Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Christmas Was Better This Year

Hey, everyone! Happy New Year! I hope you had a good Christmas, and are settling into your routine for the new year.

It's been a while since I've shared with you here on the Life in the Woods blog, but I have missed this page terribly. School this year (like every year) is just so crazy busy, that by the time I come home, I am mentally and emotionally drained, and find it difficult to put words together.
But I miss you guys, and I miss writing!

This year, I had a wonderful Christmas. I would say one of the best in a long time. And what made it wonderful? Spending time with my family, whom I had not seen for a few months. (We live hours apart.) Great hospitality from my amazing sister, brother-in-law, and two incredible nieces. And continuing some traditions that have been in the family since my childhood.
My sister's family Christmas tree.

Also, what made it great was what I didn't do. These are three things I didn't do this Christmas helped make this holiday one of the best.  And I hope the lessons I learned help you, not just at Christmas, but throughout the coming new year.


One of my love languages is gift -giving. I absolute love giving gifts at Christmas, on birthdays, and whatever other excuse I can find. Can you relate?

But ... this year, as I was doing my usual last minute scramble to finish shopping, I stopped. Stopped piling more and more gifts on. I wanted to keep going. I kept seeing more things that would be perfect. A beading set for my youngest niece. A necklace for my oldest niece. Another book for both of them. And on and on. 

But I stopped. Two gifts for each of them was enough. And it fit our budget. And as I stopped, I realized that getting more gifts would be out of guilt, and striving to be good enough.  To show that I cared, to make up for lost time. To prove myself. And assauge my guilt. It was striving. And I realized that it was the wrong motives. And  so I stopped. Two gifts each was enough. 

And for the first time, I told my family: my presence here is the main gift. Because I traveled 862 miles to be with them. And really, isn't that always the main gift? Our presence? Spending time. Laughing. Enjoying. Listening. Talking. 

 A photo from the 18 hour bus ride I took to visit my sister this year. This one is from Saskatchewan. 
I had a whole morning of binge-watching Master Chef with my one niece, exchanging sarcastic comments. A sleepover with my other niece that included a late-night talk about boys. Those were the other gifts. The ones that won't show up on the bank account statement. 

And in addition, there the numerous gifts they gave to me, besides the beautiful scarves and jewelry. There was the board game tournament. The lesson on selfies. The time spent wrapping after everyone else was ready to open. The Christmas story, read by a teenager, and almost teenager. And most of all, the welcome. Gifts I carried home in my heart, not my suitcase. 

    2. I DIDN'T RUSH

    This year, I barely rushed. This seemed very different than other years, and it made such a difference. In fact, I deliberately set things up, to not rush.

    This year, for the first time in ages, I actually rode the bus across two provinces, for eighteen hours straight. Why? Because I didn't feel like fighting the crowds and rush of the airport. I wanted a slower pace. To make it even slower, I did not tell anyone exactly when I was arriving. And it was wonderful. It was an eighteen hour ride, but an enjoyable one. I met some wonderful people, and had  some amazing conversations.

    And when I got there, I let myself sleep in, keeping myself off the crazy machine, and creating far less stress. Of course, it may be said, it is far easier for me, with no children in tow. Those with kids may find it much more difficult. But don't even the kids also need a break? Isn't the whole idea of holidays for all of us to stop rushing, young and old? Why do we have to do things to make ourselves completely stressed out? Let's enjoy our break. 
    My photo of crowds at a mall in Calgary. So much rushing! 
    Christians and Jewish people believe that God set up the seventh day as a Sabbath, a time to rest. In the Bible, holidays were also days set aside to get away from the regular routine, from the rush. Because God said that it was good to rest. So, this holiday, I rested. And I didn't rush. And it was wonderful. 

    Now, in our everyday life, we sometimes have to rush (often!) But if we allow ourselves the rest in-between, the quiet pockets of non-scheduling, I believe we will be better equipped to handle the rush on all the days in between. 

    Allow ourselves time to rest in between all the busyness.
    (Photo of our front yard, first snow fall.)
    Holidays tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. For our family, it's often the worst. Feelings get hurt, and words get yelled, as we try to negotiate where to eat Christmas dinner, which parties to attend, how much to spend.

    Everyone we meet says, "are you ready for Christmas yet?" in that stressed, urgent tone. And we reply back, with a wry, apologetic tone, "No, not yet, but getting there." And then we exchange our done and undone to-do lists, wringing our hands at the huge responsibility to it all. When did it all become so --- MUCH??? 

    I saw a link on Facebook before Christmas that described Christmas in the 70's compared to Christmas now. Yes, it did use to be less involved. And less guilt-inducing! 

    So, this was the year I decided to stop apologizing. We have to do what works for us, as individuals and families. So, maybe we can't attend every event that our coworkers manage to put together. Maybe our house isn't decorated in a perfectly coordinated pattern. Maybe it's not decorated at all! 

    This year, I went to my sister's. My husband stayed home, and spent time with his boys and his family. And we didn't apologize. We just enjoyed our time respectively. Other years, we ended up in a big fight because we both felt guilty, if we didn't have the Christmas card Christmas. But we didn't apologize.

    This year, I stayed in a hotel, so I could have my own space, instead of bunking down with family.  And I didn't apologize for needing my own space. It allowed me to be less rushed, and much more present when I did spend time with them. 

    These were some small differences, but they made this year one of the best Christmases ever. And the lesssons learned were not only for Christmas time. As we head into the New Year, it's going to be busy again. But let's try to spend less out of guilt, take time to rest, and to apologize less for doing what we need to do, to take of ourselves. 
    This year, let's stop apologizing so much.
    Night tree in our woods. 
    Take care and God bless. Please feel free to share this message, if you feel others would gain encouragement from it.  For more on Christmas stress, see this post from last year. Also, sign up if you would like to receive regular updates from the Life in the Woods blog. 

    Love Sharilee. Hey thanks so much for reading. I would love to hear your commenehts and input in the space below. Also, if you like what you are reading, sign up through my Facebook pagei . or receive posts by e-mail byjoining here

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