The holidays are upon us creating a flurry of activity for most people…parties, shopping, wrapping, writing, decorating, baking. As I pondered a topic for a new blog post, I wondered how I could help you find enjoyment in the season?
On Thursday mornings, I often join a small group of people at my church for a half-hour of contemplative prayer. Much of our time together is spent in silence. Today, our mantra, if you will, was “Be Still”. (Actually, Be Still and Know that God is Here – changed slightly from Be Still and Know That I Am God from the Psalms.)
It was the inspiration I needed for this post. In my mind, being still is one of the best ways to find enjoyment in this busy season. It calms me and helps me discern which of my activity options are most important and will be the most rewarding, allowing me to say no to the activities I find less important, time consuming and stress-inducing.
Here is how I accomplish being still. I sit in a quiet room in a comfortable position. I close my eyes, or I light a candle and focus on the flame. I begin by breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly to calm me. Though difficult, I try to rid my mind of what happened yesterday, what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even what’s going to happen in the next hour. This brings me into the “present moment” – I’m sure you’ve all heard that phrase. I use a word or two that I repeat over and over in my mind, like “silence”, “be still”, “calm”, or “listen” to bring me back to the present when my mind wanders – and believe me, it does have a way of wandering!
When I spend a few minutes in this silent state, I am amazed at what my Spirit says to me.
I encourage you to try it – just be still and listen!
So, back to getting through the holiday season and all the accompanying preparations and events, with as little stress and with the most enjoyment possible…I am going to share my favorite “12 Days of Christmas” activities (in no particular order other than the first and foremost – being still and listening to my heart). I hope that you will be inspired to take time and figure out what is most important to you, letting some of the not-so-important things drop off your list. Here goes –
- Being Still and Listening and then trusting your heart.
- Going to a tree farm with son, Peter, daughter-in-law, Karen, and grandsons, Jack and Max, to cut our Christmas tree. This also involves drinking hot chocolate or apple cider and munching on Christmas cookies. (Side note for those wondering – parents of Jack and Max – Amy & Dan – like to get their tree earlier than we do so have already cut and decorated their tree by the time we get around to it; thus, they do not accompany us on our outing, they just let us borrow their kids. Actually, I think they use the time to shop for the kids’ gifts.)
- Taking time to sit and enjoy the lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree once it is decorated. This may involve sipping a glass of wine and listening to Christmas music while relaxing.
- Making sugar cut-out cookies with the grandsons – frosting them is the best part. See the photo to see some of our creations – messy, and probably not worthy of a sophisticated cookie tray display, but, oh so much fun. (And really, I don’t even like baking!)
- Enjoying Tom & Jerry beverages with good friends at a restaurant all decked out with beautiful decorations for the season – an outing that has become an annual tradition.
- Getting enough sleep and keeping my exercise routine.
- Spending the first Friday in December shopping at the Mall of America (with a side trip to Ikea) with my two girls – Amy and Karen. This is often referred to as “the best day of the year”. We start with coffee, then shop, then lunch, then a glass of wine somewhere, and end with dinner…just the girls!
- Watching the movie, White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney…one of my favorite movies.
- Making fudge.
- Writing Christmas cards – some years yes, some years no if I’m feeling stressed about getting them done.
- Keeping a gratitude journal – either written or just in my mind. Each day listing 3-5 things for which I am grateful.
- Giving to others who are not so fortunate. Each year, my office mates and I sponsor a family in need and provide gifts for them. My church provides opportunities for giving to others like contributing to the Food Shelf or providing gifts for Homeless Teens, my choice this year.
However your choose to spend your time this month, I hope you find joy in meaningful times with family and friends, and peace of mind.