While preparing for this gift-giving season, I asked myself (and God) two questions (at different times.)
1. What is Christmas to me?
2. What would it mean to enjoy a "grace-filled" holiday?
QUESTION #1: In my journal I wrote the following:
To me Christmas is:
"Sooooo, every day is Christmas to me," I concluded. And then it dawned on me that this reality (that every day is Christmas for me) has caused me to "lighten up" my unrealistic expectations for celebrating Christmas. It's been more an internal shift than an outward one. I've released some of the intense "shoulds and have tos and musts" that society, the media, the church, my inner bully, and others--who appear to have it all together--tell me (or at least hint) that I NEED to do.
In my heart, I now know that I don't have to cram all my giving, caring, doing, gratitude, merriment, music, celebrations, goodwill, and spirituality into the 4-5 concentrated weeks of Christmas holidaying.
QUESTION #2: And then I read about the original meaning of the word "grace" used in the Bible to tell us about the Christ of Christ-mas. This "grace" is the direct opposite of "works", in fact the two are mutually exclusive. All my "trying too hard to make it all just right" at Christmas (or any other time) is the antithesis of grace. When I truly accept God's grace/favor in Christ, I'm able to be grace-ful with myself and others. (John 1:14-17)*
Practical Grace Example! I shared this with some women at the beginning of December. A mom with 4 little kids got so excited that she began thinking of ways to "grace" herself and her family this season. One practical thing she did was to relax her expectations for how her artificial tree would be decorated. When she put it together, she didn't have time to "fluff" up the branches, so she let it go--and allowed the kids to decorate, anyway! All very smile-able.
How will you "grace" yourself and your loved ones this Christmas week?
BOOK WINNERS: Thank you to all of you for commenting on my last blog and entering the book give-away for It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. The three winners were Robyn Bloomquist, Patricia Groff, and Tessie M. Congratulations!. Hope you enjoy reading the devotionals. Love your comments, Everyone. Keep them coming please! :-)
*The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. ...From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:14-17
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN
"How can a snowman be 'parse and brown'?" I asked myself after singing Frosty the Snowman as a little girl. I didn't get it, but I didn't have the nerve to ask what it meant. (Years later I learned that the words really are "We'll pretend that he is Parson Brown!")
A more disturbing question that little Joanie Pressler had was: "Did they actually 'conceive' by the fire? (Hmmmm. Again years later I discovered the the word "conspire" isn't the same as "conceive.")
The words of the often-sung Christmas songs DO have meaning. I also remember the day the words to HARK, THE HERALD ANGELS SANG went from head-memory to my heart. I cried, smiled, prayed, and smiled all at once. It became my favorite Christmas carol.
HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, willingly left His perfect surroundings with God the Father to be born into this messy, judgmental, chaotic, abusive world. To live with the same limitations of time, space, and to have the same hunger and sleep needs that you and I have.
He did this to reconnect imperfect me--and you--to all-perfect God. To demonstrate the character and attributes of God, so I can understand who He is. To give me a second change at life. And to give me hope that I'll live with Him forever.
This blows my mind. And thrills me deep inside, every time I hear or sing this Christmas carol.
What is your favorite Christmas carol? Why?
WIN A FREE BOOK THIS CHRISTMAS
(Comment below and I'll choose 3 names (yes, 3 people will win one) out of the hat and send you an autographed copy of my devotional book, "It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life" BEFORE Christmas. (My book reminds me of the classic Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life! Maybe you'd like to give a copy of the book and the movie as a Christmas gift.)
“I know I’m late. But I don’t feel like I’m being productive or that I’ve achieved my goals unless I’m rushing and at least a half-hour late for each appointment,” said my client as he burst through the door and sprinted past me toward our conference room.
My internal reaction was: Well, Vic, you must feel a great sense of accomplishment today! He had arrived one and a half hours past our scheduled appointment time. Although I didn’t share his philosophy, something in his behavior rang a bell with me. Perhaps I was in awareness-mode, because several weeks later I admitted my own workaholic lifestyle. I was burned-out and wanted to change.
Slowly I began to understand that the narrower definition of a workaholic is someone who is addicted to action. An action addict (like Vic and me) is driven to do too much, expect too much, rush too much and prove too much. Some refer to it as the “hurry sickness.” It can happen to either gender, yet Dr. Brent W. Bost, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Beaumont, Texas estimates that there are 30 million women in America who are so over-scheduled and over-stressed that it negatively affects their physical health, sex life, jobs, and relationships.
The next time someone gives you the ultimate compliment for an action-addict: “You’re so busy. How do you do it all?” consider letting that be a signal to STOP. The antidote to action-addiction is to cease doing for a while. Be quiet. Rest. It will feel wrong. Your body, mind and emotions tell you that you must keep going.
This advice to cease doing for a while reminds me of Psalm 46:10 in The Message: “[Stop!] Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
Experts insist that this is a vital step, just as it is important for the alcoholic-addicted person to stop drinking. Your body needs to detox from the chemicals aroused by your constant action. It will be quite difficult--and so worth it. For more information about action-addiction watch for next week's blog “Are You an Adrenaline Junkie?”
What would it take for you to STOP for a while?
Yesterday was "Fight Procrastination Day" and I procrastinated in posting this blog to my site. Does that mean I put the "PRO" in procrastination?
The dictionary indicates that to procrastinate means to defer action, to delay until an opportunity is lost. Dr. Ellis, a counselor who specializes in the issue of procrastination, defines procrastination as deciding to do something and then not doing it.
Now, I want to clarify something. Delay and procrastination are not the same thing. There may be a legitimate reason for a delay. Procrastination is "to delay until it is too late."
For example, say you received the brochure for a conference related to your field of interest. You read it, the workshops looked beneficial to you and you made the decision to go. But then you set the info aside and put off following through by calling to ask your questions, checking your calendar and registering...until it was too late. Then the day of the conference arrived and the opportunity was gone. You missed it.
If this is your modus operandi and you really want to do it differently, there is hope. You can change.
And here are 10 practical tips for ceasing to put the "PRO" in procrastination. (Not in order of importance)
Which tip will you try this week?
During a business dinner, an associate asked me about the book I was writing (The Relief of Imperfection.) When I mentioned the topic of perfectionistic thinking, workaholic behavior and burnout, he nodded and said, "Well, those things are not worth dying for!"
Soon after this I read an article about a trend called "downshifting." Downshifters are men and women who choose to leave all-consuming jobs for a little slower pace so they can experience more enjoyment in their lives. I don't know about you, but I admit this sounds really good.
Happy Labor Day weekend 2013! Perhaps you're really grateful that you get an extra day off. Or maybe you're one of the many who work through the holiday weekend. Before I write/say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to work. You probably are, also (whether its work for ministry, volunteer service, an income-producing job, home schooling or taking care of your babies.)
More and more I talk with people in my coaching, mentoring, and every day life who are realizing that striving and working all the time (to be the best parent, to constantly reach for full potential for yourself and your family, to get more clients and make more money, to help others with very little time to refuel) is not what God had in mind when we made us with the capability to work. There is more to life.
LIFE is worth living for. So this weekend, how about STOPPING the work for a little while to focus on one of the life's enjoyments listed above. What do you choose? Whatever it is, have fun!
You want to pray with me? God, teach me the meaning of life with its balance of labor, rest, and enjoyment. Slow me down to listen. I know "It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work my worried fingers to the bone. I know You enjoy giving rest [and LIFE] to those You love. (Prayer based on Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message)
In a few days, I'll post the 4th blog in the BURNOUT series I've been sharing: Number Four will be "Life Beyond Burnout."
#1 - Are You Burning Out? (Maybe It's Compassion Fatigue?)
#2 - When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Burned Out (What IS Burnout?)
#3 - Stop Living Like You're on Fire
#4 - Life Beyond Burnout (It's Coming!)
The reason I'm posting right now is because I promised the women at the LIFT Summer Refresher JUST PRESS PAUSE where I spoke on Friday that I would post the poem I wrote and read to them. So, here it is. :-)
WHAT DO YOU NEED? (It may be different than what your friend needs!)
Some of us need to stop thinking and do,
while others need to stop doing and think.
Some need to stop asking and give, though
others need to cease giving and ask.
Some of us need to stop crying and smile,
yet others need to stop smiling and cry.
Some need to stop confronting and give in,
while others need to quit compromising and confront.
Some of us need to stop waiting and run,
Though others need to stop running and wait.
Some need to practice discipline and organize, yet others need to cease
structuring themselves into a box and relax.
God is big enough to help us all. What do you need?
So "relax" because there IS life beyond burnout and because being spiritual and loving God doesn't mean you have to respond to life's surprises exactly like your Bible teacher, pastor, mother, sister, brother, best friend or spouse! :-)
By the way, I also posted the poem on The Intentional Woman Facebook Group page. I'd love to have you join us there.
"Your head’s in the clouds." If you heard this as a child just trying to have fun, maybe you think it means you should stop dreaming, come down to earth and be boring.
If you were praised for not keeping your “head in the clouds” you may have learned to put your nose to the grindstone, stop being spontaneous and "silly" and avoid pleasure.
The wisest man in the world wrote, "Wise realists plant their feet on the ground."*
But being a "wise realist" doesn’t mean either extreme. You can make thoughtful (yes, even wise!) decisions about your current reality and still enjoy life.
Have you ever been told that "Your head's in the clouds?" What does that mean to you?
*Proverbs 14:18 MSG
Adapted from the "Prudence" entry in Everyday Wisdom.
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.