Keeping the Holidays in Perspective

Foster Care & Family

Ah, the holiday season is officially upon us.  Sometimes referenced as the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, yet in reality it can be the most chaotic time of the year with all the baking, shopping, decorating, cooking, gift-wrapping, tree trimming, card writing, events, and entertaining.

This is supposed to be the time for gratitude, generosity, and gladness.  I’m on board with that.  However, I struggle from time to time with a case of absentmindedness in which I forget the most important things.

Allow me to share a true, light-hearted story.  I visited Joann’s Fabric Store earlier this week to purchase a few necessary items to further my earnest pursuit in sewing.  I have not sewed with a sewing machine nor purchased fabric since I was 14 years old.  Back then, I used my great grandmother’s vintage Singer and created novice-level pillows and lopsided stuffed dolls.  I’ve always wanted to improve my skills and produce more adult-like items such as curtains and quilts but never pursued it.  Now that I have my very own sewing machine (a gift from my parents) and a house with lots of bare windows, I no longer have the excuse to procrastinate in my resurrected child-hood pastime.

During the past several weeks, I watched dozens of YouTube videos on intermediate sewing lessons, took notes, and made a list of necessities to help get me started; such as heavy-duty shears, good quality threads, pins, a few sewing patterns, and of course, some fabric.

I was already intimidated upon walking into this mega-store.  It was bustling with women of all ages who clearly meant business, carrying highlighted circulars, clipped coupons, and even notepads.  Yes.  Notepads.  And, here I was with my cheesy YouTube Education, grabbing a shopping cart that I didn’t really need, scratching my head, and gingerly strolling towards the sewing section located towards the back of the store.

“Ok”, I thought. “I am totally ready for this”.

Well, as you may have observed, during this particular time of year, just about every store has an overwhelming obstacle course loaded with holiday paraphernalia that barricades you from getting to your originally intended destination.  It’s as if the store is deliberately, yet ever so tactfully, causing you to suffer a severe momentary lapse.  Bad enough I was already in unfamiliar territory.  This was the last thing I needed.

I barely made it to the first aisle before instantly and entirely switching gears. “Oooh, such pretty gift-wrap… 40% off.  Wow!  Oh my gosh…Look at these adorable tins.  That’s right!  I need to remember to bake cookies for our neighbors.  And will you look at this huge selection of beautiful holiday ribbon!  And it’s ALL on sale?  I can do so much with this ribbon on presents, the tree, and the cookie tins!  Let’s see…what else can I wrap in a bow?”

After wasting over 30 minutes perusing overpriced (yet coincidently on sale) holiday ornamentation, I somehow managed to snap back to my senses.  I didn’t go to a fabric store for gift-wrap.  I needed to get to the sewing section…at the BACK OF THE STORE.

I practically ran someone over with my cart as I attempted an uninterrupted beeline for the fabrics.   I was probably traveling a decent 10mph making every attempt to keep my eyes on the prize.

“Focus, Rachel!  Look ahead.  Just IGNORE the upcoming Martha Stewart Section.  Step away!  Oooh, what’s this?  A kit to make your own cards and ornaments and candy in those adorable little candy molds? And I bet my niece and nephews would love making this gingerbread house kit with me!  WHAT? You can even make your own Christmas tree?  Ok, wait a minute. These women must all be crazy.  This is a conspiracy.  I’m never getting out of here.  Focus on what what you originally came here to do!”

Has this ever happened to you?

Not only do you spend twice as long doing twice as much you originally anticipated, but by the time you finally make it out of the store, you become quickly agitated beyond relief that you are now in bumper-to-bumper traffic!  You promise yourself that next time you will stick to what is important.

Ok, switch gears…

Next week is Thanksgiving and Hanukah, followed a few weeks later by Christmas.  A series of extraordinary events in which we pay tribute to extraordinary miracles.  Some of us will celebrate with food, folks, and fun; while others may not be celebrating for various reasons.  I never want to take these holidays for granted, but it’s sometimes easy to get distracted and forget the meaning behind it all.

Here is another true story that reminded me why it is so critical to remain focused on what is really important.  This one is very sad.

Several years ago, during Christmas week, my friend and I decided to take an early evening trip to a nearby shopping mall to purchase a few last-minute items.  There was so much traffic.  As we were making a left-hand turn on a main road, we noticed someone lying on the street in front of us, who had just been hit by a car (only moments before).   We immediately pulled over, and ran out of the car to see if there was anything we could do to help.  The scene was bad.  There were a lot of people gathering.  The middle-aged male driver that had apparently hit the pedestrian (who was wearing dark clothes) was extremely distraught.  His wife and young daughter remained in the car, crying.  I instinctively knelt beside the pedestrian.  I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, but I knew it was an adult that was alone and possibly homeless.  I prayed that God would spare this person.  Of course, once the ambulance and police arrived minutes later, we were told to leave the scene since we had not witnessed the accident.  I didn’t get a name, and I heard nothing about it after that.  In my heart, I knew this person was dying right in front of me on the street just days before Christmas.  I returned home that night and wept bitterly.

I never did get those items from the shopping mall that were originally significant to me.  What I did get, was a painful reminder on what really is important.

I realize my Fabric Story is the opposite extreme of this story.  They do, however, have the same message.  It’s easy to get distracted by the subtle things.  Don’t wait for a tragedy to remind you what is most significant.  

So what is most important to you this holiday season?  How will you keep your focus?

Here are a few suggestions that we can do right now; before we rush to the shopping malls, before we close our eyes at night, and before this holiday is just a memory…

  • Don’t let the sun go down if you are angry.  (Ephesians 4:26)
  • Make peace with your loved ones.
  • Remind your husband, children, parents, etc. that you love them!
  • Make time for that special person you’re often too busy for.
  • Bake cookies for your neighbors.
  • Make a card (by hand) for your loved ones- write entirely from the heart.
  • Invite someone who may not have plans to your home for a holiday meal.
  • Read the story of Thanksgiving, Hanukah and Christmas.  Remind yourself of the miracles that occurred!
  • Attend a local church or synagogue in celebration of these events.
  • Make a list of priority tasks.  Cross off a few that are not so important, and consider adding a few of these instead.

In closing, I wish you a beautiful, safe, and meaningful upcoming holiday season.

The Living EXTRAordinary woman chooses gratefulness, generosity, and gladness during this EXTRAordinary time of year while remembering what is truly important.










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  • November 23