‘Tis the Season to Slow Down

It’s December and that means mall shopping, cookie baking, gift-wrapping, family photo shoots, and tree decorating time! While this season can bring so much joy it can bring stress and a whole lot of headaches too. If you’re like me, you tend to rush through the coming days so you can accomplish all the things on your “to-do” list before Christmas arrives.

It doesn’t have to be this way. How about if you and I do things a little differently this year? Instead of rushing, juggling commitments, overextending ourselves, and doing just about anything we can to keep our head above water we sloooow down and set our minds to fully appreciate this season.

Three Miles An Hour God

“Doing” slow is difficult for me. I read books quickly. I have a habit of speeding when I drive. I often gulp down my food instead of leisurely eating it. I fast forward through commercials. I hike at a brisk pace. I even walk fast.

When I think of Jesus, I don’t think of fast. I think of Someone who wasn’t rushed but of Someone who had all the time in the world. Slowing down was important to Jesus. In fact, Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama estimates that Jesus walked the average speed of walking, which is 3 miles per hour. Here’s a quote from his book that does a good job explaining what he means.

“Love has its speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of life at 3 miles per hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.”

Oh, sure, Jesus was busy-He had people to heal and a whole lot of Truth to speak, but he wasn’t hurried. Jesus walked leisurely alongside His family, His disciples, criminals, an adulteress, and even the unclean.

Case in point:  Jesus didn’t run to the grave when Martha and Mary told him about the death of their brother, Lazarus. He walked. Jesus didn’t rush to the side of Jarius’ daughter. The Bible said that “Jesus started off” but made no mention of Him speeding off to heal her. Jesus didn’t mind being interrupted by the bleeding woman who touched the hem of His cloak while He was on His way. He stopped and took the time to seek out the one who had touched Him and then He healed her and commended her for her faith.

Continuing my point on the unhurried way of Jesus…have you ever noticed how great Jesus was at telling stories?  He told stories (parables) about a good Samaritan, a prodigal son, a lost sheep, a seed, a barren fig tree and so many more. Storytellers aren’t in a hurry. They tell the story slowly, they use voice inflection, and ask questions for feedback.

What’s Ailing You?

Recently I typed rushing into my search bar and three “conditions” (that I didn’t even know existed) popped up.

Hurry Sickness: the continual struggle to become more and more productive in less and less time. The feeling of constantly being behind or rushed. A sense of excessive time urgency. Constantly feeling rushed or anxious and have a feeling of urgency to get things done when there’s no need.

Rush Illness: a mixture of anxiety and restlessness. A continual feeling of urgency.

Hurry Syndrome: a condition in which parents overschedule their children’s lives, push them hard for academic success, and expect them to behave as miniature adults.

These are three “illnesses” that I want to avoid! I don’t want to race through life and miss what the Lord is doing around me (the people and the circumstances He puts in my path). I don’t want to be anxious, rushed, or so restless that I distract myself into spiritual and god-less oblivion! I want to have an emotionally and spiritually rich life and slowing down is a big part of assuring that I get it.

We are called to abide (to act in accordance with) in Christ and walk with God, not run with God.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 NKJV

1 Corinthians gives us a description of what love is:

 “Love is patient, love is kind.” 1 Corinthians 14:4a NIV

Hurry counteracts our call to be patient and kind. Hurry destroys compassion and love. Jesus was never in a hurry. We should walk because Jesus walked.

Remedies for Rushing

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Jesus invites us to find rest and slowness in Him. In our fast-paced world (and specifically at this time of year), this verse is a gentle call for us to seek rest and find comfort in Him.

Consider the following solutions to help stop the hustle and bustle, anxiety, and hurrying associated with this season.

  • Silence. We busy humans often find silence uncomfortable. It can make us squirm and induce feelings of guilt because we’re not accomplishing something. But when we’re silent we are accomplishing something! Silence provides a tranquil space that promotes inner calmness.  This is essential in combating the stresses of everyday life. It’s in silence where we can dissect our feelings and bring them to God. When we sit in silence we can hone in on what this season is all about. 🎵 Joy to the world, the Lord has come…
  • Plugging Into Daily Advent Passages. Advent marks something momentous: God’s coming into our midst in the flesh. Advent is an opportunity for us to prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Jesus’ birth and for us to consider the future, second Advent, the promise of Jesus coming back to make His forever Kingdom here on earth. There are many books available to help us prepare for the celebration of the first coming of Christ. Here are a few of my favorites: A Bethlehem Christmas: Celebrating the Joyful Season by Charles Swindoll and Watch For the Light: Readings For Advent and Christmas by various Christian authors.
  • Make Immanuel Your Word of the Month. (Better yet make it your word of the year.) Around this time last year I wrote a blog about this word. When you’re feeling anxious, frustrated, unseen, unheard, or overwhelmed remember the word Immanuel. It means “God with us”. When Jesus was born 2000+ years ago He came to be with us always and in every circumstance we will ever encounter.

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 NLT

  • Change Your Thinking. My church partners with other churches to promote a different way of behaving in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas. It’s called Advent Conspiracy, and it invites people to “join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be—a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us.”

There are four tenets of Advent Conspiracy:

Worship fully: Make sure your heart is prepared to receive this gift of our Savior. Christmas begins and ends with Jesus. Orient your heart toward Jesus. Focus on the miracle of His birth.

Spend less: Resist the consumerism of Christmas. Feel less stress and free up your financial resources for things that matter to Jesus.

Give more: Give gifts that are dripping with meaning and significance.

Love all: In tangible ways, love and serve the forgotten, the poor, the marginalized.

You can find out more by watching this 3-minute video.

Shop Smartly. Overspending or stretching a budget when buying gifts can cause anxiety and stress. Making a Christmas list and then sticking to it is smart. Set a spending budget. Before handing over your cash or swiping your credit card ask yourself these questions:

Is this something I want or something I need (or the recipient wants or needs)?

What kind of company am I supporting if I purchase this product? Do they give back a percentage with my purchase? Do their values line up with mine? I wrote a blog about gifts “that give back” just a few weeks ago. You can find some great philanthropic companies by clicking here,

Can I afford to spend this amount? Will this deduction from my finances put my family’s basic needs in jeopardy?

How many presents do we actually need?

What did we do with the presents from last year? Were they put to good use and enjoyed or placed on a shelf and forgotten?

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. I’m a recovering comparer. Years ago, I spent way too much time scrolling social media and watching what other mothers my age were doing-especially at this time of the year. Seeing posts of elaborate gingerbread houses, Christmas trees decorated with homemade ornaments, and perfect holiday family photo shoots (with children in matching outfits) would send me into a comparison tailspin. Why did my gingerbread houses always collapse or look lopsided? Why didn’t I make my own ornaments (instead of buying a jumbo box of premade ones from Walmart)? Why did my holiday family photo shoots invariably have one crying kid in them? Comparison was stealing my joy. Being a mom/parent is hard enough without the stress that comes from comparison.  Parenthood isn’t about crafts, baking and everything else. It’s about loving your children. Period.

Don’t Forget…

Here’s a great reminder: Slowing down isn’t just for the holidays. It’s something we should do every month of the year. Slowing down allows us to be sensitive to the beauty around us and also to the pain and needs of others. Just.like.Jesus.did.

And while I’m on the subject of year-round…let’s get into the habit of doing some of the positive activities that we tend to do in December all year round too. Activities like:

  • Visiting friends and relatives
  • Writing notes
  • Serving others
  • Donating our time, talents, and our treasures
  • Smiling and laughing
  • Singing and dancing
  • Gathering around a table
  • Having meaningful conversations

Before I go let me know some ways you plan on slowing down this season. Got any “remedies” of your own that help you “remember the reason for the season”?

And finally…Long after the cookies have been baked and eaten, the gifts opened, and the tree and all its lights are taken down it’s the advent reflections, the worship and the time spent together with friends and family and the slowing down that will help make Christmas memorable.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

xoxo

 

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Your Years in Squares

Think of your life as a grid with 100 squares. Ten squares across and 10 squares going down. Each square represents a year in your life. Now visualize yourself coloring in a square for every year you’ve been alive. What would the grid look like? Would only a few rows be colored? Would half of them? It’s sobering how fast life goes by. Don’t waste a minute of your life doing shallow and inconsequential things.

I’ve created a grid, like the one here, that you can download and copy here.

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