This is a season of meaning and activity for many of us. There is a slower pace we long for, but few of us find. Grace and peace are blurred in the midst of expectation and intention. For many of us, loss of some kind is woven into traditions that we are willing ourselves to continue or deciding to set aside for the year.
I experienced the holidays last year at a slower pace, since I was recovering from major surgery. Without realizing it, I think I entered this holidays season with a bit of pressure on myself to get back to some of the routines from before, but I have been greeted with something unexpected – I would gladly skip out on the hustle and bustle for quiet reflection time. In fact, I crave that quiet reflection time and now go out of my way to (wait for it) make space for it. In the last few weeks, there were times I felt alone in this, as dear friends bounced from Christmas party to Christmas party with endless energy. My time with loved ones continues to be a gift in this season, but only if that time contains space for rich and real conversation. My love of the long list of things that need to be done has lessened considerably, and I find myself longing for the things that nourish myself and others. I was reminded earlier this week that I am far from alone in this.
I have always loved the Christmas story. Since I was a young child, I have taken part in and watched countless Christmas pageants. In my opinion, the more chaos, the better. In a world filled with air brushed advertisements, I love the unexpected beauty and beautiful expected chaos when children of all ages are gathered together to act out the Christmas story. In the midst of the wonder and rejoicing, I always take pause when Joseph and Mary are turned away from places to stay for the night, told over and over again that there is no room.
This is the same message that many of us have felt this past year, or have felt at some point in our lives. We are not included at the table, we are not considered to be enough, we do not have enough, we are not welcomed. There is no room. Or, perhaps we grow up with messages already engrained about those around us…they are not included at our table, they are not enough, they do not have enough. they are not welcomed. There is no room.
This is a season for making room, dear ones. Making space in our lives, checking in with our hearts, and looking for meaning and wonder.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes that I’ve turned into a hermit of sorts and hum myself to sleep each night, let me tell you that I struggle. There is never enough time. By nature, I am a gift giver and a list maker. My body and system now demand balance in spaces that I used to push through before, which is a pull and tug every day. In one moment, I am not doing enough, then the next thing I know, it feels like too much.
In December this year, for the very first time , I stop to check in with myself each day, usually around lunch. I make myself sit down, take a few breaths, and then ask myself, “Are you making room?” In that moment, I birds-I-view myself. If I am filling in space and time just for the sake of running around, I stop and change to a slower gear. I am learning that my high gear is not my best gear. When I function from that space, I am not good to myself or people that I love, and I often miss out on moments where I can provide space for others.
In a world that, right now especially, seems hostile and intense, I think we all have to learn how to provide room, not only for others, but also for ourselves.
So, as we celebrate with family and friends in the next few weeks, consider how you are making room in this season and beyond. There is much out of our control that seems big and sometimes dark, but we can carry the light and hope into so many places, simply by opening our hearts.
In the Christmas pageant at my church, the youngest children usually play the part of stars, walking down the aisle and raising their silver stars high into the air, then finding their way into the manger scene. Many years ago, I recall a young girl who was nervous and scared about coming down the aisle with the other stars. She ducked into a pew with her parents instead and was visibly upset. The pageant continued. Toward the very end of the pageant, her outlook must have changed, because she came dancing down the aisle, star raised high, smile beaming on her face. She found a space for herself up front with the others. She was welcomed. There was space. And, surely, the entire experience was brighter for her deciding that she could add her light to the celebration.
Whatever your truth, whatever your faith, I hope you can take some time out in the next few weeks to reflect and be still in this season. It is not what we do, it is who we are that changes the world in small and big ways. There is plenty of room for all, but we have to create and nourish space every day, loving ourselves as we should love others, loving others as we should love ourselves.
“Give me for Christmas, then, your kind of seeing, not studying candles – angels, manger, star – but staring as at a portrait, God’s I guess, that shocks and holds the eye, till all my being, gathered, intent, and still, breathes out in wonder in a wordless yes.” – J.V. Taylor