If you’re like me, you’ve heard this message a hundred times before. In fact, you may have even considered skipping this post because you already know what it’s going to say–and, ironically, you don’t have time to read it anyway.
“Slow down and enjoy the Christmas season. Eliminate the non-essentials. Remember the ‘real reason’ you’re celebrating. Take the time to enjoy it.”
And, also if you’re like me, you’ve agreed with it a hundred times and then returned to life at a fast pace anyway. Because there are so many things to do this time of year–and they’re all really good things. What am I going to eliminate? The tree decorating? Never. The shopping for gifts? My 5- and 8-year-old children would be heartbroken. The Christmas cookies? Sacrilege. But I’ve learned that when I hear a message repeatedly, it’s generally God trying to get my attention. So I made the decision that this year would be different. This year I truly would slow down and savor the moments. And then yesterday happened.
Mind you, this was only day 2 of the “holiday season”–and that’s if you go by the after-Thanksgiving-we-can-start-listening-to-Christmas-music rule. The season doesn’t even start until today if you’re only counting Advent. But there I was, rushing around the house yesterday like a mad woman. My parents were coming over last night to help us decorate the Christmas tree, as they do every year. I was fairly convinced that every single one of our 10 boxes of Christmas decorations needed to be unpacked and perfectly placed before their arrival. And the house needed to be completely cleaned. And the perfect gingerbread dessert needed to be cooking when they arrived–absolutely delicious while also being gluten-free, of course. Oh, and the kids should be wearing coordinating holiday outfits, so that they would look adorable in the pictures… Did I mention I’m a perfectionist?
At about 2:30 in the afternoon, my husband arrived home after being gone for most of the day. It only took about 2 minutes with me before I saw the look on his face. The look that said, “Who took my wife and replaced her with this crazy, stressed-out woman?” And, being the brilliant man that he is, he said, “Do you need a hug?” He didn’t tell me to chill out, or point out all of the things that didn’t really need to be perfect for our evening. He just made me stop and be still for a moment. My commitment to slow down this season came back to my mind and I started making a mental checklist of what was truly “required” for the evening. Only 3 things remained: put up the Christmas tree (because it’s hard to have a tree-trimming party without it); clean the bathroom (because, let’s face it, a dirty guest bathroom is just gross); and feed the family dinner. Everything else was nice, but far from necessary. And certainly not worth the price of my sanity. So the dessert became cookies from a box. The unpacked boxes of Christmas decorations got shoved into the bedroom. The kids wore their jammies instead of non-existent holiday outfits. And a more sane wife hosted our little gathering.
I have a feeling this lesson is one I will be returning back to again and again over the next month–not to mention the next few years. But my heart is fully convinced it is worth it. In The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith writes, “Why is eliminating hurry from our lives so crucial? When we eliminate hurry we become present, or more specifically, present to the present moment in all of its glory… In short, we ‘show up’ and experience the fullness of life. And that includes, not least of all, being present to God. If I am to live well as a Christian, I need to be constantly connected to God. Hurry is not part of a well-lived life.”
Above all, I want to experience a well-lived life, and hurry does not bring about the person I want to be. So here’s to an Advent season full of lingering, and slowing, and long hugs. May yours be blessed.