Earlier this year, I took an online writing class taught by the incomparable Jennifer Trafton Peterson. (Originally designed for children, she took a chance and opened this class to adults. It was fantastic. If you have kids who are interested in writing, I highly recommend looking into her schedule.)
One of our assignments was to think about the shape of joy. You know, if joy took a physical form, what would it look like?
As we move into the holiday season – the whole bundle of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is my absolute favorite time of the year – I’ve been thinking back to this assignment. What does joy look like this time of the year? Why do I find such excitement during the most wonderful – and most busy – time of the year?
Joy for the season comes through all my senses…
The smells of cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, pies and breads, crisp fall air, fireplaces, leaves burning.
The sounds of leaves crunching, wind blowing, fires crackling, bells ringing, carolers singing.
The tastes of sweet pumpkin pie with whipped cream, tart cranberry sauce, peppermint mochas, roasted sweet potatoes, buttered rolls.
The sights of orange pumpkins and red and yellow leaves giving way to colorful twinkling Christmas lights and evergreen Christmas trees giving way to a barren landscape and clean houses for the New Year.
The feel of flannel pajamas, warm drinks going down the throat, cold snow, scarves, winter boots, warm coats.
I am tempted to be so busy attending rehearsals, buying and wrapping and baking gifts, and trying to cram in one more event that sometimes I miss the beauty in the season. You know, all the things we say we love about this time of the year but are too busy to take the time to savor.
Although the leaves are almost gone, the grass is turning brown, and the air is cold and crisp, winter is a time of preparation, of resting and getting ready for spring. I don’t want to miss all the wonderful things of the season because I am trying to cram in one more item on my to-do list.
Let’s agree that, even though Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s naturally brings a lot of busyness, we will slow down for just a few minutes each day to take the season in with all our senses. We might just find something in which to delight.
What we’ve been doing: This week, we had a snow day and were able to really enjoy some of our favorite things – playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows, watching Christmas movies, and playing board games. It’s a snow day tradition!
Facebook is covered up with people who hate the idea of stores being open on Thanksgiving day and others sharing links to sales and coupons for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Some are posting TV schedules for Christmas movies, others are upset that anyone is even talking about Christmas yet.
We are definitely an opinionated people.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion about Thanksgiving:
Thanksgiving is not one day out of the year when we stress about turkey and side dishes and making a meal straight out of the pages of Southern Living, but a lifestyle to be lived all year long.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100: 4-5
The years that I have enjoyed November and December the most are the years that I stressed less and intentionally chose to enjoy more.
Intentionality is the key. I can allow myself to get caught up in fretting and worrying over making things “perfect” and trying to please everyone (two things that will NEVER happen), or I can slow down and enjoy each day, each activity, each season. As Leif Enger said, I can look for the “shiny things.”
So, that’s my strategy going into the next four or so weeks. I’m going to look for the shiny things in the midst of the hustle and bustle. This morning, I see:
- beautiful sunshine reflecting on the leaves in the yard.
- the sounds of a three-year-old boy playing in the next room.
- the smell of an apple pie candle.
- the promise of afternoon coffee.
What about you? Can you find the “shiny things” around you today?
We chose not to teach our three-year-old the “Now I lay me down to sleep” and “God is great, God is good” prayers at bedtime and at meals. Don’t get me wrong – I learned those as a child, and I think there are some important truths found in both of them. We decided that it is best for him to learn at a very young age to use his own words when talking to God.
At bedtime, we ask him to thank God for things from his day – Miss Kim at the library, friends at church, grandparents, and anything else. Recently, he’s picked up on a little phrase that his dad often uses in prayers:
Thank you God for all our blessings. Amen.
How many times am I guilty of not really being thankful for all of my blessings in Christ? I have been given so, so much – maybe not all of the material things of the world … but maybe that’s a blessing in itself. I HAVE been given:
- the unconditional love of my heavenly Father
- right standing before God through the blood of Christ
- full rights as a daughter of the one true God
- the Scriptures, filled with all we need to know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all we need for right living
- the Holy Spirit to direct and guide my life
- a husband who loves me and who loves our son
- a child in my “old age” who gives me joy and delight
- friends who encourage and pray for me
- the ability to think and reason
- a love of music and words
- vision to see the beauty of the changing seasons
- taste buds to enjoy coffee and good food
- and ALL my blessings, too many to count
I am overwhelmed when I think about all the good things God has given me – things I don’t deserve, things I didn’t earn, things that could easily have gone to someone else. I want to be reminded each day to thank God for ALL my blessings.
I think it would be great to start a chain of gratitude in the comments. What blessings are you most thankful for today?
We are continuing “Celebrating Holidays at the Cafe” today! Grab a cup of coffee, take a break from the turkey preparations, and join us!
This morning, my husband and I will head south to the small town of Orlinda, Tennessee for our family celebration. Yes, I spelled that correctly. O-R-L-I-N-D-A. I promise that it’s nothing like that place in Florida where Mickey lives.
Anyway, we’ll head south to Tennessee (which my husband refers to as “the Promised Land”), where we look forward to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with our extended family. It’s not elaborate, but it’s good, and definitely something for which we are thankful.
We are certainly thankful this year for the big things in life – family, friends, health, our home, our work. We never want to take these things for granted, and we know that each one is a special gift from God.
I am also thankful for many of the “little” pleasures of life – hot coffee, baked apple pie candles, good music, a great book, fuzzy socks, and flannel pj’s.
And yet, I am most grateful for this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it … He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 10-14