I am not sending out Christmas cards this year. No last-minute family photo, scanning card options, or making my own. My soul is craving simplicity and minimalism coupled with meaning this year, and the cards aren’t making the cut. On another year, they would have, but this time, no. And that’s okay.
It’s important to listen to your soul during the holidays.
In her podcast episode “Quit Something”, Emily Freeman says, “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it forever.” I have been good at over-decorating, over-buying, over-planning and offering too many traditions. Sometimes we think that our Christmas might not be “meaningful” or special or magical if we don’t offer all the things that we have always offered.
Here’s some good holiday grace: You are never stuck.
There is no rule or judge that will deem you a failure if you step away from the Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas pajamas, the handmade gifts, or the Advent readings. You have great freedom to change Christmas for yourself and your family according to your health, your season of life, and your personal sanity. No one will fall apart or have the worst Christmas ever or have a scarred psyche if you change things up.
There are no holiday rules. Repeat that 20 times.
The best parts of Christmas for me are the coziness, the twinkling, the candles, the smells, the warmth, the music, the games + puzzles, reading, and connecting. I need more of that with my family and less shopping, creating, wrapping, and mailing. Every year looks different. Our capacities change with age, season, and health. We don’t need to grit our teeth, power through, and make merry happen when our hearts are filled with dread.
What is your soul telling you about Advent? Where do you feel stuck? What “tradition” can you let go of this year to make space for peace? What honest conversation do you need to have with your family about where you are and what to expect?
Today is December 1st. Let’s begin this month with clarity in our souls and peace on our agendas. May we move to a holiday rhythm of lightness, restraint, and simplicity. Let’s offer ourselves to others, our best selves, not the cranky, stressed, perfectionistic versions that don’t do us or anyone else any good. May our next right thing be to offer our presence, filled + overflowing, kind + wise, joyous + generous, all the best parts of us, to everyone we meet, starting here in our own little homes.
I haven’t done much in the way of self-care this semester. My days are filled with teaching, managing, and serving while my evenings filled with practices, games, and meetings with a date night thrown in here or there. My personal rhythms for my soul and body haven’t kept pace with what my schedule says is the next thing to do.
Somehow by canceling two different meetings and arranging rides, I was able to get to Holy Yoga this week. Sometimes getting what you need takes a lot of work, communication, and the help of others. I came to my yoga mat feeling worn and frayed. I prayed before I walked in, “Jesus, would you meet me on my mat?”
I felt relieved when the instructor (that word doesn’t describe her though…she is more a kind + bold guide for body + soul) said that the evening would be a slower flow than usual. Gentler. I sighed a deep prayer of thanks. After some beginning stretches, she read from the end 1 Peter 2 in The Message:
He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.
As we breathed and moved our bodies, Jesus kept whispering, “Aimee, you have been the shepherd of your own soul. This is an invitation to let me shepherd you, your mind, your emotions, your desires, your tender places. I shepherd and delight in those soul places in you. You have no idea who I know you as and where I want you to go. Let me call you Beloved, keep you close, and tend you well.”
As these verses were repeatedly read, my heart was kindled and vulnerable. By the time we reached the end when we lie on our mats under a blanket in silence for about fifteen minutes, I had a steady stream of tears leaking down the sides of my face. I hadn’t felt that near and seen by Jesus in so long. It was as if He were sitting cross-legged near me saying the Truth about Himself and about me. The Good News is that Jesus doesn’t only care about what we do, where we go, and how we obey in this world, but He wants to tend our souls, the hidden places of ourselves, as a Kind Shepherd tends vulnerable, confused sheep.
His wounds became our healing. Our wounded Savior wants to come alongside each one of us and heal, ridding us of stubborn sin and setting us free, naming us and keeping us for good. If there is one thing I am learning this Fall, it’s that intimacy with Him can happen in the busiest of seasons as we make space to be open to Him as we sit and as we rise, as we go out and as we lie down.
I don’t have hours of solitude, quiet, or time alone. I have minutes as I drive, as I wash dishes, as I shower, as I wait at a practice. I have stopped using these times to get on my phone and have begun using these small moments to choose openness, listening, being. I have stopped bringing an agenda or ideal of what spending time with God looks like, and instead, I am wasting time with Him. I am learning to be a daughter, a friend, a companion of Christ. It is simple but not easy. I can’t see any “growth” or “fruit” or measurable outcomes that my production-oriented self craves. My soul simply is becoming quieter, less scared, more peaceful, more at ease with Presence than Quiet Time Production.
As we walk deeper into October, may we recognize that all of our crazy thoughts, mixed-up feelings, and the creative ideas of our souls have a Shepherd that wants to tend them. He’s as close as our breath, as near as anyone can be. His Spirit has made a home within us, has tender access to it all, and promises to keep our souls for good. Amen.
Do you ever feel hidden and tucked away?
My first experience of this is when I had two small children. I had stopped doing full-time ministry, lived far away from family and friends, and was trying to figure out my identity. I have never forgotten a Bible Study I attended at that time where the teaching leader spoke from the book of Matthew and reminded us that we didn’t know much about Jesus before the age of 30. He had been “hidden” away, growing in stature and wisdom. She encouraged us who felt like we were unseen by reminding us that God was with us, growing us, and building our character. These years were not wasted.
We all go through these seasons throughout our lives where we feel hidden, usually many times over the course of a lifetime. As a mother-of-many whose schedule is fuller than it has ever been, I recently began struggling with these same feelings again. Am I noticed? Am I known? I know that my work matters and that the investment that I am making at home is good + worthy, but do I matter?
I have been sitting with these questions. And when we sit in vulnerability and allow ourselves some self-compassion and not shame ourselves for these questions, God begins to quietly answer. He cares about our hearts, our insecurities, our fears, and is always, always patient. He loves to shower us with identity and specifically sent us the Holy Spirit to remind us over and again of whose we are and who we are.
I turned on a worship playlist last Wednesday, my parched soul crying out for connection with Christ. This was a Spotify playlist that they curated for me based on the music that I had listened to in the past. The first song that came up was “You Know Me” by Steffany Gretzinger. One of the lyrics is “you know every detail of my life, you are God and you don’t miss a thing” and then at the end she sings the precious three-word phrase: you memorize me.
I also began reading the book Unseen by Sara Hagerty and am still in the middle of it. She and I have walked similar journeys in that we both received identity from being in full-time ministry but then received children (we both have 6!) and life became quiet and hidden which makes us question our worth, our belovedness, our meaning. She reminded me of Psalm 139 where we were not hidden from God when we were formed in the secret places. He made us to be seen, to be known. This is a legitimate need, not a selfish or narcissistic one. And the good news is that He sees us and He knows us. We are never ever hidden from Him even though we may feel hidden and tucked away from the world, from notoriety, from accolades.
If you are struggling right now like I have been in feeling unnoticed and unseen, you can know that Jesus has prepared a table for you. In Luke 14:17 He says, “Come, for everything is now ready.” We have a daily open invitation to come sit with Him, to be known, fed, loved. He offers us eye-contact, warmth, empathy, and connection. He offers us Himself and wants all of you.
No amount of time with friends, likes on social media, date nights, or parties will fill the deeper places that long to be seen and known. The One Who formed us, knitted us, knows those places, loves us tenderly, and invites us to healing, intimacy, and unconditional acceptance. Jesus has memorized you. This is Tuesday Good News!