As we enter another holiday season, I’m reminded of the reality that the anticipation of the celebrations and the initial enthusiasm for the traditions can sometimes be derailed by the nuance and contradictions of the season. Excitement can be deflated by stress and unrealistic expectations. The busyness of the holidays can distract from the joy of the season. While navigating this year’s festivities , I took the opportunity to reflect on a past post, “The Little Things”, and to revisit the question of “What is saving your life right now?”
When I posted my original “The Little Things” post, during the initial COVID closures, I found myself often overwhelmed by fluctuating emotions. I began to look for encouragement and things to do to prevent myself from falling too far into my low-mood spirals. Acknowledging that there is never a simple one-size-fits-all solution, I have found some peace when I am intentional about changing my mindset to focus on gratitude. Prompted by Jen Hatmaker’s podcast For the Love, where she regularly asks her guests a question, first posed by Barbara Brown Taylor: “What is saving your life right now?” I found myself thinking of things that fill my heart with gratitude and support the shift in my mindset. As I reviewed my initial list which included: garden tomatoes, musical sing-alongs, and backyard animal antics, I smiled at the little moments that grounded me during a tough time. So in this holiday season, I want to bring back the question, “What is saving your life right now?” To start the conversation, I will share some of the things on my current list:
I can’t think of anything I enjoy more than cuddling with my kids on the couch under a warm cozy blanket watching a morning cartoon or evening Christmas movie. The other morning as I finished my coffee, my daughter stumbled into the living room rubbing her sleepy eyes and mumbled, “I am cold.” She proceeded to climb onto my lap and I wrapped us in our fuzzy couch blanket and she let out a comforted sigh. It was the highlight of my day.
Sometimes I struggle with the changing seasons, especially when the days get shorter. However, the change in length of day has meant the sunrise now occurs during my morning routine. When I walked outside earlier this month, I was greeted by the pink, purple, and yellow sky pictured below. My kids exclaimed, “God painted the sky!” And, a sense of peace settled on my heart as I drove to work.
It is not much of a secret that I love to read. Settling into a good book has been a favorite pastime for me since I was a kid. I have found it interesting that different seasons of my life bring different book preferences. Several years ago I began to record the books I read. At the time I was split pretty evenly between fiction and non-fiction. However, this year my book list is filled, almost exclusively, with fiction books. And, for the cozy mysteries, heartwarming adventures, and unputdownable thrillers, I am thankful! Some authors that I have read multiple books from this year include: Louise Penny, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and William Kent Krueger. I highly recommend all three.
- Throw Pillows.
At an early Christmas celebration with my family, I received two new throw pillows for my office. They add to the coziness of the space while also celebrating my love of books, which makes me smile when I walk into the room.
- Advent devotional.
I am the first to admit that I am all in for Christmas. I jump on the bandwagon for dozens of holiday traditions. However, as I acknowledged earlier, the same excitement and joy can often lead to stress. I have found an immense amount of comfort in escaping the season’s overwhelming tendencies by settling in with an advent devotional. I need daily reminders of the reason for the season and to slow down and accept the complexity of emotions that are present in the season of waiting. I have been following along with Kate Bowler’s This Season of Waiting devotional, found online on her website. She wrote, “Advent isn’t just a season in the Christian calendar. Advent is a state of being. So over the next four weeks, we are going to explore what it means to live in hopeful anticipation during a season of suffering and fear and uncertainty. When we just don’t quite know when it’s going to be okay, Advent reminds us of the discipline of hope.”
- Christmas Town.
One of the many holiday traditions I enjoy participating in is building my family’s “Christmas Town.” Each year we set our Christmas houses on display, taking turns picking where each building goes. Several of the houses carry special meaning as they were passed down to my husband from his Grandmother who had her own version of Christmas Town. The remainder of the buildings that make up our Town have been purchased in recent years as we carry forward our own tradition within our family. The kids take turns each year choosing which new house to buy for our collection, leading to a variety of whimsical additions including a hamburger stand and a boot shaped house. But, each piece adds another reason for me to smile as our Christmas Town greets me when I walk out of my bedroom each morning.
Although it makes little sense, even to me, that I find joy in this sport, football season is a favorite at our house. We eat pizza bites and chips and cheese every Sunday as we watch the Minnesota Vikings play. My kids loudly clap the SKOL chant if there is a touchdown. We are all uncharacteristically loud as cheers and groans fill our house for a few hours. In addition, this year I have found myself in two fantasy football leagues. Which is a very strange addition to my life, but when I am winning it brings quite a bit of joy. SKOL Vikings.
Much to the dismay of the majority of the people in my life, I would listen to Christmas music all year round if I could. It simply warms my heart. So, in this season, where Christmas hymns are added to church services, radio stations shift their focus to Christmas music, and my kids fill the house with their Christmas recital practice, my heart is so happy to be surrounded by the sounds of Christmas.
In the days that lead up to the holiday celebrations, when the excitement and stress often co-exist, the opportunity to sneak in a phone conversation with a good friend who accepts all versions of the season, the good and the bad, quite literally saves my sanity. For authentic friends and family and the connection that comes through conversation, I am grateful!
These are a few of the things currently saving my life. I look forward to hearing about some of the things that are saving your life! Feel free to share in the comments below.
I want to end with the same quote I used to end the original “The Little Things” post as the visual provides me with a comforting reminder. From Bob Goff’s Living in Grace and Walking in Love; “Love is like a rhythm, like breathing itself. Where we are taking in grace for ourselves and holding out love for others.” When I feel my nerves rising during this holiday season, I remember to take a deep breath, breathing in grace. May we all fill our hearts this holiday season with grace, gratitude, and joy in the little things.
Jessica is a wife, mom, social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.