What I’m Giving Myself for Christmas {Maybe you need it too?}

Christmas Wreath

For the umpteenth time, I wring my hands and stare out the window. Bright overhead sunlight drenches every surface and corner of the view like a blanket of hope. I want to reach out and grab some of this lit-up courage. Instead, for the umpteenth time, I pace back and forth in my office before stopping in front of my laptop. I sit down and take a deep breath. Exhaling, I begin typing a question to my friend, one that involves me needing the dreaded H word.

Help.

Oh y’all, I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to ask for help. Blame it on my years as an independent military wife, an unattractive leaning toward pride, a strong aversion to bothering people or all the above, but I don’t like asking for help. Heck, I don’t like needing help. While I am painfully aware of my own weaknesses and need for support, I hate the thought of burdening others in any way.

Still, this is a request that must be made, so I have to write the email. I type a few words, stop to tap my fingertips on my chin, then delete a few words. I’m going in circles, ’round and ’round like the Christmas wreath hanging on our black front door.

It’s then that God reminds me of the passage from the gospel Luke detailing Mary’s actions after the angel Gabriel told her she would give birth to Jesus. Immediately after Gabriel departs, Mary throws on her sandals and high-tails it to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth’s house. In Luke, it says Mary departed at once. According the The Message translation, Mary didn’t waste a minute.

I think about how this could have easily played out differently. Mary could have waited to leave, spending that time biting her nails and asking questions:

“What if this is a bad time to visit Elizabeth?”

“What if I’m in the way?”

“She’s probably really tired and what if I’m a bother?”

She didn’t latch onto any of these questions. Instead, she latched onto the details Gabriel gave–her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant–and literally ran with it. Yes, Mary probably knew she could be a comfort to her older cousin, too. After all, they both shared the experience of remarkable pregnancies. But she also knew she needed Elizabeth’s help in processing this wild miracle, and so she respected that need by traveling to Elizabeth’s. What a kind gift to give herself!

As I sweat over this email, I think that perhaps I could give myself a little kindness for Christmas, too. I could start by remembering that asking for help is a move for me, not against. It shows strength, not weakness.

I could start by trusting that if God puts someone on my heart as one who could help ease a difficult situation, then it’s for a reason.

I could start by losing my opposition to the idea of asking for help and welcoming a lighthearted spirit that doesn’t take myself so seriously.

It’s okay–and very good– to have compassionate concern for other people and their schedules and to not take advantage.

But it’s also okay to have compassionate concern for myself. And sometimes that compassionate concern looks like stepping out of the circle and into the blanket of light that says a little help, please.

Is it easy or difficult for you to ask for help? How are you showing yourself a little kindness this Christmas season?

On Clothes that Don’t Fit and Music that Does

I thought I was in trouble this past summer when I went to put on my shorts and not one single pair of them fit. But then this fall? I discovered that with the exception of one faithful pair of jeans, most all my pants were too tight, too.

Whimper.

KristenMirror

I haven’t minded turning 40 this year, but losing a big chunk of my metabolism? That I do mind.

Of course, my too-tight clothes could also be because I spent a big part of this spring through fall on my hiney writing the book and munching on snacks, but whatevs. Details, details.

Regardless, I am facing an uphill battle here, folks, because Christmas doth approacheth and I have the wickedest sweet tooth you’ve ever known. So, you might say I have a situation on my hands.

And on my hips.

But I own that anyone who knows me isn’t going to feel sorry for me because I’m tall, and height usually works to someone’s advantage. Length covers a multitude of sins, you might say. Anyway, I’m going to have to get a little willpower, roll up my sleeves and become a more time-invested friend of our treadmill. I will also practice moderation, but I refuse to universally deny myself the delights of molasses spice cookies and grandma’s fudge.

Amen.

But there is something I’m dining on with abandon these days, calorie-free food that feeds the soul: Christmas music.

ChristmasPiano

I love music so much that it was my college major, and to this day it feeds me like little else can. Music is one of God’s languages that thins the veil between His presence and ourselves. It is the stirrings of our inner hearts set to rhythm and notes–as varied as the people who listen to it.

As y’all may know, my two favorite types of music are classical and country, which makes me totally, completely bizarre. I know. But at Christmas, my musical tastes curve around a few more diverse bunny trails, and really that’s half the fun. There’s something for every mood of every day.

For example:

Last night I struggled with some of my own written words, words that offended someone even though I didn’t intend them to be offensive in the slightest. So, as I juggled all my topsy turvy, motion sick feelings of being out of someone’s good graces, I turned on Ellie Holcomb’s “Hope is Alive.”  Soon, the hope floats in, my tears dry up, and I more strongly believe what my mama used to say: Kristen, this too shall pass. Ellie’s music is calm affirmation at its finest.

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Not long ago I woke up with dawn breaking beautiful, and as I headed downstairs to make my morning chai, I hummed the tune of Point of Grace’s “Let There Be Light” off their second Christmas album, Winter Wonderland. The song’s message warmed my soul like new morning sunshine and I felt the fresh start of a new day–dark turning to dazzling white.

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Saturday night we went to our big Presbyterian church and heard the wonderful, immensely talented choir sing selections from Handel’s Messiah. When the choir breaks into the “Hallelujah Chorus”, I get goosebumps galore. My hands want to be very un-Presbyterian like and reach for the air because that song is praise music that bursts skyward toward heaven.

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If I’m working and have a looming deadline, I usually prefer instrumental Christmas music (songs with lyrics sometimes distract me because I can’t help but sing along). David Nevue’s entire album, O Come Emmanuel, sparks creativity. David plays with such phrasing and musicality that I can’t help but move into his music–which helps me move into inspiration. Another (mostly) instrumental Christmas album favorite is A Family Christmas by The Piano Guys (which contrary to their name is piano and cello). It’s an album whose driving tempo also coaxes the words from my brain to my fingers.

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When I make dinner in the evening this time of year, I love to have an array of music playing from the Boston Pops to Pentatonix to Brad Paisley’s Christmas albums. Brad’s song that our family refers to as “the Politically Correct Christmas Song” cracks my kids up (and their parents). The Boston Pops version of “Sleigh Ride” is my all time favorite rendition of that song, and the entire album is rich like velvet. Pentatonix’s album is amazing for a hundred different reasons…brilliant and diverse compositions, perfectly blended voices, and gorgeous phrasing to name a few. Not surprisingly, the tone of music playing during dinner prep is directly proportional to the kind of day I’ve had.

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And finally, while I am not the biggest fan of Frozen‘s “Let It Go,” I love this performance of it (I enjoy Pentatonix’s fun  recording of it, too). On their own, it’s my general opinion that Idina and Jennifer are rather nasal-y singers–not my favorites. But for some reason, they work together here. (Maybe two wrongs do make a right? Kidding!) Both these women are immensely talented.

 Of course, there’s many more albums and songs. Which ones are your go-to selections this time of year?

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