Sunday, November 20, 2011

Creating a Little Breathing Space

Here is the talk I gave Friday night at the Girls Night Out Breathe event at Fox River Christian Church:
Do you ever find yourself eating something yummy while you are doing something else, only to look down and realize you've eaten the last bite and "forgot" to taste it? Or do you ever pile so much on your plate and can't enjoy any of it, the goal instead to eat everything you had to have? Or is that just me...?

Life can be like that, and the holidays are like life on steroids. We either race through November and December, trying to accomplish everything perfectly, or, we just wake up January 2nd, which incidentally, is only 43 days away, and wonder what happened. Where did the holiday season go already? I finally got everything done and now I’m ready to celebrate and I missed it. Again.

We need to learn to slow down, to breathe, to savor this season, instead of just trying to "get through" them.  I took the word SAVOR and made a little acronym out of it to help us remember to savor not just this season, but each day as it comes.
S: SIMPLIFY Did you know that 6,020,000 websites pop up on google when I searched "simplify life?" After reading through a few, most of them have to do with decluttering your life and your stuff.

I read through a few of them, lots to do with decluttering, both our stuff and our lives. Now, I’m not talking about Martha Stewart’s kind of simple, where I iron my sheets, roll them around paper tubes, and tie them with ribbons so they fit better in the linen closet. I’m talking more about the “don’t be afraid to use Chinet at the holidays instead of dishes that need to be washed before you can even eat off them” kind of simple. You know where you tend to go overboard. Trim it back and give yourself some breathing space.
A: Accept your season of life. Maybe you have grand visions of a giant Christmas tree, with twinkly lights and decorations handed down through generations. Except that you have a toddler. I can’t even tell you how many Christmas’s I had a half decorated tree, but the memories are still sweet. Maybe you are an empty nester and you are wondering if you should even put up a tree. I say do what makes you happy. My mom loves to decorate for Christmas, but the tree itself seemed like too much work for just her to enjoy, so she hangs her favorite ornaments and twinkly lights on evergreen swags, and gave the rest of her ornaments to me for my family.
Accept that financially or relationally you are where you are. If this has been a tough year in either respect, do what Paul tells us to do in the book of Philippians. Focus on whatever is good, true, noble, beautiful, or praiseworthy. It won’t change the circumstance necessarily, but when you focus on these things, the following verse promises that the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4: 8-9).
Accept others in their seasons as well. You know the saying you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family…this time of year gets pretty intense. Give a little grace towards those you didn’t pick to be part of your crowd, but they’re in it anyway. Do your best to get along with everyone, (Romans 12:18) and that will bring everyone a little breathing room.
V: For the next letter, V, I want you to think about your EXPECTATIONs. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t start with V. Now, cross it out in your brain and replace it with the word “VISION.”  We are replacing our expectations with visions. Expectations and visions start out in the same place but leave us in different places. Both begin with anticipation. But, if your expectations aren’t met, disappointment, anger, or frustration can be the result. If you begin by casting a vision, every step in the right direction is part of the journey of making that vision a reality.  Do you see the difference?
I have a vision that my family will grow in their compassion towards others, especially around the holidays, and that at some point in the future, we would spend Thanksgiving or Christmas serving someplace together. That is my vision. Each year, I feed it little by little. Last year we rang the bell for the Salvation Army in front of Sears at Brookfield Square. And let me tell you, nothing says festive like two boys rolling on the floor in front of the red kettle fighting about who was going to ring the bell. And there I stand, big fake smile on my face, hoping I don’t see anyone I know.
This year we added to that vision by filling a box for Operation Christmas Child. I am planting the seeds for the vision I want to see. If I expected that we would all stand singing Christmas carols in front of the red kettle looking angelic, or that my boys wouldn’t whine about wanting to keep some of the toys we were picking out, I would be disappointed in the outcome.
Cast your vision for how you hope this holiday season plays out.  Remember the Andy Stanley quote: Direction, not desire, determines your destination.
Are the things that keep you busy supporting your vision, or just taking up time? Those might be some of the things you trim as you are simplifying, as you are creating a little breathing space.
O: Opportunities, to serve, to live, to laugh. Don’t fill your plate so full that you don’t have time to take advantages of opportunities that come up. I always say that I am fine with spontaneity as long as I can plan for it.
You can serve in an organized way that requires a committee to plan for it, or you can just look for the opportunities that come up in everyday life to bless someone. Playing “Follow the Leader” through a crowded parking lot, I was excited to see the second spot from the front open up and quickly put my blinker on. I checked my rearview mirror to make sure the rest of the parade knew I was stopping, and noticed that the car behind me was driven by an elderly couple. I turned off my blinker and kept going, and watched them pull in, knowing they would appreciate a close parking spot more than I would. I was able to serve someone in my regular day just by being aware of the needs of others.
Last year I invited a few friends over one afternoon to watch “The Nativity”, an afternoon I could have spent trolling the mall in search of the perfect gift. Instead, I made some soup and we gathered to be reminded what this season is really about.
So, leave yourself the opportunity to grab coffee with a friend, or take the neighbor’s kids for a while so she can get some work done. Leave yourself some breathing room in your own schedule so you can reach out to someone else.
R: The last thing we need to do is REMEMBER.
Remember that relationships are more important than activities. If we are snippy with sales people and impatient with our families because we are busy creating the perfect holiday, we are missing the point. If cooking rights for Thanksgiving outweigh the gratitude of having family and friends to celebrate with, it is time to re-evaluate our motives.
Remember to leave room for the unexpected. Cookies will burn. The perfect gift will not be stocked in the size you need. Your kids will tell you the morning of the class party that you are supposed to bring cupcakes. (You might wake up the day before a big engagement with strep throat like I did on Thursday…)
Remember what we are celebrating, the season of Jesus’ birth, the season of Emmanuel, which means God With Us. We are celebrating that God is with us, and realize what a gift that is. Sometimes it is when we try the hardest to have that Holy Spirit spark in our holidays that we miss it. Relax, see where the Lord leads you and the who the people are He has put in your life, and you will see Him. Here is a link to the blog that I wrote in 2009 about missing Him for the entire season.
And lastly, remember to breathe. All together, let’s take one deep breath, think about the vision we have for this season, and focus on SAVORing what we have, instead of just trying to hold our breath and make it through.

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