Today I’m not only talking about Christmas as I declare “It’s almost here!” I’m also thinking of the end of 2020. Thinking of it as the “year that was” should feel good.
And with those thoughts, we can move ahead into 2021 with hope and anticipation of better days ahead.
This Christmas season will be different for many of us. Traditions set aside for safer gatherings. Perhaps one less in that family photo or at the table. Inability to visit and cheer those housed in nursing facilities or in the hospital. And likely many more.
If we love as Christ taught us to love, we are willing to accept these inconveniences.
Looking ahead, we hope for the light at the end of this seemingly endless dark tunnel to lead to better times. The vaccine is here, injections are being given, and plans established for each of us to receive it. With gratitude in our hearts, a new year is beginning with the hope of healing and diminishing numbers of victims.
Live into that Light. The Light and Love that came down at Christmas of old is still with us. We need only to live it and share it with others.
Today I’m joining a talented group of writers at Five Minute Friday. This community connects each Friday in an online, unedited free-write based on a one-word prompt. My timer is set for 5 minutes. Let’s see where this week’s prompt—PRESENT—leads me.
Likely many are thinking of the list of presents they need to buy, wrap, ship, or deliver. In our family, we’ve created a new process, thanks to the pandemic.
However, before I share that with you, I’d like to tell you about the decision my husband and I landed on some three decades ago. Each Christmas I’d make a list of things I needed/wanted, jot down the store where it could be found, size (if necessary), color, cost. Then Bob could take off shopping with a lot less frustration than if he had to come up with the list and figure out where to shop.
After watching his frustration for several years, we discussed a new way to give and receive. We asked what gift could we give each other better than we had given on August 15, 1981—ourselves! And so it has been since that long-ago discussion. We don’t buy each other gifts at Christmas or other holidays, not even our anniversary.
Now to today’s process for our kids, grandkids, and great-grands this Christmas. Since we are under lockdown in Oregon and we’re both immune-compromised, I’m shopping online for gift cards. Each family member who lands on our Christmas list will receive one inside a Christmas card via USPS. Hopefully, they can enjoy the delight of shopping for themselves online and not be disappointed.
However, with Advent upon us until Christmas Eve, present means so much more than I’ve written above. I’m stepping outside the busyness, the noise, and minimizing the financial element and stress of the season, only imposed by society and me. I’m inviting in the Christ Child, Jesus, as the presence I’m seeking this Christmas.
2020 has been a long slow slog for all of us. I think His Presence is what is needed for each of us. Being present with Christ is so comforting, soul-satisfying, and joy-filled. Why not make that the present you give to yourself on Christmas Day, 2020?
Rainy autumn days arrived in the Pacific Northwest with bluster. With them, they brought winds that tossed colorful leaves everywhere. Our maple tree left our driveway looking like a leaf mosaic. Bob took the photo above on one of his daily trips to our mailbox last week.
With the change in our weather, the last weekend in November upon us, and new COVID restrictions on Oregon activities, it must be Thanksgiving. Things have tightened up with regard to social gatherings as the number of new cases and deaths have increased here. It is hard to celebrate while so many others are grieving, are houseless and hungry, and struggling economically to keep businesses afloat.
December 2019 is here. Where did November, October, and September go? In my world, they seemed to fly by. How about you? The image above reflects mostly what I’ve been doing–reading by the fire.
In looking through my blog yesterday, I was shocked to find my last post was on November 19, 2019. The post is my review of Kathy Pooler’s second memoir, Just the Way He Walked(see Disclosures). I have other book reviews to share but I’ll be honest and not beat around the bush. My motivation to write, even a book review, is gone.
I seek inspiration looking out the windows, listening to music, reading others’ work. Nothing happens. Nothing comes to me. I go back over my list of ideas for blog posts. Nothing jolts me into action. And it’s not just writing.
Some days I can’t find interest in doing much of anything. I tackle the mundane–household chores, laundry, cleaning the kitchen following meals, wiping down countertops. These are chores that cry out to be dealt with NOW!
Why am I telling you all this? Simply to let you know that I’m going to turn out the lights on the blog until January 2020 in hopes of feeling more like the writer/blogger I have been. I may even tackle sending out a monthly newsletter. Who knows what the new year may bring?
With the preparations needed for the holiday season and appointments four out of five days next week, I need to devote time to get through this month.
I came across this quote from Marianne Williamson this morning.
‘Once everything falls into place,
I’ll feel peace.’
‘Find your peace, and
everything will fall into place.’
A still small voice said, “You need to find peace with your current situation.” That’s my plan for December 2019.
First things first on Sundays. Once awake and with my feet under me, I prepare breakfast. It’s simple and quick. I have other tasks to do before leaving for church.
This Sunday is special as it’s musical from beginning to end.
At church, we expect the sounds of our Children’s Choir. Hearing these young voices is always a joy-filled experience. Children present the fresh and unadulterated faith we all should carry in our hearts.
Under the direction of a talented young man, the children sing a new arrangement of Down by the Riverside. Our choristers range in age from kindergarten through grade school. Their abilities follow the same range. Their performance gets rousing affirmation with applause.
From here, we dash for a cup of coffee and some fellowship with friends and new faces. We can only stay a short while as we have other places to be.
Early afternoon and after a bite of lunch, we head out to attend a concert by the Bach Cantata Choir. This organization is made up of some very talented vocalists and musicians. The choir’s goal is to sing all Bach’s cantatas in 30 years. I have no idea where they are in accomplishing this.
Yesterday’s concert was billed as “Super Bach Sunday.” The group’s director offers this concert as a substitute for an annual football game on TV. We were blessed with some awe-inspiring and spiritual cantatas by Bach. Pieces by siblings, Felix and Fanny Mendelsohn, and Handel finished the program. We left feeling overwhelmed in a joyous way. We commented to the director that yesterday was a WOW! performance.
It was a beautiful blessing, both morning and afternoon. The feeling will carry us through this week.
As a full-time legal secretary, wife, and mom, I felt busy. I longed for the days of retirement. People said when they retired there was never enough time for all they wanted to do. How could it be?
Now I know. With retirement in our lives for a combined 17 years, it seems each day reaches the brim of overflowing. Yet there are always things still left undone.
Add in my chronic pain and minor injuries (both of us) and it seems even more overwhelming. Facing surgery and recovery, I realize the time has come to make changes in my handling of this gift called life. Read with me for a few more paragraphs to see what my plans entail.
Achieving a Balanced Life
Balance is something we all count on in our physical world. Walking, running, biking, hiking, and any number of physical activities need good balance. Some of us have excellent balance, and some of us are likewise blessed, or not, with poor balance. I fall in the latter category (no pun intended).
Poor physical balance doesn’t mean I can’t have a balanced life. Life itself is:
Incrementally divided by time and how you spend it;
Affected by our activities, whether physical, creative or otherwise;
Based on our relationships and others’ impact on our lives;
Enriched by solitude.
1. Time and How We Spend It
Due to chronic pain and an unhealthy spine, I’m spending far more time on the computer than I should. Both sitting and standing are painful so those options aren’t as available to my writing as I’d like. Besides my writing, there is a newsletter and blog post reading. Then comes social media and email correspondence keeping me current with writing friends. Social media also helps keep up with family. More and more, everything requires a computer.
Bottom line, too much of my time seems front and center with my laptop. And I’m beginning not to enjoy it so much. You might say it’s because of my current spine pain and impending surgery but that’s not what I’m feeling. It’s what I’m going to call “computer burnout.”
2. Activities, Creative or Otherwise
If I’m going to be able to sit more comfortably after surgery, I want to quilt! If I could have a day or two a week in which I cut quilt pieces and sew them together, I’d be a happy camper quilter. And improved sitting means I could play the piano more often. Improved standing means I could work on my flute music. Both of these I miss because of (drumroll, here) “computer burnout.”
Also, I volunteer as a mentor in the Mothers of Preschooler program at our church. It requires only two Friday mornings a month, but there are other outside activities. Then new births among our group which include cooking for the family until mom is back on her feet again. Case in point: One of my mentees this past year gave birth to triplets. Although they were born in May (quite early in fact), they are just beginning to transition home. We’ll be cooking for them soon.
A great love of mine is being a “groupie” for the bands my husband makes music in, among them a Dixieland jazz group. I enjoy getting to know the other members and their spouses. And it’s great fun helping now and then hosting refreshments at a concert.
Bob and I enjoy supporting our church home and family in many ways. Each which requires a time commitment. This is something I’m not willing to give up yet.
3. Relationships and How They Affect Your Life
If I overload my day, I easily grow frustrated and a bit testy (don’t ask Bob what he calls this, OK?). This isn’t fair to Bob, especially if he’s in the middle of a new design project or new music or whatever he’s engaged in. My frustrations taken out on him make him feel less important than he truly is in my life. And it works both ways.
Time for keeping our relationship rich and loving should always be at the top of our list.
Friendships need a similar consideration. We never should take out on a friend our daily frustrations. Keep this in mind and you’ll feel better and so will your friends.
Don’t forget family, including children, parents, siblings, and even your pets. They don’t deserve to receive the brunt of your disgruntlement. And most importantly, they need to hear you say, “I love you.”
Bob and I both tend to be introverts. Solitude is important to each of us. And one’s desire for some alone time doesn’t bother the other. I probably have the advantage here. Bob has music rehearsals two nights per week plus an occasional Sunday afternoon. Concerts and performances come at odd and random times. As I mentioned above, I love to go along and support him.
We are both avid readers. Often we find solitude sitting in the family room reading. Soft classical music may be playing in the background. It’s amazing how you can find solitude in the same room with another person. We spend many pleasant hours that way in our home.
Solitude is an important part of self-care and we need to bring this to the forefront of our own well-being. Time to reflect on your life, values, memories or to spend time in meditation is healing in many ways. Don’t ever forget to take care of yourself.
I’ve taken a long time explaining myself (sorry!). What I need you to know is that my posting schedule with the blog will soon change. In fact, I missed posting last week.
Starting today, I will be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites much less than usual. I will continue to participate in a few groups a bit more actively because of their relationship to my writing.
Beginning with this post, I’ll be posting every other week, when possible. Surgery, recovery, and rehab will dictate sometimes. Those who requested my posts via my newsletter will arrive as they always have. When I post, you’ll receive it under cover of my MailerLite account.
My newsletter schedule will change as well. The newsletter will no longer come out on the third Wednesday of the month. Instead, I plan to make my newsletter quarterly rather than monthly. This change will take place beginning in October. The first quarterly edition will arrive in your inbox on Thursday, October 4, 2018.
I hope you will each take the time to review your own lives and commitments. Take time to look for balance, harmony, and joy in your life. If it isn’t there, figure out why and then make whatever changes are necessary.