Christmastime is warm. Gathering in. Holding close. It’s reds and burgundies and golds. It’s pine trees, crackling fires, and hot chocolate. It’s snuggles in front of candles and twinkling lights. It’s sharing and laughter with friends and family. It’s get-togethers and cookies. It’s how can we show you we love you. It’s giving. It’s joyful and it’s silent night, holy night.
It’s a baby like no other child born on this earth. For a believer, it’s an unthinkable grace. A gift beyond hope.
We experience the holiday season in hibernating warmth against the winter cold. In this gathering in and folding our lives around each other and around our traditions. In layer upon layer of wrapped memories. Some beautiful and some painful. All of which we unwrap each year as we add another layer.
It’s that child, that infant laid before an unbelieving nation. Celebrated by peasants, angels and the wise. It’s that child that interrupts our productions because today Christmas is a production. It’s a month of going, doing, running, creating, buying, wrapping, baking, decorating.
It’s a month of trying so hard, in celebration of the child who ultimately makes the trying unnecessary.
If Christmastime is about gathering in, warm, rich colors, flavors, and feelings, my New Years is the opposite. I typically leave for a week at the beach with a friend. It’s a ritual we’ve been practicing for almost 10 years now. We leave behind the trying and we rest. We drink in the expanse and simplicity of the ocean. We let the sea air blow through all corners of our souls. We recover and we prepare. We look both backward and forward. We hold the past year and the coming one in this tension of a between week. This odd week between the old and new.
I planned to give you a practical episode today. But, I feel poetic. The sea does that to me. This gulf that I love, the color that astonishes me all over again every time I see it. It’s simplicity, it’s clean lines and open space. It’s always different, yet unchanging nature. It’s power, it’s mystery and it’s music.
We open the door as soon as we arrive and we never close it. We listen to the waves, no matter what the temperature. It’s almost never warm here in this in-between week. It often rains. I haven’t seen the sun yet this trip, and I don’t care. While I cherish warm family trips full of sunshine, sunscreen, and laughter, I crave this season’s long solitary walks on windswept shores. I need the transition space of this week. I hunger for the moments to face truths in deep conversations, in prayer, and in my journal. This is the place my new year springs from.
This is my ritual. It includes things I love like books, fingers wrapped around a warm cup of tea, delicious meals, and the sound of the ocean. It includes a relationship I cherish and a place I cannot say no to. It gives me time and space to center my heart for the new year.
It’s my pause. My respite. My moment outside of normal. We need a pause. We need perspective, stillness and rest. A time and place to stop running through your life and away from yourself. A time to look with a stilled heart, thoughtful mind and clear eyes. Yes, by all means, play, yes rest also. But take time to consider. Consider your life, your place in the world. If you haven’t done the exercises from the past few weeks, here’s your chance to catch up. Create your 5 commandments. Find your gaps. Practice a pause.
How can you pause?
It can be smaller than mine. It might be an hour to yourself. An evening. A special time, place or person. It might be a change of scenery or it might be a few moments stolen from an everyday place. How much time do you need? More than you think you need, probably. But, start with what you can carve out. It takes days for me to still myself at this time of year. This is my second morning and I’m still fighting to let go. I’m still wound too tightly. Some years it takes more time than others. I expected this to be an easier year, but it’s not. My personal rhythms are off. But, I’ll get there.
How do you prepare your heart for the coming year? What is your ritual? How can you pause?
I’ll be back next week with the practical episode I promised and probably an episode about my love/hate relationship with a word of the year. Then, we’ll jump into the nitty gritty of successful change-making. Love you all for joining me on this journey and I wish you a new year filled with love. Shalom.
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