Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let Freedom Ring in the New Year

I’ve been thinking about choosing my one word for 2014. My word for last year was aspire. It reminded me of possibilities, of hopes, of a pursuit. 

Like taking a pastry class at a Manhattan bakery during my spring trip to New York City. And joining a Facebook group of professional women, linked by the website (in)courage, where we shared our thoughts and encouraged each other. 

And pursuing God. Who was actually pursuing me.

So I’ve been thinking about the year ahead. 

2014. And I’m thinking about freedom. 

Freedom from the vise-like grip of perfection. Freedom from the tentacles of fear. Freedom from the slippery slide into self-recrimination. Freedom from the intensity of self-focus. Freedom from the commentary inside my head. Freedom from discouragement.

I know it seems like a lot to ask of just one year. But maybe I can have the freedom to release what weighs me down. Maybe I can have the freedom for some flexibility. Some elbow room.

Freedom to move forward. Freedom to embrace new opportunities. Freedom to seek God more deeply. Freedom to create. Freedom to write. Freedom to be all that God wants me to be. 

And I want freedom to be brave and bold and fearless and kind and compassionate and understanding too.

So I want freedom in 2014.

So I can freely welcome all that is waiting for me on the brilliant brink of another new year.  

If you’re interested in choosing a word for 2014, visit for inspiration and to connect with others who are choosing a word.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Gift Exchange

When my friend Diana and I spent an evening shopping last week, she invited me to choose a coffee mug for my Christmas gift. 

I loved this idea. She said she already had my gift bag (with my favorite holiday motif of skates), but she just hadn’t gotten the gift yet. 

We often exchange gifts of coffee and mugs since we both have a penchant for them. I gave her a ruffled white mug with a fancy silver spoon I found over the summer. 

So as we shopped, I spotted an adorable mug with a Santa hat that said “May all your days be merry.” She gift-bagged it for me on the spot.

As I unpacked it at home and looked at my holiday coffee mugs, I thought about gifts. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could choose all sorts of gifts? Like the gifts of our strengths and skills that come wrapped around who we are. 

Sometimes I have an easier time thinking of what I’m not instead of recognizing who I am with the specially chosen gifts that God instilled in me. 

And instead of wishing I were different, I want to learn to treasure those gifts. The gifts that are my own personal characteristics. 

That I sometimes would rather return for something better, newer, brighter, more dazzling. When I wish I could have chosen my gifts for myself, I start to think that I know better than God does who I am and what I need. 

What if I looked at who I am differently? What if the gifts I try to cover up and change are the very ones that help me appreciate grace? 

The grace given to me and the grace that I should give to others. My unsparing honesty, my intense temperament, my strong-mindedness. 

Maybe I could also look at them from the other side. To see where the strengths are. I could see them as truth, passion and determination. Good things. 

And if I recognize these characteristics as gifts maybe I can trust that they are all I need to fulfill God's purpose for my life.

I'm sure I’ll still probably spend some time wishing I could exchange those gifts for some others I think I’d rather have. 

But instead I'd like to recognize, enjoy and learn how to better use what I've been given. Because they help me see what God has called me to do in my life. 

So as I drink coffee from my new mug, I’m going to try to make the most of my merry days. 

I don't think anything I could get in return would be as valuable as the gifts I already have. 

No refunds. No exchanges. I'm keeping all the gifts.

Which strengths of yours are the gifts that you’re appreciating this holiday season?

I'm linking up with Emily's Tuesday's Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Need a Little Christmas Now

My halls have been decked for a few weeks. I bought my tree, put it up and decorated it, all before Thanksgiving. 

I’d never done such a thing before. It seemed wrong somehow to see the Christmas lights blinking from my tree before I’d eaten any turkey, watched Thursday afternoon football, and made sure Santa arrived safely at Macy’s front door during the Thanksgiving day parade. 

I’m a traditionalist. Except for when it comes to avoiding a little stress. It seems as if I race around the weekend after Thanksgiving to have my house adorned before December 1. 

So I’ll gladly give up tradition for a little peace and tranquility.

I decorate a live tree because I somehow never feel like buying an artificial one after the holidays. I’m not really sure where I would store it and it seems like it would be dusty when I’d pull it from a box year after year. 

So I buy a live one. I go after work, making sure I’m in a skirt and high heels. I look helplessly around and usually within a few minutes, a man with a saw shows up at my elbow. 

This tree-man is different every year, but every year he does the same things. He asks what kind of tree I want. I tell him very skinny. He stares at me for a second and says that’s different since everyone usually wants a full tree. 

I tell him I must be able to haul it to the curb by myself when the holidays are over. He pulls out skinny-looking trees for me to assess. He usually ignores other shoppers’ pleas for help, even though they've arrived before me. 

Maybe it's because they aren’t wearing a swingy skirt and high heels. 

So this year since I was shopping so early, the tree lot was empty. My tree-man told me he’d just started selling trees that very day and gave me his undivided attention. 

I felt a little silly hauling my tree home a full week before Thanksgiving. I put it up and decorated it that very night. 

I told my mother my tree was up and waited for her to laugh and say that was ridiculously early. But instead she said what a great idea and she should get hers out of the way too. 

Because that’s the way I felt. I wanted it out of the way. I wanted the decorations done. I didn’t really even want to pull them out. 

I get tired of moving my rest-of-the-year d├ęcor to make way for Santas and angels and tiny houses. 

I get tired of figuring out where I put things last year and if I should do the same thing this year. 

I don’t like how it takes me two days to put things back after New Year’s because I can’t remember where they were to begin with. Before I decked the halls.

But then I opened the box with the ceramic Santa that my grandmother made.

She took a ceramics class after she retired and painted dishes and figurines and a Santa Claus. 

I remembered all the years he sat on her table as I took him down to my mantel. I filled his sack with vintage postcards and decided he would be the perfect centerpiece this year. 

I had the mantel cleared and adorned for the holidays in no time. I like looking at his jolly face every time I walk through the living room. 

I think having my tree decorated before Thanksgiving and seeing Santa for an extra week this year won’t be so bad. 

I might even do it again next year. 

And I think I'll make it my new tradition.