Well, friends, it’s been a hot minute (or several million hot minutes!) since I last posted.
Honestly, my mind just hasn’t been into much “heart sharing” as of late. A friend and I were chatting this morning about how this year has in many ways been harder that 2020. It seems there’s no end to this pandemic, I personally have had a lot of loss this year. As one who’s has to navigate some tough places in life–just like many of you–I can say with 110% honesty that this year ranks right up there in my top 2 or 3 of heartache and really I’m having to look within myself in a much closer way.
So on this fourth weekend of Advent, a week away from celebrating the birth of Jesus, I want to offer you 5 nuggets of encouragement, just as I offer them to myself:
- BE and BREATHE in the moments. I think we can all agree that this time of year has become way too hectic and frenzied. I was so hoping we’d all emerge from COVID-19 a kinder, gentler people. Well, COVID is still very much present and with variants; and in my large city, traffic has become terrible, and people seem to always be in a rush. SLOW YOURSELF DOWN! If you are stuck in traffic or in a long line at the checkout, be kind. Be patient. Be in the moment. It really is a beautiful thing.
- Set and adhere to boundaries. Being with family, especially those kin whom you haven’t seen in a while, can be so wonderful, but it can also bring on drama. No one needs drama at Christmas. Read that again. No one needs drama at Christmas! That includes you, your family, and your friends. If there’s been tension between you and a family member or friend, reaching out at this time of year can be healing, but it can also backfire. Use your best judgment here (sometimes you have to take your heart out of it), but do set and stick to boundaries, and walk away from anything you consider drama.
- Remember that traditions and group dynamics change over the course of your life, but hold onto to some personal practices. I was just thinking yesterday about how much I miss the gatherings at my late mother-in-law’s home. She’s been gone four years, and Christmas just hasn’t been the same. Grammy made everything special with her fun family traditions, food, and games. Oh, how I miss that. Kids grow up, have families of their own, and start their own traditions. People move on to the great beyond, and we get older. I find that by keeping my own personal practices, such as lighting my Advent wreath each evening (Okay, most evenings!), watching some beloved holiday movies, and sending Christmas cards give me a sense of grounding and stability. Think about what gives you grounding that only involves you, and put it or them into practice!
- Look back on the year, and ask yourself what brought you joy. Write down every single thing you can think of–big, small, and in between– and offer a prayer of thanks for each one. Include people, events, happenstance, and anything that gave you pure joy. When I was visiting my cousins at Thanksgiving, I rode through my sweet little hometown with my cousin Sue, looking at lights, as we reflected on some of the people who impacted our lives growing up. It was such a special time. A couple days later I stood around a big cauldron of Brunswick stew, being stirred over a fire, as I caught up with my childhood bestie and her family. Those two Thanksgiving memories rank right up there with my two-week trip to Hawaii to visit my family last May. It’s the very good and beautiful stuff of life.
- Finally–and this is the hard part for most of us–decide what you need to release before going into 2022. Maybe its a behavior or two or three that you have learned are self-defeating. We all should be so self-aware and vow to change for us and the people we love. I think each of us has behavior patterns or habits that we know do not serve us or enhance our lives and relationships. Let go of that stuff, and make a pledge to yourself to be a new and more improved version of yourself in the new year. Maybe you need to release people or even sometimes, places. Someone was telling me last week how his place of residence has come to represent trauma for him, based on recent events. Sometimes, we just have to let go and surrender. Not easy but often necessary.
And remember, always, that God is always at work, always in control, and has always had your back. Hold fast to that, my friends; and I wish you a wonderful Advent, a Merry Christmas, and an exceedingly Happy New Year!
Amy Walton is multi-certified coach living in coastal Virginia. She still believes in the magic of Santa Claus and, of course, the love of God. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.