Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christmas Dos

Recently this image showed up in my Facebook feed and I obviously liked it, because I thought it was worth posting here.  This list is a great reminder of the things that really matter and the simple things we can do to touch another person's life.

However, I also have a "Holiday to do list" that includes most of the original things written on the list pictured as well.  I enjoy getting presents ready, baking cookies with the kids, and going around to look at lights.  But there's no doubt it is a dance trying to enjoy this season and leave room for awe and wonder while at the same time getting certain things done.

The reason I say it is a dance is because creating memories and cultivating the sort of atmosphere that breeds awe and wonder do not exactly happen on their own.

What I mean is that behind most of your most-treasured Christmas memories, there is likely someone you might call "the magic maker" as my friend Becca puts it...someone who wrapped the presents...made reindeer tracks...bought the snowman shaped ice cream treats...organized the Christmas craft...rolled out the lefse...or signed you up for the Living Nativity.

Most of the time, those who make things like this happen do it because they enjoy it.  Like I said, I know I do.  And it's precisely because this season is special that we want to create special memories and share it with those we love.  The only trouble is that the ones we love are often more spread out than in generations past, which requires more time traveling, more coordinating of dates, and even more celebrations overall.

Similarly, in order to counter the message that Christmas is all about gifts and sales, we try to promote a sense of gratitude and generosity in our kids by donating toys, adopting a family in need, or bringing homemade hot chocolate to our neighbors (that's what we are doing this year).  The only trouble is that even though each of these things is wonderful, they add to the "to do list" too.

So what to do?  I don't think there are any "easy" answers.  But I have found some things that don't help (trying to do it all) and some things that do (keeping things simple, focusing on others, and not trying to fit everything in).  And one of the things I've found to be most helpful is when I'm able to stay centered in God.

Though that is always my goal, this time of year it is especially challenging.  That's why, in my sermon on Sunday, I shared a breathing practice that has helped me get out of the running to do list in my head and focus on the present moment (whenever I remember to do it).  It goes like this:

  • Breathe in, I'm calm
  • Breathe out, I smile
  • Breathe in, present moment
  • Breathe out, wonderful moment
The fact that staying centered in God does not come effortlessly is also why things like the list that showed up in my Facebook feed are so helpful.  They are visual reminders that what matters most this time of year is spending time with those we love, being grateful for what we have, and spreading cheer to those around us.

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