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Is That All There Is? – 5 Ways To Avoid Post-Christmas Letdown

Christmas is over. We’ve had our food, enjoyed our families and friends and exchanged gifts. Hopefully it was a day filled with special memories. After weeks or even months of preparations here we are the day after Christmas amidst empty stockings, torn wrapping paper and cookie crumbs. It can be easy to feel let down.

Christmas paper

This year let’s fight the post-holiday blah’s before they hit. Here are 5 ways I’ve found to help move forward and keep my spirits up instead of spiraling into the Christmas letdown.

1. Look Back – Count Your Blessings
Whether your Christmas season met your expectations or not I’m sure there were times of joy and blessings. Taking inventory of some of the highlights of your season can lift your spirits. Consider starting a Christmas Journal this year. Find a blank notebook and jot down some of your favorite memories. Pack it away with your Christmas decorations and pull it out again each year and add to it. Reflect on the memories of the past and record new ones. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t consider yourself a writer. Make a list, write a few sentences or write a story. It’s up to you.

2. Look Forward – Think About Next Year
I don’t mean start thinking about next Christmas (although I have started my shopping already…). One week from today we will be at the start of a new year. A blank slate. Endless opportunities. What are your dreams for that year? Dream those dreams and consider those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to consider something that seems outrageous. There will be time for turning those dreams into goals over the next few weeks. Nothing is off-limits today.

3. Look Inward – Take Some Time For Yourself
You’ve probably been busier than usual the last few weeks doing things that you don’t normally do. You may have gotten less sleep and eaten less healthy than before the Christmas treats started appearing. With all the friends, family, shopping, decorating and entertaining you might have pushed yourself to the bottom of the pile. This is a good time to take at least a few minutes for yourself. Do something you enjoy either alone or with someone you like to spend time with. Read a new book, watch one of your favorite movies or see a new one, maybe take a walk or build a snowman! Even if it’s brief, find some for yourself. Take a deep breath and relax.

4. Look Outward – Don’t Forget Others
The needs around us don’t end at Christmas. Consider lending a hand to take down Christmas decorations for a friend or neighbor. Take some of your leftovers to someone who lives alone. Take advantage of post-Christmas sales to get some gloves, blankets, winter hats or coats to give to a homeless shelter or nursing home. For most of us there is still a long winter ahead. Extending the season of giving can keep our spirits up and remind us of how blessed we are.

5. Look Around You – Consider Your Routine
It is likely you have more parties and events to attend over the next week or so but getting back to your regular routine as soon as possible is important. I know staying up later than usual the past few weeks has kept me from getting up to exercise on my regular schedule. My quiet time was also interrupted some days. Getting back to as much of our routines as we can soon after Christmas begins to regulate our sleep schedules and keep our spirits up.

***Most importantly, keep talking to the Lord!
Keeping the Lord in our days and nights, including Him in our decisions and activities will allow His Spirit to comfort us, guide us and bring us joy long after the trees are down, the lights are off and the long winter settles in.

I hope your Christmas season has been filled with memories new and old and that you will escape the letdown of Christmas this year and remember that there is a year ahead filled with opportunities.

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

 

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Magnificat

This morning I will be singing the Magnificat in church. It’s also known as Mary’s Song found in Luke 1: 46-55.

As I reflect on the lyrics of the song I can’t help but wonder at the precious state of Mary’s heart and desire that for myself.

Magnificat

It is remarkable to me that this young woman whose life had just been turned upside down would have an attitude of praise and openness to whatever God willed in her life. She was facing several months of people not understanding what was going on in her life and inside her body. Certainly some would not believe that she was still pure and the child growing within her was from the Holy Spirit – a gift, not a shame.

In spite of whatever Mary’s external circumstances were her heart was filled with joy and gratitude. We don’t see Mary taking credit for being good enough to be the mother of Jesus but rather a humble spirit and wonder that Her Lord would choose her for His remarkable plan. And she gave all the glory to Him.

Here is a link to one of the most beautiful renditions I have heard of this song.

Practicing to sing this song brings to mind that I also have much for which to glorify the Lord. He has also looked on me with kindness and mercy and has done great things for me. Too often I forget to give Him the glory for who I am and who He is creating me to be.

I also have been reflecting on whether or not I allow God to put His Spirit inside me to use me as He desires. Am I open as Mary was to carry out His plan for me or do I drag my feet, ignore His voice or shrink back from fear?

How about you?

God’s plans for us are not always grandiose but they are always important. Whether it’s taking the time to listen to someone who needs to talk, lending a hand to someone as they carry packages or drop a note in the mail or e-mail letting someone know you are thinking of them and praying for them, each can make a difference and may be just the touch from God someone needed.

And like Mary, God may have something bigger planned for your life. Are you open to Him using you to lead others to Christ, to go to the mission field, lead a bible study or write a book? Don’t let your opinion of yourself and your abilities hinder what the Lord desires to do through you.

My greatest desire this morning is to keep the attitude of Mary’s Song in my heart and carry it in my spirit not only throughout today but each day of the coming year.

“For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness.”

“And Holy…Holy…Holy is His Name.”

 

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Bringing Christmas Into Focus

It’s the first day of December. Are you in the Christmas spirit?

I love Christmas. I love the music, decorating, choosing the right gifts for family and friends, and especially baking. It’s a special time of year where a certain magic seems to be in the air. I enjoy being busy and seeing all the projects and activities come together.

But this year as I thought about the month ahead I found myself overwhelmed. We have some extra-special celebrations this December, adding a twist to an already busy month. The added planning and preparations began to suck away some of my Christmas spirit.

christmas bag

My Christmas was getting out of focus.

Then during my quiet time I was reminded of a woman in the bible who allowed things to get a little out of focus.

Jesus and his disciples went on their way. Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary.

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.”

                                                                                                                            Luke 10:38-42 NIV

This interaction seems to reflect my conflicting emotions about the Christmas season this year. As I make my lists and check them twice (or 3 or 4 times) I realize that all the things on my lists are good things. There is nothing wrong with any of them. The challenge comes when I focus on my lists instead of allowing the Lord to set my focus.

Jesus corrected Martha and encouraged her to look at her sister in a different way. Mary had chosen what was best and Martha was worried about things that were not important in the eyes of Jesus. The more I reflect on this passage the more I think Mary gets a bad rap. At first glance it appears that she is lazy and doesn’t care about what needs to be done to host all the people who have arrived at their home.

Perhaps the reality is Mary did care and knew just as much as Martha about what needed to be done. It was her focus that was different. Mary knew the most important thing was spending time with Jesus. Not listening from the other room as He spoke, picking up a word or two here and there, but sitting at His feet and soaking in what He had to teach her and those around her. Mary knew the people would wait to be fed and no one cared if there were cobwebs in the corner.

Possibly it’s not that Mary didn’t care about the preparations, she just didn’t allow them to distract her.

My nature is to be more like Martha. I love helping to create special times for others and doing things that will bless them. There’s nothing wrong with blessing others – God appreciates it as this is how He created me.

The key is focus. If all my plans distract me from focusing on Jesus and what He has to teach me then like Martha I am worried and troubled about things that aren’t needed.

Keeping my focus on Jesus brings all other things into perspective.

How is your focus as the Christmas season begins? I hope you are beginning each day with some time with the Lord, seeking what is best for your day in His eyes then allowing everything else falls into place.

I’m going to work on my focus. I pray the Lord will show me where to focus my mind, energy, and especially my prayers to have the most impact for Him. I’ll share what He shows me with all of you throughout the month and I hope you’ll share with me what He shows you.

Together let’s focus on CHRISTmas and all we have to learn from the babe in the manger.

 

blessings and peace to you…
Paula

 

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It’s Over…But Are We Done?

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Here we are at the day after Christmas. I hope your season was filled with laughter and precious memory-making time with family and friends. Some continue to celebrate over the next few days, for others the tree will come down, decorations will get packed away and gifts will be returned. Maybe you will join the rush to after-Christmas sales to round out what you didn’t get from your list, or maybe to begin shopping for next year. Perhaps you, like me, return to work and the regular routine.

In my part of the country winter is upon us and will settle in to stay for a few months now. It’s easier to enjoy at Christmastime when the snow seems to add to the magical feel, but now the shoveling becomes tiresome and driving on slippery roads a chore. It’s the time of year when what I call hibernation mode sets in. I don’t want to go out at all, and when I do I tend to get done what I’m out for and return to my warm home and a cup of something hot.

The danger with returning to our routines and entering the hibernation mode of winter is forgetting what we’ve just spent a month or more practicing and encouraging others to do. At the beginning of December I issued a Christmas Kindness Challenge. It helped us to be conscious of others and reaching outside ourselves to reach them, even in a small way.

As I sit here this morning I ask myself, “now what?”

Will I pack away kindness with the tree and wreaths? Will I throw out thoughts of others as I toss the paper and ribbons? I hope not.
I am reminded of what Jesus told the crowds and His disciples during His sermon on the mount.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

and later on…

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:45

The red kettles will be put away, the toy drives have ended, and the Christmas dinners for the homeless have been served. But there are still homeless people, hungry people, and those who are alone and lonely. There are still neighbors who can’t get to the store because they don’t drive in the snow, and children who will go to school without warm mittens, coat or boots.

Needs don’t end when the gifts have been unwrapped. And we shouldn’t stop looking.

As we move into the new year and set goals or make resolutions let’s resolve to be kinder in January, February, March…you get the idea. Look for needs, and meet them as we are able. If we can’t meet them ourselves perhaps we can enlist others.

heart mittens

In simple be aware.

Let’s not be done with the Christmas ‘spirit’ just because Christmas is over.

Blessings and peace to you on this day after Christmas!
Paula

 

 

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Christmas Memories

As I sit in the stillness of the morning sipping my coffee with only the light of the Christmas tree my mind is flooded with memories. Each ornament on the tree holds a memory, some of places we’ve been and others of people special to us. There are replicas of childhood toys, precious ornament from Mom’s family, and a special ornament to honor my dad.

ornaments

It is often said that Christmas is for children, and for most of us Christmas absolutely brings out the child in us. How many of us turn on Christmas specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas or Rudolph and Frosty whether or not there are children in our homes?

I am blessed with so many childhood memories at Christmas. Some were not particularly fun at the time…the year we had to wait upstairs with Mom until 9 or 10 am because Dad had to dig everyone out from the Christmas Eve snowstorm (we walked to Grandma & Grandpa’s that year as he never did plow our driveway) but now they are fun memories.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is making Christmas cookies with Grandma and Grandpa. I can still take myself back to that farm kitchen, pressing out the spritz cookies, drizzling the icing and sprinkling the non pareils (I wonder if Grandma was finding them on the floor until Easter!) The house would fill with wonderful smells, and you could be sure Dad and Uncle Kenneth would stop in at some point to check our creations.

Christmas Cookie Kids

Christmas memories can also be bittersweet as we celebrate without those precious to us. Some are miles away, unable to get ‘home’ for Christmas, while others we won’t celebrate with again until we see them in Heaven. It can be difficult to get through some of the happy memories when they are tied to those we miss so much, especially if we’re without them for the first time.

As Christmas creeps ever closer, please consider those your life touches that may be having a tough time with Christmas memories and don’t leave them out of your holiday. Take some extra time to visit them, or invite them to participate in your activities. While we can’t take away the sadness we can perhaps help make new memories that will bring joy in the midst of the sadness.

What are your favorite Christmas memories? I hope your Christmas season brings more joy than sadness and each year brings new happy memories to carry with you through the years.

blessings & peace to you!
Paula

This post is part of the Unwrap Your Memories Campaign for Destiny USA. Check them out here: destinyusa.com

PS –  Have you joined the Christmas Kindness Challenge yet? Details are here: http://wp.me/p1ARIh-e3

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Christmas Kindness Challenge

The Christmas season is here!

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Lights and decorations are going up on homes and businesses. Cities and towns are festively decked as trees are lit and lightposts adorned. Here in Central New York snow blankets the ground. For most it is a time of wonder and anticipation. There is a magic in the air as people seem more willing to believe in the goodness of others and the possibility of miracles.

Unfortunately for some the excitement and anticipation is laced with sadness. They may be dreading the coming days. In retail shops this season brings longer hours and less time for family. Some are alone or struggling to make ends meet and Christmastime reminds them of their solitude and what they are lacking. Celebrations are sometimes laced with sadness and regret.

In our merriment and preparations it can be easy to look inside, focus on our little circle of family and friends and overlook others.

So this year I’m issuing a Christmas Kindness Challenge to myself and anyone else who will accept.

Every day from now until Christmas I will post a challenge on my author Facebook page. (you can “like” it here: https://www.facebook.com/pauladavispeace ) Most of the challenges require little or no money, but help us to think of others differently perhaps. Here’s the first challenge:

CKC Day 1

This is the time of year we celebrate the gift God gave us when His son Jesus came to earth to take away our sins and create a way for us to join Him in Heaven some day. We can give the gift of kindness to a friend or even a stranger each day.

Join me, won’t you?

Feel free to share this with others as well. Let’s make kindness contagious this Christmas!

Blessings and peace…
Paula

 

 

 

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Occasions

‘Tis the time of the year to celebrate occasions. Thanksgiving is just a few days away and Christmas will quickly follow. In my family we add a couple of birthdays in between as well. So much to do in preparation and anticipation, then the day comes and goes and what do we have left? Memories, both good and bad. Scrapbook worthy moments, and unfortunately often moments we wish we could do-over.

Occasions are often seen as times to look back. We remember holidays of the past, what has changed and traditions we still treasure. We remember special times spent with ones we love. These are precious memories to be held in our hearts.

rearview sunset
I’m afraid too often – especially on our birthdays (although other occasions as well) we may look back with regret for things we have done, or perhaps opportunities we feel we have missed. It’s easy to look in the rear view mirror of our lives and play the would’ve, should’ve game. And while we can learn from our past, we should never dwell there.

Truly nothing can be gained by dwelling in the past. If we settle in times gone by for too long our focus begins to change. We either long for those good times that are now just memories, or we lose momentum we’ve made in our lives moving forward from times we wish we could go back and change. In Philippians 3:12-14 the apostle Paul gives us a great example to follow.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Throughout the books Paul has written we never see him settle for less than God has for him. While he certainly may have had regrets of how he treated God’s people before he was saved by the grace of Christ’s salvation, once he accepted the forgiveness offered he only looked ahead. We read of Paul stating that he was content in his life, but we never see him stagnant. He continually looked ahead towards the ultimate prize of Heaven…and did all he could to take others along with him.

As the occasions of the next few weeks and months come our way, treasure them. Remember the good of occasions gone by and allow God to take away any regret for those that you wish had been different. Focus on making new memories for yourself and those around you.

Remember we have the opportunity to make every day and every encounter an occasion in itself. When we focus on staying in touch with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work through us we can touch lives and change each moment into an occasion. It may not be one for the history books but may  leave an impression that makes a difference to someone else.

There is a wonderful movie called Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (created from a book by Suzanne Weyn) I leave you with my favorite quote and hope you’ll carry it with you:

Life Occasion

Blessings and peace to you on this occasion called today.
Paula

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Does It Really Matter?

How do you eat an elephant?

eat an elephantOne bite at a time.

So goes the commonly quoted encouragement to conquer big projects.

It’s clever, but somehow I rarely let it encourage me. My response was usually something like, “sure, but it will NEVER get done”.  What does one little ‘bite’ matter?

This state of mind allowed me to remain stagnant and not push myself to overcome things in my life that seemed overwhelming and more than I could handle. It wasn’t comfortable, but I couldn’t believe that some teeny tiny change could make much of a difference.

A scripture came to mind that previously I had mostly glossed over, thinking it applied in Jesus’ day but not for us today.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20

I was convicted and realized I needed to give it a try.

Last year as I set aside the excuses and adopted the elephant-eating philosophy I completed and published my first book! You can learn more about Cherish This Christmas here: https://pauladavispeace.com/2012/11/01/exciting-announcement/

This fall I adopted this concept to living a more healthy lifestyle. Finally admitting this year to being middle-aged I thought about the future a little differently before. I realized continuing current eating habits and the mostly sedentary lifestyle I was living would lead to even more difficulty over time. Always before I had jumped into a change like this ‘all in’, believing that I had to cut out all foods that weren’t healthy for me and exercise for hours a day.

Always before I had failed. This time making small changes has me 10 pounds lighter in 4 weeks and feeling less sluggish and craving less of the fatty, high calorie foods.

Small changes really do matter.

  • If you save 25¢ a day, after a year you would have almost $100
  • Completing one chore each evening (dusting, vacuuming, laundry, etc.) leaves most weekends free of housework.
  • Spending just 20 minutes a day walking, cleaning the house or grocery shopping burns about 500 calories a week.

What elephant(s) are you facing today? Do you look at them the way I used to…does one bite really matter?

I encourage you to change that thinking!

Choose one small change to adapt this week. Then add another.

Give it time…at least a month before giving up. (this may be the toughest part!)

And be encouraged! (If you need help with encouragement, send me a note.)

blessings & peace to you…
Paula

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Christmas Regrets

Another Christmas is over. It was such a wonderful day for me as family gathered and we shared some precious time over good food, gracious gifts and making great memories.

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…but I have some regrets.

There were other special times throughout the Christmas season. I published my first book! I gave to charities and children. I created a gingerbread carnival and gingerbread houses for giants (giant gingerbread people that is…) I sewed and scrapbooked gifts for my family. I laughed with friends at Christmas parties and cried over memories of my dad as we celebrated our fifth Christmas without him.

me & dad

…still I have some regrets.

Christmas Eve was celebrated with both my mom and sister for the first time in several years, and we joined a very special uncle and cousins to welcome the Christ Child at my childhood church.

candlelight

…and yet I have regrets.

1. I regret that I didn’t start earlier. I don’t mean with the sewing and creating (although I was sewing pajamas until 10:30pm Christmas Eve) or with the parties and wrapping.

I regret that I didn’t start sooner with the giving.

Christmas is a time when we think about others who are in need and as a society we tend to give generously. But what about in February when we’re snuggled in our beds yet our streets are filled with those without a home trying to stay warm? Or in August when we’re trying the latest fried-food specialty at the State Fair but haven’t given a donation to the food pantry in months? Why don’t I give all year-long?

2. I regret that I don’t make more of an effort to spend time with my nephews and let them know how proud I am of the young men they are becoming.

And what about others in my life who are important to me?

Do they know how much I care? I used to write fun letters and send goofy greeting cards ‘just because’. When was the last time I wrote a note or did some random act of kindness for someone special to me?

3. I regret that I don’t savor time with my Savior the rest of the year as I do at Christmas. There’s something about the lights on the Christmas tree and the sense of wonder all around that makes me feel closer to the Lord and treasure His gift of Jesus more than the rest of the year.

I want to capture that feeling and experience it all through the year.

These regrets stir me to action. I’ve mentioned before that I am a planner. As I look towards my plans for the coming New Year I am going to ‘task’ myself with planning ways to eliminate these regrets for next year. I will share some of these plans with you over the next couple of weeks.

I pray that you had a wonderful Christmas filled with love and precious memories. What was your favorite part? Any regrets? Please share your thoughts with us here.

I am so thankful for a season that reminds us of the preciousness of our family and friends and the wonderful gift of Jesus. And I’m thankful for all of you stopping by.

blessings and peace to you…
Paula