December 26, 2022
This time of year very often overwhelms me if I am not careful to guard my thinking. The rush from one party to the next with little time or energy to pick up the remnants disturbs the tranquility of my mind and body. New toys (with no designated space) covering the living room floor creates mental clutter that often distracts me from my tasks at hand. Driving in the early darkness with all the dazzling lights and blinking headlights bothers my night vision. The inability to relax and truly savor the season troubles my heart. If I let myself, I could come up with a fairly long list of complaints about what troubles me during the Christmas season. Like an ugly brew of tea, if I let my heart simmer in these thoughts for long, my thinking becomes very dark.
Instead of simmering in self-centered, dark thoughts, I want to steep my mind in right thoughts, like the sweet smell of cinnamon and cranberries gently simmering on the stove. This morning I was reminded to get my focus off of myself and onto the Lord, and immediately my outlook on the day and the surrounding chaos changed into something sweet and grateful.
Recently in an advent devotional study (Day Star by Jolene Kauffman), I was prompted to read Psalm 34, and the very first verse of that psalm convicted and comforted me.
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
I had to ask myself, “Am I blessing the Lord right now with my cranky attitude about the house and the mess? Is God’s praise truly on my lips? Are my children hearing me praise the Lord every day and talk about His wonderful works?”
When I focus on myself during the month of December, I am often very disappointed because my expectations are rarely met. But slowly I am learning to surrender my heart to the Lord at the beginning of a day, and as He places His plan for the day in my hands, my heart rests in peace. The day may come apart in pieces, but my heart has peace in God’s plan. God’s ways are so different than my plans, but His plans far exceed my plans.
One aspect about the Christmas season that particularly overwhelms me is the influx of new items into my home. Our home is not large and my organizational skills marginal at best, so quickly my mind wants to wage war on the stuff that has dared to disturb the tranquility of our little castle. Thoughts such as “Where in the world am I going to put that new toy?” and “My children really do not need this” begin to creep into my mind.
Yet instead of succumbing to ungrateful thoughts, I am reminded to keep my thinking in the right place: a place of gratitude. All the gifts covering my floor are an outpouring of love from precious people in our family’s lives: grandparents, aunts, uncles, adopted aunts and uncles, Sunday School teachers, friends, and neighbors. Each gift was selected with love and care and anticipation of delighting the recipient, and seeing the joy on a child’s face may be a genuine highlight for some folks.
I know the trend right now is minimalism, and personally, I embrace a simpler lifestyle. But getting angry at people for giving gifts to my family is not right on my part. When someone gives a gift to my family, his or her intention is not to make my life miserable by making my home messy but rather to bless my family in some way.
Instead of resentment, my heart needs to be filled with gratitude, gratitude for the blessed privilege of having children and gratitude for the privilege of many, many people loving my children.
So how can I manage the chaos in my home and the anxious thoughts in my heart at this time?
1. Focus on gratitude. Be thankful for the blessings in my life; others may wish for the blessings that I have in my life.
2. Just take the next step. What is one thing I can do right now to work on my home?
Can I pick something up as I am passing through a room and take it to its proper destination?
Can I pick up all the trash and throw it away?
Can I clear one spot in my home so that I have a tranquil oasis?
3. Remember Christmas is just a season. This is such a short time of festivity and fun, and I need to treasure these moments with my family.
4. Take time with my kids. I must quit worrying about putting everything away and cleaning everything up right this minute. Instead, I should take this opportunity to go do that craft kit with my child or get on the floor and play with my child and his new toys.
5. Remember…there’s January. I plan to “shake down the house” in January and purge the excess. So for now, I intend on relaxing and enjoying my family.
Nothing I have shared is profound, but I hope your heart is encouraged. If you feel overwhelmed at this time, just take the next step and ask God for wisdom. He will help you!
Breathe deeply, my friend. May you heart be encouraged in the Lord. If you feel anxious right now, grab your Bible and a hot cup of something and read Psalm 34. Your heart will be blessed!