I think this Christmas was the best yet for me.
Why? you wonder.
In a mode of reflection, I’ve been asking myself the same question.
Here are a few thoughts about why that might be the case:
(1.) I decided to take the opportunity to create Belonging this Christmas. Choosing this perspective allowed me to think creatively about how to bless people in a simple, sustainable way rather than viewing Christmas from a budget-focused perspective – ie. “how much money am I going to spend?” – or from a stressful shopping-focused-extravaganza mindset – ie. “how many gifts do I need to buy to cover everyone?” And, starting with this perspective really freed me up to think about how to bless a lot more people than if I’d allowed myself to be limited by budgeting (which could have meant fewer individuals receiving gifts from me this year).
If you’ve read my previous posts, you likely already know I took Ed Khouri’s Belonging workshop the last quarter of the year, in which I learned more about being a person who “creates joy around myself” – even through simple acts or gifts that cost no more than a dollar.
You’d be amazed if I told you all the presents I was able to give to others…some of which were within the “less than $1″ category. Good presents. Presents that ended up, at times, more relevant than I even expected (upon some surprisingly positive feedback from recipients). As someone who is seeking to live more with less, trying to give presents to a very large family on a tight budget can be a challenge. This year, it was fun to allow myself the freedom to get creative so that I could give as many presents as possible – instead of feeling I couldn’t give. If we stop thinking with a scarcity mindset, who knows what creative solutions might arise? (See more on that concept in my post here.)
Some of the presents I gave included:
- books I’d gotten from a used, library book sale (the ideas inside are the same whether the copy is new or the cover is worn; thus the gift retains its primary value.)
- treasures gleaned from yardsale / house clean outs
- re-gifting (things given to me that I would not necessarily use that someone else might really like!)
- wall calendars (along the way I found out that AC Moore and Target carry them for just $1.00 each)
(2.) It was perhaps also one of the least stressful Christmases in recent memory that was also still relationally rich. Why do I say that?
Well, first off, I’ve not always been able to be as relationally engaged as I was this Christmas. Part of that has come as a result of my own inner healing and even realizing how to “restore shalom” (as Ed Khouri might put it) when I found myself relationally shutting down. The more I learn about healing, the more it’s helped me know the techniques to return to shalom even so I don’t get so far off track before being able to return to a place of peace – a place that allows me to be able to engage with people. Taking the Belonging course has enable me realize even more the signs of relational shut down. I’m more greatly aware now of the symptoms of such “short circuitry”, as well as what to do to restore myself to shalom.
Secondly, this year I chose to give gifts that I’d been collecting in advance - having picked some up along the year. This made gift giving at Christmas much less stressful…because I already had most of the gifts together.
(3.) God encouraged me to look for ways to serve instead of being served, to give instead of focusing on receiving.
This was quite possibly the year I got the least number of wood, hay, and stubble gifts. But who cares? Less can be more, remember? And it’s certainly nice not to have lots of things which I’ve toted home that now require finding a “home” in my home!
I have enough.
(4.) I received an education on Santa Claus.
Tending towards past criticism in regards to the notion of Santa Claus (and questioning the promotion of such a one to young children), I was pleasantly surprised when I learned more of the history behind the extraordinarily devout Saint Nicholas (aka. “Santa Claus”) who was a very real third century saint. (Read more here.)
And, as I’ve learned (via prior holiday experience with a family whom I admire for their ability to maximize living shalom), adding a little education to a holiday can make it more fun and meaningful. Why not learn something new about the history behind our traditions when we celebrate them, rather than going through them in a rote manner? I think it adds a bit more to the festivities, and one more chance for living shalom.
(5.) I said “no” to a lot activities this Christmas. What causes us to feel such an obligation to attend as many parties and/or events as possible? Could it be that such hustle and bustle could be wearing us – and our health – down, as we stay out late, eat unnecessary (and unhealthy) foods, and spend our time going to and fro? Now, I’m not saying that parties or events are bad. In fact, I regret that I wasn’t able to respond affirmatively to more of the very kind invitations extended to me this year. (Thank you to all who extended such invitations to me!)
What I’m instead saying is that I decided in being a bit more focused this season on time with my family (as we had a high influx of visitors which has historically been unusual) and wanting to ensure I wasn’t wearing myself too thin, it meant saying “no” to lots of fun and even “good” things!
During my post-Christmas visit, my chiropractor and I enjoyed celebrating the fact that I did not have the kind of back pain flare up that has occurred in the past (after the holiday season, in particular). He even remarked how each year seems to be getting better. Interesting observation.
As a side note, his comment reminded me of something very important: wellness often takes time. What we sow, we reap. Over time, we can experience improved health when we make the appropriate decisions along the way. One life-promoting decision + another such decision + more of the same (consistently) = new results, even if it takes a while. It’s so refreshing sometimes to just look back, and see how far we’ve come, isn’t it? I truly thank God for all He has done to help me walk in greater shalom!
How about you?
Looking back: In what ways did you experience new levels of shalom this most recent holiday season?
Looking forward: What if you gather “gifts of belonging” for others throughout the coming year? In keeping your eyes open for treasures that might bless someone else, who knows what gifts you might unearth?