses' ... and we end up really excited about what we're going to be doing. I like that!

      Sure beats exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, and resentful.

      Thanks for kicking off this dialogue this morning. I can't help thinking we're going to be learning alot from each other as we bat these ideas around this week ...

      ;-}

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  2. Wise counsel here. Words I may need to return to for reminders of giving myself space in a crowded season. Thank you Linda.

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    1. I love that idea about giving ourselves space in this overcrowded season, Debby! What a gift that turns out to be ... kind of like a trickle down effect that blesses others in the process.

      ;-}

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  3. We also start the celebration of Christmas early in order to spread out the chaos and savor the beauty. The challenge for me, as our boys grow up, has been knowing what to let go of (because it's no longer fun or meaningful for them) and what to continue doing. My favorite part of celebrating Jesus' birthday is all the opportunities to gather around the Word, to read the prophecies, and then to rejoice in their glorious fulfillment. You're stoking my Christmas spirit, Linda. Thanks!

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    1. Good point about looking at what's no longer fun or meaningful, Michele! Too often we do the same ol' tired things just because that's the way we always did it. And no one's brave enough to say 'let's shake things up a bit around here!'

      Thanks for adding to the Christmas spirit today, friend ...

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  4. Hi Linda! Everyone prepares for the holidays in different ways. Hopefully it brings them joy and peace, and not feelings of anxiety and pressure.
    Now that my kids are gone, it's a lot less busy, and I like that. Giving myself a chance to breathe the preparation instead of becoming breathless is a real gift.
    Wishing you peace,
    Ceil

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    1. Oh, I like this, Ceil -->'breathe the preparation.'

      You always have a way with words, girl. I can feel myself breathing deep just thinking about what that might look like ...

      Yes, yes, to peace as we continue the journey.

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  5. I just got on the computer and your blog popped up right away so I decided to read it before I did anything else.

    I decided a while back to do something totally different this year ... I was going to order everyone's gifts online and have them sent down to to my son's and then wrap them all when I got down there, since I'll be flying down.

    Then I pictured myself locked in a bedroom for how many hours, wrapping gifts for 19 people, and decided I'd rather be spending my time with them. So....I talked to my kids and instead of buying gifts I'm treating all of them to a family day at Stone Mountain. They have so many activities for all ages and I think it will be a great time for everyone. My kids all thought it was a great idea. The grandkids don't know anything about it. It will be a surprise for them.

    I always have a Christmas dinner here with my Bible study ladies and we exchange gifts. This year I decided to give them all gift cards to CBD. I made up these cute cards and will give them to the ladies tomorrow night. I want them to pick out whatever they'd like with their cards and then I'll order what they want (I have free shipping) and will wrap them and give them to them at our Christmas dinner.

    I'm all about keeping it simple this year.

    {via email}

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    1. What a cool idea! An experience is usually so much more meaningful than another pair of socks! What fun you'll have enjoying each other, what a celebration as you make some wonderful memories with your gang!

      Sure beats sitting in a locked room, wrapping gifts for 19 people. My eyes glaze over just at the thought of those hours hunched mounds of bags and boxes.

      You've chosen wisely. Thanks for sharing an idea that's sure to spark some interest in this community!

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  6. In a world that is speeding up and accumulating more, I am purging my house and slowing down. I'm reading a wonderful book called "Slow Family Living". There's no need to buy into the frenzy. My family and I are quite content to stay home, play games etc.......If it doesn't bring me joy, I don't do it. This book is transforming our family and our life!!

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    1. Hey Val ... you sparked my interest and I went and wandered over to my local library site to read a bit about Slow Family Living.

      This looks like a great read! Heads up, guys ... check your library for this little volume of 75 ideas that will help your family to connect. Good stuff!

      ;-}

      Thanks, Val ... ALWAYS interested in your insight on books.

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  7. Thank you for the timely reminder! I have most of the gifts purchased, but a desire to make a few homemade things--but this desire will likley be what I put aside--I just don't have time to sew anything and not feel stressed!

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    1. Gee ... it does seem a bit early to be writing about Christmas, doesn't it? But the calendar tells me differently.

      ;-}

      Where did fall go, anyway, Anita?

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  8. Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, so while we are planning ahead for a couple of holiday parties, and buying outdoor lights before they sell out, we won't be decorating our home until after that holiday is past. My husband likes to start early too. We usually put our tree up Thanksgiving weekend. Advent begins early this year, with the first Sunday being in November, so we have plenty of time to savor each event as it comes. I love your gingerbread people, Linda! and can just imagine the welcome of the twinkling lights in your windows! As you say, it's important that each one of us prepare the way, in our own way, to savor the One truth. Blessings!

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    1. Yep, the tree goes up in about a week so the 6 kiddos can have at it Thanksgiving weekend! The old fragile ornaments stay boxed up, everything else is fair game. Whatever they want to do is fine with me.

      Really!

      Thanks for the gentle reminder that Advent is right around the corner. I feel a great need to focus in that direction this year.

      And I know I'm not the only one ...

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  9. One of my "funnest" Christmases I ever had was over 10 years ago when I asked people not to buy me anything but to give the money they would have spent on me to a ministry of my choice. Then I gave them a list with addresses of those I wanted to support. Surprisingly, they all did. I loved it! It also taught me a valuable lesson about gift giving.

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    1. What a powerful action for a pastor to take, Bill. It models something so wise and telling for his people.

      And what do you bet that a number of them have repeated that with their friends and family? After all, who needs another box of cheap candy or another shirt ...

      And the needs around us are so very great ...

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  10. I never really liked the 'bustle' of the season anyway; my current situation makes it impossible, and I'm OK with that!

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2015/11/your-dying-spouse-83-temptations.htm

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  11. Linda, your December sounds lovely : ) I'm aiming for this too this year -focusing on Christ is diminished when I'm so focused on me and my loved ones and plans and yadda yadda.

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    1. Yeah, it's all that yadda yadda stuff that ends us swallowing us alive!

      Saying goodbye to yadda yadda on this end.

      ;-}

      You said it well, Bethany!

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  12. The call to relaxed, slow and intentional is such a good call this time of year. Thank you for bringing us back here all the time. I am in the process of preparing for my younger son to be married over the holidays so life is going to look very different but what a blessing to add a daughter to the family. Love and hugs friend!

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    1. Oh ... how lovely that will be, Mary! I hope you'll be sharing lots of pictures and details. We'll all be celebrating with you!

      And that's some lucky woman to receive you as a mama-in-love ...

      ;-}

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  13. Yes! Permission to say a gracious no. I'm learning to practice that art in order to leave room for the meaningful yes! Good reminders for us as the season picks up momentum.

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    1. For sure, Teresa! A gracious no sure beats a resent-filled yes!

      ;-}

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  14. We definitely can put a lot of pressures on ourselves with all that picture perfect perfection of decorated trees, homes, and neighbourhoods that show up in those flyer that bombard our mailbox! I always say yes to the special events in my city that my family goes to every year. Tradition is what keeps Christmas real for me.

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    1. I hear you about the importance of traditions, Lynn. Having just moved after 38 years in one location, we are keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities that we'd like to check out as we make this new place our home.

      Keeping the absolute best of the old while readying to embrace the new. Yes! That's where I want to be!

      ;-}

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  15. This is my prayer today, Linda: "May the Spirit give us discernment to figure out what to claim and what to release." Not just regarding the holiday season, but in other areas that are pressing on my heart. Thank you for helping me to put the feelings into words this morning. And may relaxed joy continue to be the hallmark of your Christmas season this year. :-)

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    1. You make an important point, Lois ... those challenges that press hard on us don't just magically disappear because Christmas carols are playing.

      In fact, the holidays have a way of making those pressures, those hurts, those disappointments, that grief even more vivid.

      May we not be surprised that the pain still flows ... and may we lean harder into the One who came to bear all our griefs and carry all those sorrows.

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  16. I have learned in the past few years--to take a chill pill---and enjoy this season. Now as for decorating--can't go there until the day after Thanksgiving! It seems to take something away from that day of thanks if I rush the season!
    Blessings, Friend!

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    1. Oh yeah! Let's hear it for taking a chill pill, racheting down our expectations, settling our hearts so that we may receive the gifts He longs to give us ... love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

      If we ever needed the fruit of the Spirit to define us it would be right about now.

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  17. Linda, I love this, and it it so timely. "A gracious setting of boundaries will only help us keep our sanity and lend us a calm focus and a peace-fueled serenity that will truly enable us to truly cherish this coming season." Pre-decide to focus on the essential ... Jesus!

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    1. 'Pre-decide.'

      I like that, Crystal! A bit of thought and prayer would certainly equip us to use our time in much healthier ways.

      Thanks for the insight, friend!

      ;-}

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  18. Christmas comes earlier each year and it's so commecialised.

    Here in the UK some churches give out posters at Christmas for people to place on their windows at home clearly visible from the street. The UK is a secular country; but it's nice walking down the street round our town and every so often see one of those posters in someone's window. Also, the churches gives out small stickers, the size of a stamp, saying "Keep Christ in Christmas" and we use them on the envelopes when we send Christmas cards and ordinary mail.

    One Christmas I suggested that instead of giving each other presents we say a prayer for each other. A relative agreed heartily as long as he still got his bottle of whisky !!!

    God bless.

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    1. I haven't seen those KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS stickers for years! I'll keep an eye out for them this year, Victor.

      I love the idea of the prayer or a donation to an organization that helps others like Bill mentioned yesterday.

      Thanks!

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  19. Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving here.. although recently my in-laws have been coming to visit during Thanksgiving, and my husband asks that I not decorate and go shopping on Black Friday as has been my custom FOREVER. As a result, it takes the wind out of my holiday sails.. so I told him this year I'm going to resume my ushering in the festivities as usual! lol.. - www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. Yeah, I used to love that Black Friday shopping, too, Gingi. Those were the days!

      Now? Just no way. I'm happy at home with my feet curled up, hanging out with the family instead of being stampeded by a bunch of crazed bargain hunters!

      ;-}

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  20. We're not in Christmas mode at our house....yet. It'll come, probably the first week of December. I'm with you, Linda. The hustle and bustle isn't my thing. But Jesus? Yes, please. It's a bit early, but Merry Christmas!

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    1. Well, Merry Christmas right back to you, dear Kristi!

      You're the 1st one who's uttered those words to me in 2015 ... and it's made me feel just a wee bit jolly!

      hohoho

      ;-}

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  21. Linda,
    Great and gracious and wise advice before the craziness begins...Grace to say "no" and grace to give to others and "Yes," to solitude and whatever God leads us to ...only by Grace :-) Sending hugs and prayers your way, my friend.

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    1. I'm fairly sure God doesn't want us to be crazed and frenzied. He's left us His peace and doesn't want our hearts to be troubled! Now? To figure out how to cooperate with His plans!

      You bring His peace with you, friend. Always ...

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  22. love this! yes, every year this time of the year seems to be getting more hectic... especially with the girls in school... I want to get the tree up this weekend so that we can all enjoy it for as long as possible... they will only be 4 once!

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    1. I'm with you, Jandi! If we're going to all the trouble to do a tree and any kind of Christmas decor, it's going to be early enough that we ALL get to savor and enjoy!

      Enjoy those little ones, friend. Take pictures. And play!

      ;-}

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  23. I couldn't agree more! Thank you for this poignant reminder. If I'm not intentional I will be steam rolled by the holidays, caught up like a rolling snowball and never stopping to truly set my heart on what matters. Fighting for less hectic and more of Him this Christmas!

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    1. Intentional. LOVE that word, Katie. There's purpose and clarity and focus in living that way that allows us to be wise and peaceful in all the myriad of decisions that get thrown at us right and left.

      Let's hear it for living intentionally!

      ;-}

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  24. Linda,
    I LOVE the vintage canisters! I see they made the move with you to your new home?! Even though I don't have kids, holidays are so hectic for me too and it's hard to spend time savoring. Great words, my friend! And kudos on having most of your shopping done already! :)

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    1. Sadly, the canister set was donated to a resale shop ... along with SCADS of other stuff. I have very little counter space here in the new house. How glad I am that I took this picture a few years back ... and that I get to share it with you!

      Can't wait to see your home done up all bright and pretty for the holidays, Valerie!

      ;-}

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    2. Linda,
      Too funny that you donated the cannister set and I was imagining it on your counter! LOL I know what you mean -- I decluttered my counters a few months ago and my mother told me it made her feel sad, like I was moving, it looked so empty! :)

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    3. Yeah, I loved that canister set. It just took up to much real estate, ya' know?

      ;-{

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  25. Your words are like "butter to my dry bread life," Linda! I need to keep these things in mind for sure. This week my hubby is gone with our church staff team for a planning retreat but will return tomorrow. And I'm thanking God for the quietness around here before family descends starting this Saturday. I am an introvert who loves her alone time, so I feel like a squirrel hoarding nuts this week in an effort to make it through the chaos of next week and beyond! I truly don't ever want to lose sight of who we are celebrating this Christmas. I don't want Jesus to get overlooked in the tasks, gifts and celebrating. Hugs to you!

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    1. Yeah, we introverts love our solitude don't we ... it's water in our wells, for sure. I never get bored or restless when alone ... there's always something to care for, tend to, consider, indulge in.

      That's when He restores our souls, isn't it ...

      ;-}

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  26. There you are, my friend. Wondered where you went. miss you. Don't worry. I moved too. Lost my website - long story - two words: Copyright Infringement. We have to be careful about what we put on our website and make sure we know where it comes from. It was expensive ($1200) and lost my website (4 years of work). But you can find me now.....new and improved at http://www.christinemalkemes.com

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    1. Welcome back, Chris! I wondered where you'd gone ... I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through but I'm glad to hear you're writing again. I'm sure you'll have some wisdom to share.

      Will be by to say 'hello' ...

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  27. The holidays can be such a stressful time. I'm trying to think of more ways to make the season less stressful , and an authentic celebration of the birth of Jesus. I will keep your question "what's essential?" In the back of my mind as I begin holiday planning.

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    1. An authentic celebration of Jesus' birth! How cool is that! If we used that perspective as our guideline, maybe quite a bit would change from how we usually do these end of the year weeks ...

      Thanks for coming by, friend!

      ;-}

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  28. Hoot! this is for me!
    In the last three weeks I have been choked with so many activities some in preparation of the holiday! I am just trying to sit still, friend. Slowly recovering though but it will take some nights to catch too!
    Hugs and Blessings to you

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    1. Yes, yes. Be still and know that He is God.

      Rest, rest, friend ...

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda