Three of the five Coopers are sick. (so far)
I’ve pretty much been on the couch since last Friday, either holding a sick kid , sleeping off a fever or weeping over the news. I cannot begin to formulate words to express the sadness I feel after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. And I have no energy to write the words, even if I could formulate them.
And that is why I am so thankful I asked a few of my friends to step up to the keyboard and guest post for me while I break over the holidays. I didn’t plan to break this early…but I seriously have neither words nor energy. Thank you for your grace in welcoming guests who have words to offer.
I may pop in now and again over the next few weeks, but mostly I’ll be hosting my amazing friends and some “best of” posts from 2012.
This first post is from my friend Shelly. I met her at a conference in Houston a few years ago, where we bonded over mediocre “hot” buffet food. I’ve been blessed by her friendship through blogging, e-mails and more conferences ever since that day. She’s a little further along in the marriage and parenting journey, so I love to bask in her wisdom (and she’s oozing with wisdom.) When I read this post, I felt like she wrote it just for me.
Thank you, Shelly, for being a faithful friend and a gifted writer. I love you.
When Sandy asked me to guest post for her I was really excited. I mean, it’s December—everything is festive and fun, right? I’ll write something upbeat and funny, just like Sandy always is, I thought.
And I was set to be festive and fun, upbeat and funny . . . until the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I found myself sitting at my kitchen table sobbing my eyes out while my poor husband sat nearby, not knowing what to do with me.
It all started just a few days earlier as I sat at a coffee shop planning out our December.
Gifts for the kids, husband, and other family members.
Parties, both to plan and to attend.
Papers to grade.
Suddenly I was overcome with the pressure of it all. When would I get it all done? HOW would I get it all done?
Finally, over a simple disagreement about the Christmas lights on our front door, I lost it. My stress-dam burst, and I sat at my kitchen table, blubbering.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I want to enjoy Christmas, I really do. The girls deserve to have a nice Christmas, but I’m just not feeling it.”
My husband just sat there saying nothing.
(I’ve always said he’s the smartest man I know, but when it comes to handling women, he’s clueless.)
I’ve since gotten together some modicum of holiday cheer, but I’ve been wondering—does anyone else dread the holidays like I do? I’ve been reading lots of blogs, and it seems like everyone else has it pulled together. Everyone else is decorating like crazy . . . and posting the pictures to prove it. Everyone else is buying festive outfits and just the right gift for their loved ones.
Meanwhile, I finally dragged out a few decorations, but most are staying put this year (we’re going out of town for Christmas). I’m not buying new clothes. And I feel a certain amount of angst that my three teenage daughters won’t like anything I get for them.
This year, for the most part, I feel like Charlie Brown. I feel like screaming from my poorly-lit rooftop: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!
I do know what Christmas is all about, but sometimes I lose focus. As I’ve been trying to re-focus my Christmas season, I’ve realized some things I don’t need this year and one thing I do.
What I don’t need.
- More Joy. That’s right. I said it. I don’t need more Christmas cheer. At least, I don’t need the artificial Fa-La-La-La-La stuff. I don’t need the fake smiles and the parties that go along with them. I’ve had enough of that.
- More Junk. Gifts would not make the top of my “Love Languages” list, so junk does not matter to me at all. In fact, if my loved ones just wanted to write something special, wrap it up and give it to me, I would love that more than any gift. At Christmas, I think people tend to fill their personal void with more and more junk, but junk doesn’t do it for me, and it probably won’t fill your needs either.
- More Juice. What’s your juice? Electricity? (Need more lights on your house or tree? I do!) Wine? Song? Whatever it is that you think will make your holiday jolly is what I’ll call juice. But juice doesn’t last, and it won’t make you feel better tomorrow.
What I do need this Christmas season.
- More Jesus. It’s just that simple. As I rush around, trying to “create” a holiday feeling, I realize that I’m missing the one thing that this season is supposed to be about.
And it’s the reason I sat at my table crying that Saturday.
I just need more Jesus.
So this week, this day, and every day until Christmas, I’m going to try to stop this mad rushing and focus on the reason we celebrate. And I’m going to try to make the celebration real, in my heart.
Here are a few ways I’m going to try to slow down and you can too.
1. Focus on gratitude. Bing Crosby said it best in my favorite Christmas movie, “Holiday Inn”:
“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”
The simple act of counting my blessings makes me realize that I already have everything I need.
2. Focus on God’s word. God’s great love for me shines through every page, so when I’m feeling hassled and less-than-lovely, it’s good to be reminded of how much He loves me.
3. Focus on family. Really, your family needs you more than they need the stuff you can give them or the things you can do for them. Try taking time to just watch a movie together or to linger over a meal together. These are centering moments, to be sure.
4. Focus on prayer. Spend time every day giving your worries and stress to God. These moments with God are, for me, some of the most important moments of my day.
5. Focus on letting go. Remember that there is no perfect holiday, and if it seems like everyone else has it all together, trust me, they don’t. I can’t compare my Christmas with someone else’s. I just have to try hard to let go of what’s not important and to hold on to what really is.
The Christmas season, in all of it’s wonderful, tinsely brightness can be very stressful if we take our focus off of what this is all about. (Remember Charlie Brown?)
What this season is about is a baby—a simple, wonderful, holy baby who is also a King and a Savior.
When I let that truth settle on my heart, when I let it change me, I find peace in the middle of this madness.
“You have made known to me that path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.”
That’s the only “J” I need this Christmas.
Shelly Wildman lives in the Chicago suburbs and is married to her college sweetheart, Brian. They have three daughters, ages 20, 18, and 14–two in college and one in high school. In her “spare time,” Shelly teaches writing at Wheaton College, the very place she met her husband. She also loves to cook and to drink coffee, something always better when done with friends. Come visit her at her blog, Life on the Wild Side.