A Holiday Hiatus

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Philippians 2:5 NLT

I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, not in the traditional sense anyway.  It’s not for religious reasons it’s simply because I don’t think we need one day to eat turkey and pumpkin pie, watch football with select friends and family and say a few “I’m thankful for’s”.  Personally, I can eat turkey and pie any day I want, football is on TV for several weeks August through January and I should choose to be thankful every day.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not condemn anyone who celebrates this holiday.  I’ve partaken in my share of family gatherings on Turkey Day, overeating and even getting in some pre-Christmas shopping.  But in the past few years, I have chosen to spend Thanksgiving alone.  Most people I share this with are aghast that I am alone on a holiday and some insist I come to their home for dinner because “no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.”  But I actually enjoy being alone that day.  My life is so busy, especially in the fall season that the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) are my guaranteed days to have nothing planned or scheduled and to just be at home.  My children spend every Thanksgiving at a large family party and I take the day to just detach from the hub-bub of a hectic schedule.  On Christmas day, my children are home with me. We spend the day enjoying presents, movies and again, unplugging from busyness-just like Jesus did in His ministry.

The New Testament has many verses on how Jesus would separate Himself from even His disciples to pray and regroup.  Mark 1:35 is one example; “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV)” Luke 5:16 is another great example; “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (NIV)” Jesus often withdrew…why, because He was a very busy, very in-demand man.  Jesus’ ministry consisted of many public engagements across multiple towns.  They didn’t have planes, trains or automobiles back then.  Travel consisted of walking or boat rides.  Distances of 75+ miles (approximately 120 kilometers) were traveled by Jesus and His disciples in any given “road trip.”  Each journey consisted of preaching to multitudes, performing miraculous healings, feeding 4000-5000 people, walking on water and calming storms.  Some journeys consisted of a wedding or family gathering for some Jewish festival or celebration.  Nonetheless if Jesus was in public He was bombarded with people.  Some seeking His healing powers and the truth He preached, others trying to trip Him up and prove His message to be a fraud.  One journey even consisted of a 40 day fast with the devil as His company.

Jesus was God, but He was God in human form.  He grew tired and weary.  He felt the overwhelming responsibility of His ministry and distracting pull away from what’s most important that comes from seasons of busyness.  That is why He was faithful in getting away, even without those He was closest to, simply to regroup, recharge and keep His focus on the reason He was on this Earth.

As the busy Holiday season is fast approaching there’s so much we can get caught up in-planning parties and preparing meals, thawing turkeys and cheering for our favorite football team, choosing the perfect gifts to place under the Christmas tree, decking the halls and spreading Christmas cheer, even thinking about resolutions for the upcoming New Year.  If you’re already an overbooked person like me, adding holiday craze to the agenda can make you feel like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet with a full stomach but having more and more piled on your plate.  If we over eat we get major indigestion that can put us on the sofa twisted in abdominal pain for the rest of the day or until our body digests all that we consumed.  In life, if we are overbooked and don’t escape the “noise” regularly, our bodies wear out and we can get far more severe health issues (physical and mental) that outweigh indigestion.

How truly enjoyable are the holidays when you’re bogged down with a to-do list that’s nearly impossible to accomplish anyway?  Been there, done that and never enjoyed a single holiday when I was in that season.  Now, I love the holidays because I am able to step back and focus on what the real purpose for the holiday season is.  I hope this post encourages you to do the same.  I am not suggesting you cancel all of your obligations or downsize on your Christmas shopping list.  Nor am I suggesting everyone should boycott Thanksgiving like I do.  My hope is that reading this encourages you to make sure you are setting aside time daily, once a week or biweekly (monthly is too far of a gap) to turn off the noise, get away from the hub-bub and decompress.  Human beings are not energizer bunnies that keep going and going and going.  We all need a good recharge. The holiday season is the perfect time to pause, reflect, pray and focus on what’s truly important in this life and the lives of those we are called to serve.

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Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I have a few favorite quotes/sayings in life.  My first would be Mother Teresa’s “Small acts of kindness, done with great love, change the world.”  My second would be Audrey Hepburn’s, “I believe in pink…”  My third would be “Never let anyone dull your sparkle.”  On a side bar- my favorite paraphrase would have to be, “When life hands you lemons, make margaritas.”  I call it a paraphrase because I think it’s actually supposed to say something about lemonade but seriously-if I’m drinking lemonade, it had better have some Patron mixed in it, and served on the rocks in a salted rim glass.  Am I right?  I’m digressing, my apologies.

“Never let anyone dull your sparkle” if taken literally, sounds like something you would say to a Vegas show girl or perhaps a cleaning lady-basically anyone that deals with shining things or wearing glitter.  In reality this quote is simply another way of saying, “Don’t let others steal your joy” or even “Do not let the words or deeds of others define who you are.”  A pretty deep meaning behind a very short quote, don’t ya think?

I gotta be honest with you-my life (as I’m sure some of yours’ also) has been full of “Sparkle Dullers”, “Joy Stealers” and outright pathological jerks.  For years-I defined who I was based on how I was treated, the harsh words spoken to me and on the opinions of my critics.  Basing your self-worth on what someone who doesn’t like you thinks of you is pretty reckless and gives that person too much power over you.  I can’t tell you how many texts and phones calls I’ve made to my friends and few close family members, full of tears and brokenness expressing how much I felt like a total loser and not worthy of anything all because the voices of my critics rang too loudly in my mind.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with friends and family who speak truth into me regularly and have worked diligently to fill me up with words of affirmation, reminders of who I am in Christ, and all around uplifting encouragement.  They never put me down for putting myself down (which by the way is not a helpful tactic.  Putting someone down when they’re already down on themselves only pushes them down lower.)  One friend in particular, calls me a diamond.  Every time I get down on myself, she says to me, “Friend you’re a diamond.  Shine like it.”  But all these words of affirmation and encouragement simply aren’t enough if I don’t choose to believe them over myself.  Believing in ourselves can be a very difficult thing-especially if we’ve spent most of our life believing in what our critics spoke about us.

The truth is-we are all diamonds, we should shine like it AND we should never let anyone dull our sparkle.  For anyone that’s ever owned diamond jewelry, whether it’s a diamond ring, a pair of diamond earrings, or tennis bracelet, they know most people treat diamonds like the beautiful and expensive treasure they are.  Some keep them in special cases, locked in safes, and purchase special insurance to ensure their diamonds are well protected.  They always make sure to clean these precious gems before adorning them to capture the eye (and envy) of every passerby.  Afterall, who doesn’t want to show off their diamonds?

Guess what that means for the diamond in you and me?  It means we need to take care of ourselves by cleaning out our minds.  We can do this utilizing positive self-talk, reminding ourselves who God made us to be in order to sparkle in a way that lights up a room as soon as we walk in.  That sparkle inside each of us is what attracts others to us.  The more we accept the words of affirmation and encouragement others speak into us and refute the naysayers mean words, the brighter our sparkle gets.  The more we speak words of affirmation over ourselves, the more attractive our sparkle gets. And the more we speak words of affirmation and encourage over others, the bigger our diamond grows.

The bigger our diamond grows-the harsher our critics may get because they will be jealous of our happiness and angry that they can no longer steal our joy.  Think about it-how many times have you watched two kids interacting (usually siblings)-one is doing their best to irritate the other.  If the one who is doing the irritated gets a reaction from the other one, they will keep it up because they are thriving on irritating the reactor.  But if the reactor instead chooses to not respond or chooses to respond in a positive manner, the irritator has lost their power.  Jealous mean people are usually power people.  Nothing frustrates a power person more than when they lose that power.  It infuriates them. At first they will try harder to steal your joy but the more we choose to shine-eventually, the critics stop.  They give up.  They learn that what you and I think about ourselves holds a greater weight that what they think of us.  They may still never like us, but those “Sparkle Dullers” will move on and find someone else to prey on, who thinks they’re nothing more than a cubic zirconia.

Here’s the kicker-thank God for the “Sparkle Dullers” and “Joy Stealers” in your life.  Praise Him for the critics.  Why?  Do you know how a diamond is made?  It’s starts as a piece of black coal and after years and years of hardcore pressure a beautiful, highly coveted, deeply admired, very precious gem is formed-a sparkling diamond.   You may have been nothing more than a lump of coal in your past but today-you are a diamond.  Speak life into yourself and into others.  Let your light so shine before others and watch how others become attracted to you.  Then see just how big your diamond is going to grow.

In an effort to show off my sparkle tonight-here’s a blended version of my three favorite quotes and one paraphrase, with my own twist.  “Do random acts of kindness, love greatly, believe in everything pink, drink magaritas and always, always, always, make sure to never let your sparkle go dull-when you do all this, you, my diamond girl, are going to change your world!”