My head fell wearily against the car’s headrest as night quickly enveloped the last bits of day. The sound of my young sons’ voices chattering in the backseat floated and swirled, breaking the silence I so desperately craved. The ending to a day of celebrating was minutes away as the car made its way home. I silently prayed that bedtime for my sons was near and my own would follow suit shortly thereafter.
For years this scene played over and over. The holidays sped by in a blur and my sons were always surprised when the day came to an end. In their naive minds, the holidays should be endless. I picked up the emotional pieces of two young sons on a sugar high and present overload wishing the holidays looked different every year.
As my sons grew older and I entertained family at my house rather than traveling to multiple celebrations, I stressed over decorations, meal planning and making sure the house was holiday-ready. I became obsessed with making sure everything was perfect and gave up the most important gift of the holidays- presence.
A switch in focus and an intentional choice to live life with less stress during the holidays led me to a holiday slow down. But it really started with an invitation and an opening of my heart to listening, resting and preparing.
Where will you seek your invitation to slow down as the holidays approach? Will you embrace the invitation and lean into a holiday season with less hustle and more soul care?
In the last several years, I intentionally chose to slow down and prepare my heart for the season. But as with all preparations, this time I needed to filter my focus through a loving God rather than my own desire for perfectionism. When invited, God loves nothing more than to sit beside us and teach us all we need to know. In this space where invitation meets acceptance, I found a gracious God with an open, loving heart.
When I chose to draw near to God, I found Him drawing ever closer to me. Abiding in God allowed Him to sit with me and in that time, I found deep soul rest.
Intentionally choosing quiet time made space for my mind and heart to find a steady heartbeat of renewal and restoration. Where hustle once reigned, I now found a peace that pointed me to God rather than busyness.
In the quiet, I soaked up God’s Word and prepared my heart for the most beautiful gift ever given – the birth of Jesus. I gave up the perfect decorations and dozens of Christmas cookies for time with God. This time the holidays focused on family and being present rather than the number of presents under the tree.
The gift of a holiday slow down is one that I’ve never regretted. When I changed my focus from more to less scattered around the tree, I found room in my heart to center on the gift of presence. I only wish I had chosen this when my sons were growing up.
[Tweet “Perfect presence is drawing near to God while intentionally developing relationships with others.”]
Perfect presence is being intentional in our interactions with others and letting God use us to be His gift for others daily. Perfect presence is saying “yes” and allowing others needs to take precedence over ours. Perfect presence is a present that will bless all. The best part is it is free.
My prayer the last few years is for God’s presence to become my focus during the holidays. As I let go of the hustle and bustle, I remember these words:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7
May we be intentional this holiday season. One invitation is all it takes for God to join you in your walk to a holiday slow down.
As I read through my words above, I want you to know I am a work in progress. I continue to seek the secret to slowing down and a deeper relationship with God.
This post first was published on the Sacred Holidays blog.
and Dawn for Grace Moments
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Lovely, Lovely, indeed.
Thank you visiting Shandra! Blessings on your weekend.
My sister’s life word is ABIDE. I believe the “secret” to the abundant life is abiding. Beautiful post, beautiful photography. Beautiful YOU!
Thank you for these kind words Susan. I love the word abide. What a beautiful life word. I need to do more abiding. I am a work in progress but I am learning. Blessings!
This slowing down has been hard so far. I keep telling myself if only I didn’t have to work a full time job. I come home, then make dinner, homeschool, answer email, write (if the Lord wills), clean, and collapse on the couch. Oh how my heart longs to hear Him more.
Your life is busy for sure but anytime you invite God to sit with you is a blessing. The amount of time never looks like we think it should but it is making sure we still take some time with God. Thank you for spending a little of your time here. Love you friend!
Beautiful words and wisdom, Mary. Each year, I get a little better about doing less so I can be more present with God and with my family. It’s a constant choosing for me. I’m learning to say no to activities, and to expectations so I can say yes to time with the Lord. I’m setting aside normal obligations so I can be less stressed through these days. I’m definitely seeking to be intentional about spending time with God daily. The more I do, the more I see I need Him more than air.
I love how you need God more than air. What a great reminder that He is our everything. I imagine with two sons life can get busy. I know God is delighted when you take time just for Him. Blessings on your weekend. Blessed to have you here and grateful for your friendship.
Ah yes… this: “In the quiet, I soaked up God’s Word and prepared my heart for the most beautiful gift ever given – the birth of Jesus. ” You are speaking my language, my friend! xoxo
I know I am. You remind me often to slow down, rest and just be. I know that I do not do enough of it at times. Thankful for your wisdom and blessing of spending a little time here today.
Less hustle, more soul care! A perfect prescription for the Christmas season Mary! Thanks for sharing your wit and your wisdom with us. xoxo
I am just so glad you are writing again so we can share words with each other. What a treat. Praying this season of Advent finds you at peace and with joy in your heart.
Sounds as if we are on the same wavelength, Mary. Prayer and practicing the Lord’s presence is so important in every busy season, but none is more important than in this Christmas season. So many times we let the rituals and responsibilities of this season steal our joy when we could be more joyful than ever if we followed your encouragement to us here. Thanks for pointing us to Christ!
My encouragement is a big reminder to myself that I do not have it all figured out. Prayer is a beautiful way to center ourselves and focus on God as we start our day. You are teaching me well friend with your own words of wisdom on prayer journaling. Praying you are having a wonderful weekend.
Love this! “Perfect presence is being intentional in our interactions with others and letting God use us to be His gift for others daily. ” Thank you for this challenge and encouragement today.
Thank you for being here Sarah. I pray that God finds us on the days we are not seeking Him. May we allow ourselves the time to just be with God. Blessings!
Love this, Mary!
I have no real choice but to slow down. The strength and energy for decorating and celebration just aren’t there, so it’s a quiet, contemplative Christmas…well, as quiet as it can be with a couple of football teams’ worth of Pit Bulls in the house, all celebrating THEIR temporal salvation…every day.
I know your slow down is for a much different reason. I pray you find what you need in the quiet. May God’s hope fill you with peace this season.
I don’t know that I ever achieved perfect ;). I’m not a Martha Stewart kind of gal (I’ve still only hung 7 things on the walls of the house that we moved into 4 1/2 years ago). I have certainly had some stress-filled holidays, though, and I am also learning to crave the presence rather than stress over presents. Thank you for the reminder to let that presence fill my days.
I love the time with family and friends even more than presents. I know there are some that might think I am crazy but it is what I treasure these days. You seem to be very intentional about being with others.
BTW- I am not Martha Stewart either but I did have certain decorations that I thought had to be displayed every year no matter what. That is what makes me crazy. Thanks for stopping by.
Such a lovely invitation to slow down and focus on leaning into a deeper relationship with Jesus and on presence instead of presents, Mary. Having chronic illness has forced me over the years to slow down more and more, and I think Advent seasons have become more meaningful than before. I still struggle though with a flurry of distractions in my mind and with perfectionism. So yes, I welcome your invitation. 🙂 It must have been so hard to raise your boys alone, and I admire how you strived to make Christmas more meaningful for them. You must often have been so exhausted. But God… His grace is sufficient, right? My prayers are with you as you experience your first Christmas without the presence of your dad. Love and hugs!
Thank you for joining me in the invitation to slow down and focus on what is most important. Centering myself each day with God always proves to be positive rather than trying to go about my day without Him.
Your words here are always a gift that comes at just the right time. I appreciate you and your heart for encouraging. Love you friend!
Thank you for this reminder of what is really important- presence. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas and trying to make it perfect, but to lose sight of what it’s really all about. As you say, we have to be intentional about our focus on God and others and take some time to slow down and rest.
I have to make a choice everyday to choose God or to choose everything else. I do best when I start my day with God and ask Him to center me for the rest of the day. Thank you for joining me. Your series about waiting fits in perfectly with this time of the year.
There are so many messages of slowing down. I know God is working in the world, wanting us to pull closer in presence so we enjoy what He has for us. How excited we an get when we have that perfect gift for a child under a tree! Imagine if that child decides to get busy with something that causes anxiousness and stress and we watch as she/he just keeps moving away from the perfect present that we know will bring peace and calm and joy! I wonder if that is how God sees us when we get caught up in the busyness of things. I know I’m feeling anxious over homework that is not done, essays that I’m struggling with. Neither are part of Christmas, yet what if I just trusted it all to Him and that it will get done in His perfect timing? I hope you have many moments of presence this week Mary!
I still fret over choosing gifts for my sons and now daughter-in-laws. I try to choose meaningful and well thought out gifts. It honestly is what can pull me away from God’s perfect peace. You ask a great question- what if we just trusted God in everything. Sounds easy??? Praying for you in this season and holding onto the hope of all that Jesus will bring.
Hi Mary! I understand your comment much better now! I’m so glad that you found a way to slow down and be present to your day and the hours tucked away in them.
I really ‘saw’ your children in the backseat, buzzed on sugar and overtired. Been there for sure! We were busy mama’s then, and our children’s needs came before our own, which is how it should be.
Your prayers and efforts with your young ones was holy and pleasing to God, no mistake about that. Now your quieter efforts do the same in a different way. Your life has changed, so your way of praise changes too, and you have stayed attentive through it all. I think you’re my hero!
May God continue to bless you in this Advent season with his peace,
We were busy moms but somehow it seems that we still could have said no to some of the activities that we filled our time with. Thank you for your affirming words that remind me that inspite of it all, God still loves and is pleased with our efforts. I am thrilled to be your hero but honestly I am a broken mess more days than I care to admit and I am only where I am because of God. Blessings to you in the season of rest and slowing down as we prepare our hearts for Jesus.
“Will you embrace the invitation and lean into a holiday season with less hustle and more soul care?” Oh, yes! and Amen to your invitation, my friend.
You will have to fill me in as to how your Advent season is going. I know we talked about it a little when we were together. I hope that your yes to the invitation to go deeper with God becomes a habit for always. Sending you hugs friend.
I do struggle with this, Mary. There’s the desire to initiate fun, memory-making activities with my kids, to participate in meaningful ministry opportunities that are part of the season, to create an atmosphere of celebration in my home with decorating and baking . . . and then my heart cries out for peace and rest! I’m a “work in progress” in all this, too. May God give us wisdom to say a well-placed “no” about the things that get in the way of the holiday slow down.
I am thrilled to hang out with a fellow work in progress. Baking is one of my favorite holiday things to do but I need to tell myself that I don’t need dozens and dozens of cookies. MY family appreciates my efforts but I want my time to be filled with Jesus more than cookies. Pray for me and I will pray for you as we move through this season toward Christmas. Thanks for being here.
I love this invitation to slow down, Mary. I also am learning to let go of perfect. You’re right. The gift of presence is the most important that we can give. 🙂
I have been thinking about you this season and was wondering if you keep the traditional American traditions during this season or do you add some others? I imagine you have the opportunity to expand what the holidays look like but with that could come some craziness. I pray you feel God’s presence throughout your day and week.