Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Smile for Christmas

Today I read a thought from a young friend of mine.  It was his honesty thought for the day on Facebook.  He said, "A smile seems small to a happy man.  But a smile seems like the sun in a world of darkness to a man who needs it.  Smile."

This struck me because just yesterday I experienced the down side of this thought.  I was the one who felt the darkness and needed the smiles.  I am happy most of the time and it is pretty easy to smile and be friendly.  But yesterday I felt a touch of depression, that old familiar darkness, something I have not struggled with much for a long time.  It reminded me how much most of us struggle at times.  My friend's statement is so very true.  When I feel happy inside it is so easy to smile, and seems so small.  But when I have been struggling, it takes great energy to smile at someone else, and a smile given from someone else impacts so much deeper. 

Years ago I went through a depression that made it hard to keep going every day.  Some of you have had similar struggles.  There are many reasons for people to struggle with depression.  I believe mine was brought on by a combination of chemical and situation.  There were many dark days when even the simplest of stresses felt completely overwhelming.  As I began to heal there were gradually good days mixed with the bad.  Eventually there were more good days than bad days, and much later mostly good days with an occasional hard day.  For those in that dark place right now, this season of the year can magnify those feelings and struggles even more.

If you are in a place where you can share your smiles easily this season, be grateful and share generously.  You will most likely never know the depth of your impact.  If you are not in a place to give in that way, just hang in there and receive generously the smiles that are shared with you.  Let them go in.  Let them shine a sliver of light inside of you. 

Of all the things you will give this season, a smile may mean more than you know.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How to Make the Season Go Slow

Every year around this time my husband says to me, "This is my favorite time of year.  Let's make the season go slow."  Every year the season does NOT go slow, and on New Year's Day he is always sad that the holidays are over.

Is it possible to slow down the season and make it last?  I would like to suggest that it is.  I have learned a few valuable things to help.

Be aware of what makes this time of year feel special to you.  Take music for example.  One year I discovered that playing Christmas hymns while my children were falling asleep brought that special feeling.  I played hymns on the piano each evening that December, and Christmas felt very special.  The next year I remembered that Christmas music had made the season feel special the year before, so I turned on some Christmas music throughout the day in hopes of recapturing that same feeling.  I quickly discovered that songs like "Santa Baby" and "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" did not bring the same spirit to my home that songs like "O Holy Night" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" did.  I figured out which kinds of Christmas music gave me that magic Christmas feeling, and which did not.

What are the things that you enjoy doing this time of year?  Some people love holiday parties, while other people find them cumbersome and only go out of obligation.  Spend time doing the things that you love and let the rest go.  Most people find there is so much to do that they are scheduled beyond their capacity.  Feel free to pick and choose what is enjoyable and meaningful to you, and don't feel obligated to attend every single event that is offered.

Be very intentional about being present in what you do.  Eat that special holiday treat slowly in small bites and really savor it.  Notice and enjoy the holiday music playing in the stores, and the way the community is decorated.  Enjoy the opportunity to buy people presents.  Take joy in picking them out and wrapping them.  Play Christmas music while wrapping. Soak up and enjoy the moment at music concerts.   Pay attention to people being friendly, and be friendly too.  Appreciate being able to be with friends and family at holiday events, and cherish your time with them.  You will not get these exact moments again.  Children grow and change.  Sometimes people move or pass away.   Cherish this time together.  Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy.

Finally, at the end of every day when you are laying in bed and before you fall asleep pick a favorite thing about your day.  You may be surprised at the joy this can bring you, and the sweet things about the holidays that you will be able to savor.

It's a wonderful time of year.  Slow down and savor it.