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Making Christmas special is what most parents aim for with their kids. What I’m about to share is something I wished I had learned years ago with my son. It’s the proven, no-fail Christmas gift that is sure to make every Christmas special.
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. We all know this. And the stores love this! I’ve been sucked into Black Friday, store sales, and crowds; anxiety took residency and what was supposed to be fun turned into frustration. In fact, this year I thought I’d avoid crowds and shop online. It was convenient to shop while eating pancakes, but I soon realized I fell prey to the timed sales and limited deals.
My body temperature increased as the minutes slipped away and my mind swirled not being able to make a decision. Before I knew it I was sweating through my comfy pajamas! What the heck was happening to me? My husband even said, “They got ya!” He got that right. The shopping hoopla had its grip on me. The kick-in-the-pants is that it the time spent got me NOWHERE. In fact, I had taken that whole morning with my face in the computer missing out on hanging with my son and walking our dog. And you know what? I ended up returning half the stuff when they arrived on my doorstep.
Don’t me get wrong, gifts are fun to give. Gifting is, in fact, some people’s love language. On a side note, in case you didn’t know, there are five defined love languages and each is unique on its own. If you don’t know your love language or the language of your family members, I highly recommend Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages.”
The Perfect Christmas Gift
Picking out the ‘perfect’ toy for your child, something that is unexpected and so exciting is where the magic happens…at least in the moment of buying, wrapping, hiding and then opening. But then what?
Let me put this way, in five years is your child going to remember that toy she played with for maybe four weeks? Is she going to even remember who gave it to her? In some cases, she might. But in most cases, she won’t. The real magic isn’t a tangible item, it’s something more valuable.
Ultimate Christmas Story
Let me tell you a story I heard years ago that I wished I absorbed better. Here’s my second chance. I hope you enjoy it.
It was in the early evening of December 20th. A father and his young son were planning a trip to the city. They had a checklist of all the things they wanted to see and do; the big Christmas tree, the street decorations, ice staking at the city center, Christmas cookies at Carla’s Bakery, hot chocolate at the “Reindeer Barn”, and most of all the toy store where the son got to pick out his present.
The dad was excited to show his son all the sites and to buy him the perfect present at the store. And the son, well, he just couldn’t wait to get to the toy store. He’d say, “Dad let’s do the store first!” The father would reply, “No. We don’t want to carry the gift around all night.” Yet the son persisted throughout the day leading up to the downtown venture. “Dad, I can carry it. I promise I’ll be careful.” We all know the real answer to that, not happeningfella. The dad was starting to get a little annoyed that his son only wanted to go to the store, but he reminded himself that he was just a being a kid.
Uh Oh! Or Not So?
After brushing a fresh blanket of snow off the car, they hopped in their seats and performed their ‘system checks’. “Hat?” the father asked, “Check” replied the son. “Gloves?” “Check”. “Phone?” “Check”. “Wallet?” “Check”. All systems were a go. The key went into the ignition, the dad’s grip got stronger, and turned key upward. Nothing happened. He tried again, but this time he pushed on the gas just to see. Complete quietness. Not even a click. The dad took in a big breath, looked at the son, exhaled and said, “Looks like we need a new plan.”
The son thought the trip was off, no toy store, no nothing. His eyes started to sting and his throat got tight. They headed back inside the house, the son sat on the couch and flipped channels. After about five minutes the dad looked at his son and said, “Grab your boots, we’re not going to let a broken-down car stop us!” They put on their hats, gloves, and coats and started to walk down the sidewalk. The son asked, “Are we going to walk there? It’s so far!” His dad said, “Nope, we’re going to ride the city bus. We’re just walking to the bus stop.”
When the father and son got on the bus, they sat in the middle side by side. The bus driver announced they were headed to the heart of the city, and off they went. During the ride, the son and father played “I spy”, they talked about the silly dog sitting in the seat across the aisle, they looked at Christmas lights on buildings and homes they passed, they played a game of “Would You Rather”, and lots of giggles where shared.
They made it to the city and saw the beautiful tree. Lights alone the sidewalk sparkled. They ate Christmas cookies and drank hot chocolate. Everything on the list was being checked off. The last stop before heading home was the infamous toy store. The son walked through the doors and his eyes got wide. They spent at least an hour in the store before the son carefully picked out his present. The father with a full heart bought him the gift and they walked back to the bus stop.
On the bus ride home the son asked, “Would you rather ride Rudolph or be Rudolph? Would you rather drink one cup of hot chocolate every day for a year or eat 10 candy canes in an hour?” When they arrived at their final stop, they wished the bus driver a Merry Christmas and started to walk home. As the son and father held hands, the dad asks his son, “What were your top three favorite things of the whole night?” The son replied, “Playing ‘Would You Rather’, laughing, and the best of the best was riding the bus with my dad.”
melts my heart. The son didn’t mention the toy; he didn’t mention cookies or
hot chocolate. His son said that it was the time his dad spent with him that was
the most special. The dad didn’t see
that coming. My friends, ‘time’ is the real magic. It’s a gift that will last a
lot longer than a plastic toy or video game for that matter.
When I can’t shut the mind off I sometimes experience ‘anxiety anaphylaxis’; sounds worse than it is, I just get super moody. Why does this happen to me? I can sum it up in one word: BUSY. When it comes to being a mom, ‘busy’ is born right along with your little one. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE being a mom and I don’t mind being busy every once in awhile, but it’s when BUSY takes over that I can’t think straight, my ‘to-do’ list turns into ‘to-do’ book, and the calendar looks like someone threw-up on it. Been there?
Busy Badge – not so
was a noun it would be a ball-and-chain latched to my ankle. I don’t see ‘busy’
as a badge of accomplishment; I see it as a stock or pillory. Here’s why: ‘Busy’ is yearning to do things you want to do without
having the time to do them. That’s my version of the definition.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary says ‘busy’ is: engaged
in action, occupied. Here’s the difference between the two definitions,
when I’m ‘engaged in action’ with an activity I want to do, I’m not ‘busy’, I’m free. You might need to read that again to let it sink in.
How do we do it?
How do we shut the mind off to have the freedom to work on the things that bring purpose into our lives? Personal development? Or on the flip-side, how to not think about anything?
pretty good at being able to turn their minds off. My husband and I will be
having coffee, talking right along then five minutes of silence go by so I ask
what my husband is thinking; and he says, “Nothing”. Seriously? Mark Gungor,
author and motivational speaker, has an excellent and hilarious way of
describing the differences between men and women’s minds. For instance, men
have this thing called the ‘Nothing Box’. I mean, what the heck is that? You
can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWiBRL-bxiA so funny.
5 Effective Ways for us ladies
But how do us ladies go about finding how to shut the mind off?
1. Change environments. Escape from the environment that is causing you to constantly think of your to-do list, or the problem you’re facing. For instance; for me I need to step away from the house. Because I’m a stay-at-home-mom I live in my work. So when I’m at my house it’s natural for me to always have a project going. For short term results, I’ll go to my favorite store and wonder. I didn’t say buy stuff, just window shop. For long term effects, we get out of town; and for my family that means camping. If you’re stuck inside get some amazing wall art and lose yourself in the picture. Because I live in Michigan I rarely see the beach, so I go the beach wall.
2. Write things out. Putting it down on
paper makes things more do-able. We
humans tend to let our mind get away from us. We play-up our tasks way harder
than they really are. Yet, when we get it down on paper it helps calm our neurons. I personally enjoy taking a clean
sheet of copy paper, grabbing a pencil, and drawing a circle. From the circle I
create branches of all the things I’m thinking about…primarily my to-do list or
ideas…then I break those branches into smaller do-able bites. Or go the
traditional route and invest in a journal, here’s a fun
3. Converse with God. Talking with God
helps me release the chains and give them to Him. Did you catch what I said?
“Talking with God, not at Him or to Him, but with, like a friend talks with a
friend. He wants a relationship with you, he wants to hear your side of the
story, and he wants to help you. All you need to do is talk with Him. For
instance, I escape to my favorite walking place and pray while I’m walking. For
me, hearing my voice speak rather than trying to sort it all out in my mind
helps me focus on the conversation. Then I stop talking and just listen; this
gives me a breather and a chance for God to breath into me. I enjoy Jesus
Calling as a nice
devotional to help hear His voice.
4. Watch a good show. There is no better
feeling than turning on a movie at my fingertips. The comfy clothes come on and
my ‘please don’t ask me anything’ time starts. When we are entertained it gives
us a time to relax and just be. Our brains need it, especially to sleep. It’s a
chance we get to wander out of our reality and into a story. Here’s a tip, be picky of what you put in your brain.
If you’re looking to just feel good and float on a cloud, don’t choose The Silence of the Lambs; maybe try La La Land, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or
Steel Magnolias. If you don’t have a Smart
TV a Fire
TV Stick is the way
to go. It’s super easy to get Netflix, hulu, and prime video to name a few…and
cheaper! Ask yourself what you want to get out of a show before you start
channel flipping. And yes, it’s true, what you put in your mind affects how
you think, and how you think affects how you act.
5. Create. Creativity gets your mind off
the stress and into a different state of being. Entrepreneur.com has a great article on the benefits of putting our
creativity to use. There are scientific studies on how it can reduce stress. Psychologist,
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, says that when
you “lose yourself” in the composition of a song (creating)…, you are
essentially entering a healthy flow state. No
wonder I feel so great after I create something. Experiment in the kitchen,
rearrange your furniture, color,
create a playlist…we all have creative
I challenge you to tap into at least two of the above suggestions this week to shut the mind off. Ask yourself what do I need to let go to give myself the time I need? Want more about ‘busy’, check-out this post.
If we looked at life purpose on a smaller scale, how do you think that would affect the way we’re living each day? Would you even allow a little time in your schedule to work on it? I have two questions to guide you to answers.
In case you missed it
In my last
post I asked 3 insightful questions pertaining to our life purpose: What was it that blindsided you to lose
sight? What are you putting into your mind that effects your actions? What
motivates you? Life purpose is an enormous and sometime’s sensitive topic
to undertake. Many times people make it more complicated than it needs to
be…I’m guilty of that…however when we break it down into smaller discoveries
our own individual purpose has a chance to bloom.
in Matthew 22:30-31 that the greatest commandment was to: Love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor
How to understand Love.
The question of “What is love?”comes into being here. Golly, love is another massive topic! This is probably why ‘life purpose’ can be complicated. There are many different facets of love. According to the ancient Greeks there are eight different kinds: Unconditional, Romantic, Affectionate, Self-love, Familiar Love, Enduring, Playful, and Obsessive Love. But when it comes to life purpose which one of those ‘loves’ is greater? What one will people remember most? What one will have the biggest impact on your life and others?
If there is anyone who knows how to educate us on life purpose it’s Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church. He wrote “Purpose Driven Life” and “What On Earth Am I Here For?” Excellent reads. Over 50 million copies have been sold. He goes to the Bible on this topic and gives understanding in a down to earth approach. Pastor Rick says, “When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of their life that you will never get back.”
The ultimate hack to life purpose
gives us a clue to life purpose. It’s TIME. The greatest gift you can give
someone is your time, says Rick. Time is the most precious aspect of life,
because without time, we don’t exist. Yet, without love we feel
like we don’t exist. And when we feel like we don’t exist, we lose sight of our
identity and become somebody we’re not meant to be. This is some pretty deep
stuff, but this piece of our lives is more important than anything else.
Because it’s love that gives us life and
giving your time is love. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul says, “And now these three
remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Gosh, what does that look like? I could go into the “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, but he does a better job at explaining it than I do. Again, another must read for strengthening relationships and understanding love. Let’s switch gears for a minute to get more clues.
Two questions for your life purpose:
1- What do you already know that you were made to do? Think about what you’re really good at. What do you do in-which you lose track of time because you’re enjoying yourself so much? What exercises your gifts and skills? If you don’t know, ask someone to help you. Look back on your life or even your day and write down the things that gave you joy and a sense of meaning. It doesn’t need to be big events or accomplishments, it can be as small as producing a smile from a store clerk. My recommendation is to check out this book “S.H.A.P.E” see if there are any clues that surface. It’s actually really fun.
2- What audience do you connect with
generations, middle aged, or seniors? You could go further with demographics but
think about the people you have a heart for, or that you can relate to, or that
stimulates your emotions. This helps you find ‘your people’ to love on.
What is life purpose?
The way I see it is if we made someone else’s day a little brighter by giving them our time and gifted touch, then we lived our purpose for that day. In other words, Life purpose is loving others with your time while using your God-given gifts. Ask your Creator to give you more clues on moving forward with your life purpose, but don’t be afraid to step out in faith. This is not a destination, it’s a daily practice. I hope I got you thinking. Below are the books I mentioned.
Life purpose is an enormous topic. The best way to approach it is step-by -step. Many of us think that when we figure it out, we’ll have this euphoric experience; I know I have thought so, but it isn’t necessarily like that. ‘Purpose’ is truly a passion of mine. And my goal is help people navigate their way to ‘meaning’. This is by no means a blog post to answer life purpose, gosh, I can’t answer that; but today you will get a good start on figuring it out.
There is no special timing on diving in on this topic, but this time of year is strange. When I did a keyword search on the word “purpose”, the month of November was the highest month people searched for it. Maybe it’s because summer-fun is over and winter holidays are coming? I don’t know. So how do we get our drive back?
thing we’re going to want to ask is: what
does purpose mean to me? Let me help you by narrowing it down by category. What
area do you feel you need more purpose?
You may have more than one answer, that’s okay, it’s normal. Just write down the most pressing and ask yourself these three insightful questions:
The Blindside – Question 1
What was it that blindsided you? When we get stuck, there is something that caused us to get off the road. We just don’t get stuck from nothing. Identify what contributed to where you are now. Was it an illness, a loss of a loved one, a financial dropout, a divorce, an injury, abuse, car accident, demotion, addiction, or a career change?
When we can identity what
happened and when it happened, we’ll get a better understanding of the mind
shift that occurred.
Knowing this information we can now approach our immobilization with a
different tactic to free ourselves of the muck. And most of the time that is
with the opposite effect you felt. For instance, if an illness changed your
game, wellness and good health need to fill that hole. If abuse was the factor,
love and trust come heal the wound. Here’s the money of it all: we must not let the event win. Our goal
is to use the event to better ourselves and others. God never wastes a hurt.
The Mind Games – Question 2
With this being said, let’s get started to overcome. Paying attention to our thinking is a huge jumpstart. Rick Warren says, “The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act.” This is so true.
Question 2 is:What are you putting into your mind? Are you replaying the trigger? Watching the news? Listening to BS? How is what you’re hearing and watching affecting how you treat others? How is it impacting your health?
If you want
to feel better, that’s right, you need
to want to feel better, then replace what you put in your mind with
better memories, positive shows, good conversations and amazing music. Part 2
of 2 is when we start working on the mind, we can begin working on the body. I’m
an advocate for a healthy body, a happy size, and a simple menu. When we look
good, we feel good and that’s motivation in itself. But it first begins in your
head. If you want to learn an easy way to do this without the overwhelm, enroll
in the My Wellness Way course today.
The Stimulant – Question 3
Speaking of motivation. What motivates you? When I’m done sulking in my stuck-ness…yes, its okay to have a pity party but for only one day…1 DAY! As for motivation I need something or someone to motivate me to move. Self-motivation is a hard thing to do. It’s not impossible it’s just harder to train for the marathon, stick to the diet, meet the work goals, go after the dreams, etc. If you can’t find someone to hold you accountable or to keep you on track, turn to motivational speakers. Here are two short videos I thought you might like:
Okay, so we
know what area we want to work in. We know what our turning point was. We know
that our mind plays a big role in moving forward. Let’s shift and ask what is missing in all these things?
The Foundation of Purpose
please: Do you see what is missing? Even if you think you know, look under that
In 1 John 4:8, John says “God is love.” Whether you’re conscious of it or not. Love is the bottom line. Love for ourselves, love for others, and the love to embrace our gifts to make things happen. God created you out of love and wants you pass it on. Do you see it? Think about that for a minute.
that leaves a legacy. Look at Mother Teresa, John Muir, Nelson Mandela, and the
people who have influenced you in your life. They didn’t spend their time on
you because they were selfish, they poured into you out of love. I’ll leave you
that to think about. Until next time, answer those questions and ask God to
reveal a clue to your unique path.
Challenges build character, right? I try to remind myself of
that every time a ‘crisis’ rises. But why are we so hard on ourselves when
trials surface? Part of the reason is perfectionism. Impatience comes to play. Then
anger seeps into the equation. With all these feelings spinning, we lose sight
of how to get through it. God put us on this planet to teach us, to love us,
and to get us ready for eternity. One of the ways He demonstrates His
confidence in us is through grace.
A few years ago I was talking with my husband about my physical ailments. You see as a kid, my deep desire was to achieve optimal health. I exercised, I ate well, and I wanted to run a marathon. Then disease kicked in. As a kid I got sick numerous times a year, as a young adult I fracture my hip which has left me ‘run-less’, and later in life my immune system attacked my digestive health; among other unforeseen troubles, my dream was turning into dust or was it? As I was going through my list of hurts, my husband said something I’ve heard many times but for some reason it struck a chord in me that day. He said, “You gotta play the cards you’re dealt.” It was a way of reminding me that I’m not in control, yet to trust the One who is; and that I have a choice to fold my cards or to keep on playing them.
Right now in this post, I’m probably supposed to tell you to not “fold your hand”; but it’s in the folding of our hands where we learn how to play. When we ask God for help in our hardships, He helps us find the right path to run down…if we’re willing to step in that direction. So yes, fold when you have to, not to get out of the game, but to study the game and learn a better strategy.
Grace wants to play
There are times when we need to be our own advocate when it comes to our health. I made it my mission to get healthy. With this quest, I tried a lot of things and failed. I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’m not giving up. This is where grace gets dealt into the game. When we’re in a swirl of emotions, it’s critical to get some space to find the grace. And it’s there in which all becomes clearer and we get wiser with our decisions.
What ‘grace’ am I talking about? The grace of civility towards ourselves; when we’re going through a rough season, remember to love-on yourself, not to punish or blame you. Be good to yourself, respect your well-being, and understand where you are and where you want to go; because it’s in those moments of grace, where the untangling begins, and where we see what cards to play next.
One late August I rediscovered how to wrap myself with a little grace. To transition from a busy summer to starting the school year, my family and I went camping. We hooked up the RV (don’t judge me, we got our tent badge years ago) and settled in a wooded campsite. Faint smells of last night’s campfires drifted under my nose, the quaking leaves and distance boat motors rested on my shoulders. And the canopy of trees comforted my busy head. That weekend I made it a point to go for a walk at least twice a day, not for exercise, but for rest.
As I walked through the sun beamed shadows my mind went back
to my roots. As a child I played in the woods for hours on end. My imagination
soared between the branches. And my energy and creativity glowed with every
step I took. It was there where I felt like I could accomplish anything, where
I felt strong and confident, where I felt healthy. And here I was once again in
the mindset I needed to continue to take-on.
The power of your refuge
My childhood goal for optimum health gave me a run for my money. My body has failed me over and over; funny how that works. If God wants me to have good health, He’s not going to give it to me on a silver platter; He knows I’m smart. He knows that if I want it bad enough, I’m going to use the gifts He gave me to figure it out. When I face a new challenge with my health, I head to the woods and fold my hands. I can’t stress enough of how many times I’ve heard Him speak and direct my path of who I need to talk to next, or what to try, or with even getting a last minute appointment. It’s been in my special sanctuary where I get instruction on what cards to play next.
God puts our special place of refuge in each of our hearts; mine is walking down a lined path of trees. Yours may be the beach, the mountains, the lake, the prairie, the park, the farm, or the river. Think of where you feel your best in nature, then go there for a dose of grace. You just may find your card strategy in reaching your goals and get a rekindle under feet.