Regain the wonder: creating new traditions

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‘Tis the season once again. And this year, no doubt, many of our traditions will look different. As we navigate the pressures inherent with the holidays—amidst the added stressors of an ongoing pandemic—I’ve found it helpful for my own mental health to adopt a spirit of wonder and possibility that exists beyond the norm, or the “way it’s always been done.” For example, rather than rush through a harried month of December, my family created a new tradition: the Advent “tree.” This entails a small, makeshift tree onto which we clipped little notecards—dated from Day 1 to Day 24. Each morning, we read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke, and afterward we open the corresponding day’s card to view that day’s activity. Some activities include completing Christmas word puzzles, setting up our nativity scene, “attending” an online concert and baking loaves of bread to share with family and friends. A simple and sweet way to slow down, connect and reflect.

What’s your favorite tradition?

And just like that: it’s a new year

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Two days before Christmas, and all through the house (and workplace): I threw down a full-fledged menopausal meltdown. It was as if I’d been issued the challenge to: Go big, or go home. Eventually, I proceeded with both and dubbed myself the Grinch. But once I realized it was hormone related, I approached my muddled emotions with a clearer sense of direction. And that’s when I knew: my 20/20 vision and plans for “growth” aren’t about knocking out a bestseller (although at the top of my list) or greater financial stability (still up there), it’s about growing into the purpose for which I was created, and growing in the areas I mention in “…bidding farewell…”—my convictions, fortitude and peace. It’s about knowing who I am and growing in that knowledge, discovering and honing the tools I need to succeed. It’s about putting this season of all things menopause to work for me vs. against me. 2020, here I come!

How do you plan to grow this year?

Size doesn’t matter: the power of prayer

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Christmas Day dawned cold and rainy. For the second year in a row, my husband and I volunteered through the Salvation Army to deliver dinner to the homebound. While driving to the Phoenix Convention Center to pick up meals, windshield wipers slapping at the spitting rain, I mentioned my prayers for a clear day. “I must not have prayed hard enough,” I said, noting the heavy clouds hovering over the mountaintops. “You don’t really expect God to answer that prayer when other people, like farmers, could be praying for rain?” I glanced at my husband in the driver’s seat. “Uhm… yes.” A few deliveries under our Santa Hats later, the clouds parted to reveal blue skies, the sun a yellow glow that warmed me from the inside out. “What were you saying about God answering prayer?” I said, a big smile on my face. “I just love when He shows off.” Never underestimate the power of prayer—even the small ones.

When have you witnessed answer to prayer?

Image courtesy of nunawwoofy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Taking stock of the old, ushering in the new

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Two weeks ago I began the following post. This morning I found it, nearly complete, on my computer. Although not timely in relation to the date on the calendar, it may still resonate for some as it does for me: Numerous emotions course through me just a week after my birthday celebrations (yes, plural). Gratitude as I observe each day as the gift it truly is. Love for family and friends as we embrace the spirit of Christmas mere days away. An indwelling of peace as a byproduct of restored relationships. Yet, even then, a sense of melancholy over unexplored opportunities. Grief and disappointment. “What if’s” and bittersweet memories. The should’ves, could’ves, would’ves. But a glimmer of hope remains—a brightly covered package I tear into each morning with renewed expectation. As we tie up our last-minute holiday shopping and baking, wrapping and socializing, I encourage each of us to pause and reflect on the clean slate ahead.

What is one thing you’d change about the past year?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

No wrapping necessary: the gift of grace

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With the holidays in full swing (wasn’t it just Christmas?), I’ve noticed tempers are quick(er) to flare, smiles are less forthcoming and a pall of malaise feels all too real. In addition, the hours in our days are set to fast forward. I read an article recently about patience suggesting: instead of praying for it, try practicing it. With Christmas and the new year making appearances in a mere few weeks, I have no doubt there will be opportunities galore to practice patience, to extend grace. For example, choose the longest checkout line at the grocery store. Pick the slowest lane of traffic. Yield to other drivers. The more we mindfully practice patience, the more it will become second nature when we don’t have a choice about which line, lane or crisis we’re muddling through. What about the harried pharmacist, receptionist or caller, colleague or spouse, child or stranger? Practice patience, and give the gift of grace this holiday season. No wrapping necessary.

How do you practice patience?

Image courtesy of freebieshutterb at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Word-of-the-month: halcyon (adj., n.)

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Word-of-the-month

[Image credit: Arvind Balaraman]

Memories from our childhood may bring to mind special traditions shared with family and friends during the holiday season — a halcyon time of year.  Today, however, many of us are unsettled and filled with stress.  Financial concerns, travel hassles, foul or unpredictable weather, health issues, missing loved ones who may as well live on the other side of the world or those who have passed on — all of these conditions are examples of what may turn a hopefully peaceful, reflective time into just the opposite.  Halcyon, an adjective (pronounced halsēən), means denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and serene.  This is oftentimes best illustrated around the holidays, but could also denote family vacations or favorite pastimes.  Synonyms of halcyon include quiet, calm, placid, tranquil, still, untroubled and heavenly.  Used as a noun, a halcyon is a kingfisher (especially of the genus Halcyon) with brightly colored plumage.

May your holidays be the kind you look back on as being halcyon, healthy and memorable.

Surviving the holidays

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[Image credit: digitalart]

Last December I celebrated my birthday over the course of 12 days (the 12 days of Chrissy).  Each day I did one thing to honor the day of my birth.  For example, one evening I soaked in a bubble bath while reading and sipping on a glass of Choco Noir.  Dinner and live music one night and a lunch date with my co-workers also contributed to the fun.  I thought of doing it again this year, but I’m considering trying something different.  Like volunteering my time.  And instead of spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts that we either end up returning or don’t really need to begin with, I think it would be rewarding to adopt a family who requires assistance.  Usually I enter this time of year — birthday and Christmas — with mixed feelings (the commercialism doesn’t help).  But this year I’m actually looking forward to the holidays.  Maybe it has to do with taking the focus off me.

What’s your secret to surviving the holidays?