Get with the Christmas Program, Darlin’.

How to engage gentle spiritual practices that can offer rest and joy during the holiday season.

Today’s post comes from my new writer-friend, Emily Rowntree. In the midst of your holiday bustling, pause for four minutes to read this article that will add much-needed perspective to all the busyness of this season. Also, as you read, I wish you the gift of hearing her delightful Texas drawl through these heart-felt words!

Every year I tell myself the same thing. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I impose my own holiday mantra, “I will have a peaceful season.” Usually it is followed up with another chant that I repeat to myself almost three times as much, “I will not lose my mind.”

Ok I’ll rephrase that last one: “I will not lose my mind or my temper.”

My plans look fantastic on paper.

My old-school day planner is precisely and colorfully coded in pretty little inks: Christmas parties, gift-wrapping night, cookie-baking day, family picture day, tree-decorating evening with my son, Christmas card night, and candlelight service at church.

Then the tornado of life plows through my holiday plans.

My son gets strep throat. Two-thirds of the Christmas tree lights go out. A wrench gets thrown into my coveted cookie-baking day with my mom. My hair appointment gets cancelled (c’mon, right before family pictures??) My headlight goes out and oh yeah by the way my car needs new struts… pronto. Work explodes with end-of-year panic projects – hello overtime!

Gift-wrapping night turns into closet cleaning out weekend. I forget my best friend’s birthday. Then family issues flare up, compounded by some good old-fashioned anxiety that undoubtedly plagues the gridlocked 6-hour 7-hour drive to our holiday destination.

Then from the back seat, my sweet son hands me a revised list for Santa. Less than 72 hours before Christmas morning.

Forget the diet. Chocolate is everywhere.

A sobering conversation with my brother revealed that we need to start taking more of a driver’s seat mentality as my parents are slowing down and cannot “do” Christmas the way they used to. This ushers in the weighted notion of considering future holidays with my aging parents (how many more will we have)?

Meanwhile, I’m juggling the Christmas spirit on a tightrope between balancing the true meaning of Christmas and a Santa-sensationalized, gift-saturated holiday with my young son.

The family traditions’ torch has officially been passed down to the next generation.

This is understandable. And expected! But it snuck up on me… with a hefty, Grinch-sized, tinsel-covered, two-thirds burnt out lighted hammer.

Wait. Is this what Christmas means to me?

Pass me a gingerbread cookie.  And get with the Christmas program, Darlin’.

How to engage gentle spiritual practices that can offer rest and joy during the holiday season.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and re-evaluate everything. And no amount of egg nog, turkey, or last-minute trips to the toy store is going to make this happen.

It’s easy to get distracted – ok disoriented – as December 25th approaches, then seemingly passes us by with a thundering sleigh-sized force that no team of reindeer can manage. Even the best holiday preparations can be thwarted by everyday life.

But don’t tell my day planner that.

I am reminded of what the Lord teaches us in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Ooof. *throws day planner aside*

As I recalculate the last few weeks of December, several gentle spiritual practices have been revealed to me. Practices that I wish I had taken time to acknowledge earlier this season.

But now seems like a good time to share with others who are grappling with how to move through the holidays with a gracious heart.

Reflect on what the Christmas of your youth looked like.

  • What were your favorite things about Christmas when you were a kid? That magical feeling of Christmas Day? Lighting the candle at Christmas Eve service? Those special cookies you only get once a year?
  • What were the least favorite things about the holiday? Be honest – and no, cleaning up shredded wrapping paper doesn’t count… ok maybe it does!
  • Which Christmas traditions do you want to carry on to the next generation? If you do not have any children of your own, this can include nieces, nephews, or even friends and their children.

Focus on what is truly in your heart at this very moment.

  • Are you all about the decorations and how “perfect” your home looks? (Put the Southern Living Christmas edition down!)
  • Is it all about the gifts? Not just for yourself, but also what and how many presents you purchased for others.
  • Is it about the Christmas dinner preparation? 
  • Has the true meaning of Christmas taken a back seat?

Be gentle with yourself and others.

  • I know… the gifts won’t wrap themselves, but it is perfectly ok to give yourself some grace.
  • Breathe. Even when things are going wonderfully or spiraling out of control, take a moment (or several) to slow down your breathing. This helps push the reset button on your body.
  • Show gentleness towards others. A kind word, a warm embrace, or a few minutes of uninterrupted quality time eases the tension in your soul as well as the hearts of others.
  • Forgiveness is a large part of the Christmas season, not only for others but also for yourself. This is a tough one, but worth it.
  • Gratitude. Find and take opportunities to thank others for their help and service:
    • Teachers, bakers, firefighters, airline attendants, baristas, grocers, storekeepers, nurses and doctors… whomever you have come into contact with during this season.
  • Prayer is the loveliest way to express yourself to the Lord.  Reconnecting to Him is the best practice when searching how to maneuver through the holiday. 

Simply put, a reflection upon the reminder for this season to be “less of me, more of others” is a beautiful way to exhibit gentleness.  Jesus was the perfect example of putting others before himself as outlined in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

I think those sins can include the family dog scarfing down half of Santa’s cookies in front of the kids, right?

A gracious Christmas respite.

The Lord knows what’s on my heart. He sees me, you, and all our hard work, prayers, and wishes for this lovely Christmas season.

It is not all in vain. However, He wants us to cherish and honor this moment. No matter where we are or who we are celebrating with this year. He sees us.

As I prop my weary feet up, gazing upon my Christmas tree with its burnt-out section and apparently new gangster lean this season, I can only pause, laugh and give God a little huge nod of appreciation.

I sip my coffee and take a bite of my mother’s traditional molasses cookies. Yes Lord, thank you for everything and everyone. Especially your precious Son.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

Emily Rowntree is a writer and aspiring author, focusing on exploring and providing insight to people and their innate human gifts and talents, particularly the spiritual gift of discernment. She lives in West Texas with her son and loves all things ornithological, other people’s cats, architecture, and fiber arts. You can find more on her blog and Instagram.

4 thoughts on “Get with the Christmas Program, Darlin’.

  1. Why do we get ourselves so wound up in creating the perfect Christmas for others that we miss out on the magic ourselves? I have learned that most of the things on my list can be deleted or put off until after the first of the year!

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