"I want to live my life, not have life live me!"
Lori's words have remained with me for many years. And while her wisdom rings true at all times, it is especially true as we move into that "Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
When we are living our life in December, we notice and enjoy the moments... we celebrate loved ones, we navigate social engagements with anticipation and delight, and perhaps most of all, we remain mindful of God's nearness. Mindful that ultimately, we celebrate the humanity-altering event--the long-awaited arrival--of Jesus, our Emmanuel: God With Us.
When life lives us, it's a different scene on every front, like a Christmas Play at church that goes terribly wrong with the entire set falling to pieces in the opening scene at the arrival of shepherds (but that's usually cute and funny).
Relationally, we might easily get resentful of those who have expectations for our time. Emotionally, we notice anger or sadness and even gloom over everything from decorations to shopping to cooking and cleaning. Spiritually, we lose our tether to the eternal. We can be consumed with overwhelm that causes us to turn away from God's love and goodness. But the show must go on, so we just keep on with it all. And no one, absolutely no one, wins. It doesn't end cute. Loved ones are wounded, it takes weeks if not months to regain our stability, and we miss the entire point.
I've definitely lived both of these scenarios during Decembers gone by. Waking up Christmas morning with expectation and joy at the day ahead... but I also remember times waking to anger, resentment, fear, and a general feeling of being lost. Trust me, it is far better to live your life than to have life live you. Lori was right.
As you look towards these next few weeks, which trajectory are you on today? Are you on a path towards living your life? or towards a New Year's Day realizing that your life lived you?
Whichever it is, what I can promise is this: caring for your soul will help you get and stay on the right path. It won't change your circumstances directly, but taking a bit of time each day to care for your soul can change everything about how you experience those circumstances. And that will change everything.
Here are a few tried-and-true ways to care for your soul during this season:
Grab some silence for just a few minutes before your household wakes up. Light a candle to remind you of God's presence with you.
Keep a journal noting your prayers, worries, ideas, and gratitude. Like an explorer moving into uncharted territory, you're moving into the unknown: the future. Pay attention! Notice the beauty and love along the way!
Intentionally reach out to connect with someone you enjoy, and especially someone who might be feeling lonely or sad these days. This will care for both your soul and theirs...
Plan at least one gathering or ritual or ceremony that you will look forward to... something that will remind you that you are living your life, not just letting it happen.
You don't need anyone's permission to take care of your own soul this month.
Everyone and everything you care about, and are responsible for, will benefit from a healthier, spiritually alive, whole-person you showing up each day. As you take care of your body, your sleep, your food, your exercise, your friendships, your family... you take care of your soul. It all matters.
Just a few personal rhythms can carry you through December and into the New Year with peace-filled strength.
Yes, it's a busy and demanding Most Wonderful Time Of the Year. You may have dramatically increased responsibilities with fundraising, event planning, school events, financial constraints, and the general malaise of 2021.
But what might your days look like with increased centeredness and groundedness in God? There is a way of entering those city sidewalks, busy sidewalks fully alive to the One we celebrate: Emmanuel, God with us. God is at work precisely where you are. Within you, and around you. Lift your eyes, elevate your perspective, and rest yourself in God's good care.
That is my prayer for myself and for all of us this year.
"As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory strength God gives. It is a strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us." (Col 1:10-12, MSG)