"It's not what's under the tree that matters. It's who's gathered around it." ~ Anonymous
So Christmas is almost here. School's out, the malls are full, ugly sweaters are back in style and admit it, you're singing along to the sounds of the season on the radio. Our tables are filling up, our trees are lit and prime real estate under the tree is not only at minimum but almost impossible to find the closer we get to Santa's big day. And with all that fun, also comes the stress and worry.This year our family has taken a new approach to celebrating this season of merriness and shall I be honest, should I dare say it, of anxiety and pressure. So what is our new technique, it's simple, it's a little something called slowing down and actually being merry and bright, not stressed and strained.
As Christmas began descending into our household following Thanksgiving I began taking inventory of the little things, and soon I was reassessing the bigger ones too. First we unpacked our inside decorations, putting up the nutcrackers, the advent calendar, and of course our almost five decades old nativity scene. Our tree came the next weekend, full of lights, glittery balls, more nutcrackers and of course Disney ornaments. And last but not least Johnny put up our outside lights. These are all family traditions, things we do together. I for one love traditions, as they remind us our history. Still as we've begun slowing down, I've fully come to understand "Holiday traditions are meant to build bonds not bring bondage. So hold them loosely." And I guess that's exactly the approach we've been taking as of late.
This year has been especially sweet, merry and bright as the old song goes. For one, we've spent a lot less time shopping and much more time gathered around the table together. Second we've decidedly put the emphasis this year on time spent together, and not the activities themselves. Life has slowed down tremendously and in doing so we've found ourselves more content, satisfied and far less stressed. The change in our outlook has been incredible. Maybe it takes going through hardship and loss to fully appreciate what you have. I'm not an expert, I can't absolutely say that to be true but I do know that this family while far from faultless and exemplary has spent this season satisfied and untroubled. We just made a decision this year not to want more than we have. I don't honestly know exactly how we arrived at this place, but by God's grace we have. I can tell you this year has been interesting to say the least trying to buy, wrap and place tiny packages under the tree. Not one of us could come up with a list. Which means we're ALL going to be very surprised to be sure on Christmas Eve night. But do you know why, do you know what we realized? We are content, we are happy but most of all we are satisfied with what we have and where we are right now. Our lives are fuller period.
To say we're a close, tight knit family would be an understatement. Now let me make this abundantly clear, that doesn't mean we always get along or see eye to eye. Being so close can also mean stressing from time to time. Being a family, connecting, taking part in traditions and celebrating what is one of the most important birthdays of the year can at times become demanding, taxing and plain tense. This is the thing, it shouldn't be. Many times we are so busy trying to be happy we forget how to be happy. Expectation, need and greed begin to over shadow the whole meaning and the reason we gather to celebrate Christmas. But you see Matthew 19:21 speaks of it so beautifully, for me anyways, "It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." So where is your treasure today? Is it wrapped up under the tree or spread out, sitting around it?
"The truth is the most complicated skill is to be simple." Seriously, that's the best quote I have read in a long time. And it's true. We tend to overdo everything including Christmas. Our lives are so overrun with making everyone's want a reality and with making sure our social media feeds look merry and bright we forget how to actually be merry and bright. Now I can't speak for anyone else, but I can say for me and mine this year, Christmas of 2016 has definitely been an amazing awakening if not a journey for us. One that has brought our little family of six full circle. The Friday Night Lights, quote, "Clear eyes, full heart, can't lose" has reignited loudly within our home. Taking a look inside the walls of our home you will very clearly see we've come to understand how fragile life really is. Unwarranted stress adds nothing but takes away everything. Todd Stocker brilliantly speaks of this very subject like this," Thankfulness creates gratitude which generates contentment that causes peace." So today, as I share Life Lesson #107 ~ be merry and bright, I wish you the same peace, happiness, satisfaction and real, unfiltered contentment our family has found in this blessed season.
"Maybe Christmas" he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas ...perhaps..means a little more!" ~ Dr. Suess