Each year, I have a book that I fill with written memories and photos of our Christmas season. I came upon it the other day and wanted to remind 2-year old Sawyer of what our house looks like at Christmas time. I had been explaining to him the concept of the tree, but he just kept looking at me like, "A big, real tree? In this room? You crazy, Mama."
So I was delighted to find the book so I could show him. I opened it up and was initially very confused. The year 2013 was entirely blank. I had not written a single memory. I had not inserted a single photo. It was as though it never existed. I tried flipping around in the book, thinking maybe I had skipped pages and accidentally placed 2013's memories elsewhere.
Nope. Nothing. That's when I sadly remembered that I was a totally different person last Christmas. Busy. Stressed. Anxious. To-do lists for miles. Just plunging ahead as quickly as possible. So much to do, and so little time. Apparently, I had so much to do that I couldn't even fill in some blanks about our best memories...our favorite recipes from the season...favorite gifts and celebration details. I looked over the empty pages, both with a feeling of intense grief, but also with gratitude.
Because that used to be me. But it isn't me anymore. At dinner time a few nights ago, I was taking the time to listen to Cohen, my middle son, talk about his day, and I praised him as he shared something he was proud of from his day. "Mom, why are you so nice to me now?" I was confused- "What do you mean?"I asked, " I'm always nice to you." He replied, "well, after your surgery you have more time. Our family isnt busy anymore. And you're nicer."
I have cried many tears as I think about that interchange. It makes me feel like I wasted a lot of precious years before as I lived a busy, determined, fast-paced life. Yes. Many of the things I did were very important. They were life-changing things for me, and for others. But wow. What was the trade off?
But I can't sit here and be sad. It's Christmas time for goodness sake! But I have definitely heard the whispers of God- even way before cancer struck...telling me I needed to relax. To let things go. To prioritize. To stop trying so hard to be everything to everyone.
This Christmas season, I encourage you to stop. Think about what really matters. And then do that. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that looks at the precious opportunities God has put in front of you and, with gratitude and great discernment, choose what you invest yourself in carefully. Stop glorifying how busy you are. No one wins in that situation or lifestyle. In fact, suffering is a surefire result. God has put you in this time and in this place and with these family members and friends for just a short time. There will obviously be seasons of busy hustling, but if that's the only life you know, then you're not really living...you're surviving.
Don't let the season pass you by without even having time to jot down some memories or take some photos. Or naps. Or long walks around the woods in the snow. Take your time. Sit by the fire with your spouse and drink hot cocoa and play cards late at night. Do a fun act of kindness for a neighbor with your kids (we're doing this weekly and calling ourselves the Christmas Ninjas!) Carve out an hour or two a day to pray or sing to the Savior. This is the stuff life is made of. Jesus doesn't call us to be busy and operate at a breakneck pace. Over and over He says to rest. To wait. To abide in His love. This doesn't mean you're unproductive, it means that you haven't made productivity your god. It means you trust His timing and planning above your own and don't feel the need to constantly "make it happen."
And above all, when you slow down enough to see how awesome life is, give thanks. Chances are, you don't feel very thankful, because you don't even take the time to notice what God has given you. I used to be that person. But I thank Him that I am not that person anymore.