Monday, December 28, 2015

Smelling the Roses

So, I know it's technically not the "Christmas Season" anymore but we can celebrate Jesus' birth all year, right? I had intended to post this last week (before Christmas) but it didn't happen. So I'm posting it today with the idea that it can apply to the rest of the year too. :)

The weather in Virginia has been going absolutely crazy these past couple months. One day, you'll need two pairs of socks and a huge fuzzy coat and the next, it's 60 degrees. Literally.

Despite the abnormality of the climate here, I've been taking a lot of walks lately. Now, we don't live out in the country or on the beach or anything like that. We live in a regular old neighborhood with regular old houses. There aren't huge open fields lining every street or forests surrounding single houses, isolating them from the rest of the world. Basically, it's not a city but it's not the country either. Sort of a happy medium.

Back to walking. I got an mp3 player for Christmas last year and I love listening to audio books or music while I walk and run. You know, just something to occupy my mind. I was listening to a particular song while I was out walking a couple days before Christmas and it really struck me. Unfortunately, I can't remember what song it was or even the exact lyrics. (One more reason I wanted to post this earlier - when I could remember everything I wanted to say :)

The song was about how we get all wrapped up in our busy crazy lives and don't stop to just take things in. I thought it was particularly appropriate for Christmas because of all the extra parties, shopping, and insanity that comes along with the season.

When the song came on, I was at the top of a hill. It was a regular street with regular houses. But between all the regularity, there was something spectacular. Behind the row of mundane houses was a cow pasture. In that moment, it was the most beautiful cow pasture in the world. The hills were dark with grass and tall weeds. The deep, stormy sky was dipping down to meet the rough ground. Clouds looked textured and swirled and even the simple fence around the field had an aspect of peace and rest to it.

As the singer described slowing down and appreciating what God has given us, I almost had to stop for a minute just to take it all in. I hadn't been appreciating everything. I was all caught up in worrying about school and how much I had to get done and even about Christmas.

But God didn't give us Christmas just so that we would have another thing to fuss over and twist into stressful "celebrations." If He had wanted us to get all worked up over yet another thing, He could have given us an extra mid-term or maybe a new flu shot. But He didn't. Instead, He gave us His Son.

This might sound cliche, but Jesus really was the best Christmas present ever. Too often we just pass over the story of His birth as another tradition to get through before we can open presents. The story has been told and retold so many times that we're numb to it. Unlike X-boxes, there's not a new version every year to focus our attention.

What if we stopped getting caught up in all of the little things that add up around December 25 each year? What if instead we just paused for a moment and let God fill us with His peace, love, rest? I'm not saying that the yearly Christmas party and gift exchange are bad things - I certainly don't plan on giving back the journal I got! Those can be good things. But maybe if we take the time to be filled with the peace of God not just once, but on a regular basis, this time of year would mean more.

Why stop there though? God didn't just give us Jesus for the 25 days that we get to open an advent calendar. Jesus is always there, ready for us to turn our attention to Him.

I've spent a lot of my Christmas break so far worrying about and doing school. That's not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself but I was trying to do it of my own strength and power. Guess what - it doesn't work. No matter how many hours I spent organizing and chipping away at my long list, the crossed off tasks didn't give me any joy. If anything, I couldn't wait for Christmas break to be over so that I could get even more work done.

But then God used a devotional book over and over for weeks to show me that He is there for me. I can rest in Him. He knows exactly how much I have to get done today and how He wants me to do it. Maybe the list won't get finished. Maybe it will. But it doesn't really matter. I've learned something better than why Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities. I've learned to just take a break. Look at the beauty surrounding me and thank God for it. Let Him fill me with peace and joy and rest.  Accept those gifts and don't push them away. Stop and smell the roses.