I’m over at the laundry mat today. It has become what seems like an annual tradition to cart our over-sized comforter down to where only over-sized washing machines exists in an effort to de-germ my bedroom from my most recent sickness. I’m reminded of my time in rural Mississippi long ago where I spent too many Fridays at the laundry mat and I am so grateful for the luxury of regularly squeezing in a load from the comforts of my garage. Unfortunately, my life these days is feeling a little over-sized and squeezed too.
I have had a sweet holiday tune in my head for days and it is playing again… “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices; for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn!” (O Holy Night).
A weary world… in the dark… before the morning. The world does seem weary and dark, doesn’t it? Fearful and hungry, scarred and abused, sick and tired… so very tired… wanting hope, waiting for hope, but just actually, honestly, not quite there. And of course, this is not just the world; it is me too. I want to have hope and bring hope and share it. But I miss it. It feels illusive.
Largely because we are already living an over-sized and squeezed life before December even starts. And then we STUFF and we STUFF. I become like a Jack in the Box, and with each crank the pressure builds, except instead of a cute little clown popping out, out comes something more resembling a Halloween horror movie. Hence, the busy does not leave me, nor anyone around me, hopeful.
I am the inn keeper, who welcomes too much in, gets stuffed full, and then when Jesus arrives, I do not even notice. “There’s no room in here; out with the horse poo you go!”
Each year, I declare, ‘This year will be different!’ And maybe it is, but only a smidge. I’ve got to move the needle more. I want to be hopeful, for me, for my family, for the weary world. And that means I need to make room. What stays and what goes?
And who decides? That is actually a big question. I think I make too many decisions based on not disappointing people. Anyone else? (You can all put your hands down, now.) Or actually I think I ‘have’ to do things. In reality, I am more the boss of me than I own up to. So this year,.. my holiday, my choices. And if that means I arrive at January full of hope and Jesus and not needing a vacation from my vacation, then that means everyone is winning!
So this is how I want to live December…
“Therefore, brothers and sisters… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart… let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)
I want to profess hope, but that’s only going to come when I give time to focus on the faithfulness and promises of God. I want to draw near to God with my best energy, rather than left overs. I want to be about encouraging love and good deeds, and nothing more. Stream-lined and simple and light.
I want to be like the guy in the car in front of me at Starbucks because he gave me hope. The back of his car had several stickers supporting causes that I strongly oppose, and I’m pretty sure I judged him, without ever talking to him, without ever looking him in the eye, so flippantly. And as I pulled up to give my debit card to pay for my drinks and my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich, the clerk tells me, that it’s already paid. Paid? By the guy with all the stickers? And it made me think, really think, how often I still get caught in, ‘us’ and ‘them’ and how very little effort or prayer I put into coming together, mostly because I feel weary and hopeless. But the guy with stickers gave me hope again as he reminded me of our shared goodness.
So, what stays and what goes? Here’s my Christmas To-Do List whittled down to the 10 things.
1. White lights and my grandma’s stockings, (the rest is whatever the kids want)
Baking for Friends and Family and Teachers
Baking for Grandma who can’t bake
Homemade Gifts (I’m gonna be more of the gift card giver)
Pinterest (it’s really hard not to want everything to be yummy and pretty, and I know I’ll be tempted too, thus I’m crossing it out again)
Seventeen Consecutive days of family sleepovers (this stays because… one, I love sleepovers, and two, I feel especially called to my family… but… fingers crossed, the following will help)
Drinking coffee to stay up late to clean (Well rested me, is the best me.)
A Clean Sink (I’m mean let’s be real. I don’t have that January through November either. Haha! But then guests come over, and I feel some bizarre need to impress people that are supposed to be my friends and loved ones. Get over yourself, Jeanine!)
Purposefully taking time away from the group (I never do this, I always feel really guilty even about doing it for 45 minutes when my husband begs me to do it, but I am going to do it this year. Really! Does every other day sound realistic?)
Hosting 3 holiday parties (ok, I know that’s a lot, but we REALLY LOVE having people over, especially dear friends and partners in ministry so this one stays but let’s see if the following three will help)
Frozen pre-made store bought foods
Taking Eric to more extra parties, where there are only my friends
Lighting the advent candle with the kids
Elf on the Shelf (It’s so fun and it pains me to cross it out, but… nope, it also leaves me stressed and panicked at either 9:50 pm or 6:20 am every day.)
Pinterest (I might not need it as much since I already got rid of Elf on the Shelf)
Judging people that do Elf on the Shelf or have clean sinks (Seriously, loves, this is MY list, based on what my house needs. My holiday, my choices. Your family needs different and you need different. Your holiday, your choices. Do whatever brings you love and good deeds.)
Traditions that leave me broke or exhausted
Traditions that fill me with love and good deeds
Paying for other people’s Starbucks (#SecretSanta)
And anything else God prompts me to do in the moment that I happened to actually notice because I wasn’t living an oversized and squeezed life. Things like realizing that $20 dollars in quarters is heavy, and that living my holidays lighter is best. And giving that change away to my new friends at the laundry mat.
They chatted delighted and surprised that their pockets were full as I left. And for me… I think I felt the beginnings of ‘the thrill of hope!’
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