Since Thanksgiving, I’ve
1. deeply offended my husband
2. neglected to extend sympathy to a friend in need
3. demanded too much from one of my dearest friends.
I’m sure someone could add additional grievances to that list, but I feel badly enough about myself, so let’s just leave it be.
As I was frantically texting apologies to my friend yesterday, I thought, “What is wrong with me?”
I know myself. When I’m not happy about someone’s good news or can’t feel empathy for a friend who is hurting, I know I’m spiritually ill. Sometimes I call it the Facebook test and hop on the feed just to take my spiritual temperature.
The symptoms are there–a general sense of unease, difficulty organizing my time, decreased patience and compassion. And a glance at the calendar confirms my suspected diagnosis of Overwhelmed Woman/Mother/Human During the Holiday Season. If I don’t take precautions now, I’ll muddle through the next month feeling terrible about myself and hurting the people I love.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the “Light the World” initiative on mormon.org. I love the simplicity and beauty of ‘serve anyone you like, any way you like.’ We sat down as a family on Monday night and planned ways we could serve throughout the month. Within half an hour my daughter planned 24 out of 25 acts of service. But for all the women and mothers like me who might get slightly too ambitious, I’d like to offer this gentle reminder– serve yourself first.
Actually, let’s drop the “gentle” in that sentence. I want you, I want me, to FIGHT for your own spiritual renewal each day this month. Make scripture reading and meaningful prayer a top priority, steal time to meditate and commune with God, delete “Santa Baby” and turn those Christmas carols all the way up, skip out on an obligation and attend the temple. Buy cookies from the store for the ward party, miss one of your kid’s choir performances, leave the house undecorated, do whatever it takes to fill your life with the Spirit.
Because, and we all know this, none of it counts–none of the lights or food or gifts– if we mistreat our loved ones. My son might think he wants a Lego set, my daughter dreams of a typewriter, but more than anything they want the calm, happy mother who plays checkers with them and cuddles by the fire.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most stressful for many people. We’re spending more money than usual, we’re racing from one event to the the next and we’re often in tricky social situations. If you think about it, we should be taking the same sort of precautions for our spiritual health that we do to prevent illness. The same way we wash our hands before eating and bundle up for the cold we should whisper prayers before parties and scribble thoughts in our scripture journals each day.
So often we talk about putting God first in our lives as a sort of sacrifice, but I’d like to suggest that putting God first translates into the very best kind of self-care. When we allow our Heavenly Father to guide us, we steer closer to the person we truly want to become. And during this season when we celebrate our Redeemer, the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel, I’m still asking Him for spiritual gifts and drinking deeply of His grace.
Treating people with kindness remains my primary goal every day, but I rely on the calming influence and insightful decision making abilities I derive from scripture study and prayer. I’m looking forward to serving in new ways this Christmas season, but for the sake of everyone around me I’ll be spending time with the Lord before I inflict myself on the rest of you.
How do you maintain peace during the Christmas season?