As I sit to write these words, a stack of Christmas cards awaits being stuffed into envelopes that still need stamps and addresses, an ever-growing shopping list stares at me from the bulletin board, and boxes half filled with decorations sit strewn about my living room. The calendar on my refrigerator looks like a battlefield, littered with scribbled events, awash in smudged pencil and fighting valiantly for priority. Can’t forget to book the babysitter, and clear space on my camera before the kids’ recital, and while you’re at it, Amy, try getting the gifts mailed before Christmas Eve this year, ok? And where is Mr. Elf? Isn’t he supposed to come visit the day after Thanksgiving? Sheesh, get on that, and don’t forget to shop, and bake, and wrap, and sew, and clean…go, go go! Seriously Amy, get it together!
Isn’t it easy to feel overwhelmed right about now? As soon as Thanksgiving hits, it’s like a whirlwind of scotch tape and gingerbread crumbs blows through the door and leaves me bound, gagged, and wondering what in the world just happened. It’s Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, so why do I so often feel like I’m sprinting through an obstacle course, fighting for sanity amidst nothing but stress? My challenge this month is a big one. My challenge is to cut through the twinkle lights and the cocktail dresses and the line at Costco, through the Pinterest boards overflowing with fluffy pumpkin mousse and burlap wreaths. My challenge is to find stillness, to find quiet reflection, to find that deep, enveloping joy…joy that could never come from a sweet deal on a flat screen TV or from getting Santa’s gifts wrapped a week in advance. A joy even deeper than seeing the looks on my kids faces on Christmas morning.
You know, it’s funny. I’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to these personal challenges this year, but inevitably I have received a couple of emails from folks who “didn’t realize this was going to be a Bible study” or “could do without the scriptures.” One woman told me she thought I had a “nice quilt blog”, until I started posting about my faith. And you know, I pondered that feedback, and all I could come up with was an even stronger urge to keep it real and to write about what really matters to me. And I know that if I ignore that urge, and waste this opportunity to talk about real struggles, real questions, real life, when I have the chance to, then I would be a shell of a woman, hiding behind a facade of pretty quilts and perfect pictures.
So as our year comes to an end, and the season of light is upon us, I will speak what’s on my heart unapologetically. If you celebrate the Christmas that I do, the Christmas that started in a dirty, stinky stable, at the most humble of births, the Christmas that brings real hope to a real world in such desperate need of it….if that is the Christmas deep in your heart, will you bring it to the surface this year? This might look different for each of us. For me, it means finding that stillness, that clarity, and quite frankly, doing away with a few things as well. For me, it might mean spending less time trying to think of what the Elf on the Shelf could be doing, and more time helping my children to focus on what really matters. It might mean spending a little less money on Amazon and giving a little more to those with real needs. Perhaps it means a little less time on social media, and a little more time praying, reading, singing…and sometimes just being still and quiet enough to hear what God might be trying to tell me, but that I’m usually missing because I’m so darned preoccupied. The “still” for this challenge comes from Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Whenever I find myself struggling with anxiety or stress, whenever I’m begging for the answers to all of life’s problems, or am just overwhelmed at the pull between two worlds, especially during this time of year, this verse really grounds me. Just be still and know….
If you don’t celebrate Christmas at all, or are frustrated at the direction that this challenge is going, then by all means delete and move on to stitching up your block, but to those of you who are still with me, to those of you who feel this topic tugging at your heart, will you join me? Will you take on this challenge to intentionally make some changes this season, in whatever way that looks like for you and your family, in an effort to focus more intently and wholly on what Christmas is really all about? I think we’ve probably all heard “Jesus is the reason for the season” or “Keep the Christ in Christmas” a thousand and one times and for me, they grow more cliche and trite each time I hear them. This challenge is about taking that idea and making it real, making it actually mean something in your everyday life this season, and throughout the year. What does it actually look like to celebrate the birth of a savior, and how may it be different than the Christmas that we see celebrated in our culture? Do some of these social traditions and rituals celebrate what you really want to be celebrating? Do they fit what is really important to your family? Do you ever feel social pressure to make your Christmas holiday look a certain way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas! What does your family do at Christmas to block out the commercial noise, and focus on the true meaning? What kinds of things do you think might be getting in the way for you? Do you have any special traditions? What stresses are the most hindering for you and your family, and what steps could you take toward getting rid of them? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment to join in the conversation with your thoughts and ideas on keeping priorities straight during this season. It has been such an enormous blessing to read your uplifting comments throughout this year, and I just love hearing your inspiring personal stories, experiences, ideas, and goals. What an amazing opportunity we have, as friends in quilting, yes, but also in life, to share our hearts and build one another up in such a meaningful way.