Christmas 2004 brought me a gift I’d never experienced: shingles. Shingles are a nerve infection caused by the chickenpox virus, resulting in areas of painful rash covered with blisters. It lays dormant for years but rears its ugly head just when you really need a break — in times of high stress. I had a wide band of blisters around the right side of my waist that was so painful that it was almost unbearable for anything (even clothing) to touch it.
Why the outbreak?
We had just packed up and made an inter-state move with our family of seven a few months before (children ages 1, 4, 6, 8 and 10.)
I had barely finished decorating our new house when it was time to take some of those things down to put Christmas decorations up.
I volunteered to host forty people for the minister’s Christmas party sit-down dinner.
My two-year-old daughter was having some serious set-backs in her potty-training.
We bought a new puppy, who became my simultaneous “potty”-training project.
Normal extra Christmas activities needed to be done…there were cards to write, gifts to buy and wrap, baking to do, concerts to attend….
Now, any one of the above could cause high stress in and of themselves, but I had the major combo working against me that year. I got through it and the shingles faded by New Year’s, but this was not a model year for me celebrating the heart of Christmas, the peace and joy that our newborn King brings!
Since that time each December I have first of all not done things like volunteer to host forty people for a sit-down dinner five days before Christmas or buy a new puppy a week before Christmas. But I have tried to discipline myself to keep the heart of Christmas in every day of December. If the peace and joy start to slip, I try to make an adjustment.
That means I will go to bed on time (almost!) in order to get much-needed rest even though the cards aren’t written and the baking I had hoped to accomplish isn’t done. I will have quality time with my family and not focus soley on marking off things on my list each day. I will stop to rest, sit by the fire, drink some hot chocolate every once in a while (it may only be for ten minutes, but it is good for my soul!)
This last week my friend Karen, whose daughter is getting married Dec. 18 (talk about a stressful season) shared with me one way they simplified. Her daughter had hoped to give away small trees at the reception to every family who attends her wedding. This would mean shipping in hundreds of small trees, storing them (and keeping them alive!), transporting them to the wedding in a trailer and then arranging them in a tree shape on a table. After prayer, they decided to go a simpler route. The bride and groom both have a heart for missions. Instead of buying the trees, they are giving the same amount of money to missions projects in honor of their guests. It will be noted in the program…and done.
Will you join me in the goal for peace and joy-filled December days? Most likely you might need to simplify in order to do this. Think about what changes you can make to make things easier on yourself. For those of you with little ones, you will need to do some extra-simplifying to make it through the season with joy and peace. And let me know how you do. Now, please excuse me while I give myself ten minutes to sit at the piano to play some favorite hymn arrangements, in my Savior’s honor.
For to us a child is born…and he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.