Wednesday, November 2, 2016

1 Essential Question to Ask Yourself Before the Holidays Descend

That frantically frenetic pace peaks over the threshold, very slowly but oh-so-surely beckoning, whispering our names.  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 announces its sacred arrival.  







'Season's Greetings' shout the catalogs that 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 all things orange or autumnal, and in the blink of an eye we find those same worn shelves filled to overflowing with red and green shiny objects that demand we break open our wallets and tote them home.  

And even as we speak, the endless jolly Christmas music and incessant TV commercials are about to herald their annual 24 / 7 debut.

Before we know it, we're going to be bombarded with demands and lists, opportunities and invitations.  And yet this one simple question lingers.  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 somehow 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.


What's a definite essential for you this holiday season?

What's a 'no, thanks' item?

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I'd love if you'd share this post with your social media tribe!

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I'm at Holley's
on Wednesdays

52 comments:

  1. Yes, it is all about our priorities...

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    1. You said it all, friend. And it's amazing how some priorities stay firm over time while others are fluid depending on the season.

      I appreciate you kicking off this conversation! I'd much rather have it now than mid-December when everyone's frazzled with exhaustion ...

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  2. Figuring out what to claim and what to release is valuable advice for ALL seasons, Linda! :)

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    1. Good point, Nicki! If we can nail some of this down before this crazed time of year, we've got a much better chance of serenity and peace and comfort and joy as we celebrate Jesus' birth ...

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  3. Linda,
    Loved the wisdom in your post: "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 somehow shine bright and meaningful, yet restful and uplifting." Amen. Blessings to you :-)

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    1. Ah, that's the good part ... the Holy Spirit awaits to whisper a peaceful discernment into the choices we make, into the details of how we live our lives.

      We're not in this alone! Not by a long stretch!

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  4. Oh, yes, Linda! I love this: "may we seek out solitude before we're swallowed alive by our jam-packed calendars."

    My best yes is spending time with my family and making that priority. My son and Turkish daughter will come for Christmas. So spending time with 3 young adults is tops for me. Two years ago, I got roped into making Christmas cookies so that our church could distribute them to neighbors. I felt like it was much more meaningful to distribute cookies to MY OWN neighbors, and I had to do extra work to make more because a sister at my church pressured me. I couldn't say no, but this year, I'm prepared! I love serving, but not in that capacity!

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    1. Ah, those 'sisters at church.'

      Lord, have mercy.

      May we honor each other's 'no, thanks' with grace and a smile ...

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  5. Oh I love this post. Every year I start out the season with prayer to slow things down. My favorite is this season...but not actually Christmas day. I love everything else about getting ready but tend to downplay the gift giving a lot.

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    1. I'm with you ... I do enjoy the peaceful rhythm of gentle preparations. I've learned that saying 'no' allows me to say 'yes' to what feeds my own soul so I can be fully present to others.

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  6. Thank you for this timely reminder. I intentionally do not allow myself to think beyond Thanksgiving until beyond Thanksgiving. With the years, I have learned moderation is all things is always wise. And best of all, I have learned to say, "No", and not feel guilty.
    Blessings, My Friend!

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    1. Moderation. Yes, I like that, Lulu!

      This season, like everything else in our lives, doesn't have to be all or nothing at all.

      Thanks for that word of wisdom, friend.

      Moderation. Yes, yes!

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  7. Hi Linda! Like every other holiday, we in the USA speed up the timing for Christmas. It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but stores have up the trees and ornaments and shining service platters. Sigh...
    It's a good question to ask, 'what's essential'? I think peace is. Peace in my heart, my soul, my home. Not to be sucked in by anything that sneaks in to steal it.
    Wishing you peace today,
    Ceil

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    1. Interesting, that phrase 'speed up' that you used, Ceil. Why are we always in a hurry for the next brass ring? What keeps us from being present and appreciative for this moment that we're in right now?

      And what might we be missing along the way because we always seem to be careening to the next thing?

      You make me ponder, girl ...

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  8. The one essential for me in this season is celebrating the birth of Jesus. I no longer allow myself to get sucked into what the world perceives as "holiday cheer." Even with three grandchildren, we strive to stay low key in the gift department; they need to learn of the True Gift and why we observe Christmas in the first place.
    Blessings, Linda!

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    1. Yes, we've been doing the 'low key in the gift department' in recent years, too, Martha. And no one's complaining.

      Especially our wallets.

      Let's hear it for shifting gears on all the madness while our kiddos are young enough to appreciate whose birthday it is, right?

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  9. You are right on the money, Linda! How did we get to this point on the calendar, this time of year so quickly? Didn't I just take down the tree???? It is Nov. 3 and in Ohio, we still have not lost all the leaves from our trees and some are not even colored and yesterday it was 75 degrees and sunny!!!

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    1. I've been seeing Christmas stuff in the stores since mid-October. Really.

      Enough is enough!

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  10. An extra challenge for those of us in ministry but one that adds joy to my celebration as we're able to bring the true spirit to others. But I still must be ever mindful of the cautions you remind us of. Thank you Linda.

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned how challenging it is for those in ministry, Debby. Those musicals and special services and emphasis on the nativity don't just happen ... they require much forethought, planning, dedication, and commitment. And time. And prayer.

      Maybe us pewsitters could take some of that energy and time we've spent wandering around the malls to devote to prayer for those who minister so faithfully ... and their families.

      Thank you for the beautiful ways you share Jesus with your flock, 365 days a year. Blessings on you, friend.

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  11. "It truly is all about Him." Amen. It gets so lost in the midst of commercialism and to-do lists. Thank you for this essential reminder, Linda. Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. Yet I'd be lost without my lists!

      What's a girl to do?

      ;-}

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  12. Oh, cuties!
    Gosh, I'm excited for the season myself.

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    1. You bring joy when you come to call, friend!

      ;-}

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  13. The one thing I don't like about Christmas is that people pretend to like each other, even liking their mothers-in-law or cantankerous neighbour, would you believe. At least I am devoid of all prejudice, I dislike them all equally. That is, unless they bring me chocolates.

    God bless you.

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    1. Absolutely, Victor!

      Chocolate saves the day {but not the cheap stuff, ya' know?!}

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  14. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. This seems to be an oxymoron when you stop and think about it. I ask God to fill me with His love, peace and gentleness but how often do I ask for self-control. My thoughts are conflicted by the fact that God can give me self-control. I thought that was my job, hmmmm. So that is my prayer this season (and at work where my load is out of control) that God's fruit of self-control will be evident.

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    1. You're so wise, Buds.

      Since most of us just adore being in control, no wonder the Holy Spirit has to work overtime on our self-absorbed hearts. He's so gracious and patient with us, isn't He ...

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  15. Is it that time again! The stores out there had Christmas stuff out before Halloween. It seems Thanksgiving get lost between the two. Thanksgiving is less stressful, Christmas is full of stress. But maybe it takes , Thanksgiving to make us more thankful for the Christmas story. Good post Linda

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    1. Oh I hear ya' Betty! It's all too much, too soon. But I really appreciate the way you've linked the gratitude sparked by Thanksgiving with the Nativity.

      Thank you for this gem of an insight. I'm taking it with me as I move through this afternoon, friend ...

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  16. While considering the calendar of my holiday season, I just read your blog post. I usually host the family Thanksgiving meal then immediately after get caught up in the decorating, baking, shopping & celebrating that accompanies December ... This year is concluding differently.

    This week I started out patient procedures for a 'serious medical procedure' ... scheduled for 11/29 with an expected hospital stay of 2-3 weeks. I truly need to approach this holiday season with only the essentials. My family has already planned an adaptive approach-new roles, less "fuss & frills". I love your words, "calm focus and peace fueled serenity that will allow us to cherish "...relationships, nature, beauty, music, nativity story & its meaning for our world.

    Promise of putting the cancer challenge out of commission is what this ... offers ... As I use this new - only the essentials - approach to Christmas, I am excited at the anticipation of new spiritual growth that might be born out of this "season that will somehow shine bright and meaningful, yet restful and uplifting."

    Thank you so much for your words. Today they were extremely personal and powerful, putting problems in perspective. You are a blessing.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story here today, S. I am inspired by your zeal for life and zest for thoughtfully making your way through surgery and the healing process! I'm asking this community to join me in prayer for you and your family.

      Please keep in touch! Thank you for blessing us with your presence here ...

      God bless you!

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  17. Love this reminder, Linda, to decide now how we will spend our holidays. Praying for His discernment to know what to release and what to claim.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head ... He gives us the discernment ... if we really want it!

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    2. You are so right, Linda. I used to think I could do it all and wanted to too. But trying to fit it all in can push out the peace and rest God desires for us.

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    3. Amen, girl! He wants His best gifts for His beloved children ...

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  18. Great thoughts here, Linda. Our stress level for the holidays is truly within reach of our control, as long as we decline requests and offers with a gracious heart.

    I'm no longer well enough to do anything special for the holidays - even special meals are out - but somehow that makes the season seem more precious this year.

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    1. Profound.

      When the bottom seems to be falling out and all around us is giving way, what's essential isn't even up for discussion is it. Everything foolish and silly is stripped away, leaving only the absolute essence of what truly matters.

      Andrew ... your perspective is keen and wise, sharpened by the pain of the season you are going through. Thank you for doing community with us here. I mean it, man ...

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  19. As a recovering people-pleaser, I agree! I'm writing about similar themes on my blog. Such a busy season must have limits to preserve peace.

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    1. A 'recovering people-pleaser.' That brings a smile, Sarah. Isn't it the loveliest place to find oneself?

      We didn't arrive there easily, did we ...

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  20. Oh Linda, I have been praying for God to help me with this very thing. Healthy boundaries. Keep praying He will help me to know what that looks like for my family. We don't have tv (no I don't think it is evil but this is just where we are in life) and we aren't big on buying anyways. Though I am not tempted in those ways, I am tempted to try and fix everyone's problems and take on too much so that is where I need strength and wisdom, discernment and peace. Sharing this today.

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    1. So much of our desire to try and fix everyone's problems comes from a beautiful caring heart, friend. You're in good company so don't beat yourself up too much, ok?

      May God give you discernment to know when to say 'yes' and 'no' and the ability to understand what's behind your decisions.

      Thanks for sharing with us this afternoon ...

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  21. Christmas is supposed to be such a blessed season and time to truly be thankful and praise our Lord, but it has been turned into something completely else. A wonderful reminder as this season descends upon us, my friend! Hugs to you today!

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    1. I'm with you, friend! Let's work together to turn this thing around!

      Comfort & joy to you this Sabbath afternoon ...

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  22. My Christmas season has slowed down a lot over the last few years, and sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with me, that my schedule is less full as courses etc, tend to take to end and take breaks. I wonder if the 'busyness' of the season is due to thinking that is how it should be so we can make it that way. Anyway, thoughts to ponder! This year I will say yes to myself, that there is nothing wrong with me to have a Christmas season with an open schedule!

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    1. Dear Lynn ~ nothing sounds more appealing than relishing a wide open Christmas calendar!

      Talk about comfort and joy ... indeed!

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  23. We don't celebrate Christmas but it is my favorite time of year.

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    1. The beauty of the season in undeniable, isn't it, friend ...

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  24. What is essential? Great question and one I need to figure out. What I know for sure is that spending time centering myself for the gift of Jesus on Christmas is essential. Advent is a sacred time for me. I love preparing my heart and soul for what is to come. As for what should I say "no" to-I am not as good at answering that!!!

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    1. I do hear you about the 'saying no' piece, Mary. But it does get easier over time and with a great deal of grace-filled practice.

      ;-}

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  25. I love this challenge, Linda. I want to stop before it all gets roaring into high gear to consider what truly is essential because there's so much I lose when I don't ask myself that question. I want to savor the moments and not the purchases or purchasing--something I tend to do more than I should! But it's all about creating and experiencing those moments of praise to God and joy of family. Thanks for this reminder, my friend!

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    1. That whole 'roaring into high gear' happens in a blink of an eye, somehow! Here's to getting ahead of that rolling stone, friend.

      And are you feeling a bit better these days? I know this has been a rough patch for you ...

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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