A Christmas Breath

Just breathe.

I am gasping for air. Hands are on my knees; I’m bent over with sweat pouring off my forehead. Once again, I have gotten on my bike for an exciting time of “exercise.” It was amazing, challenging, and tiring. But here I am now – stronger, confident, and fulfilled.

I am amazed by how my time on the bike mirrors my daily journey with God. There are times where I could ride forever with no pain or tension, and then there are days where the most straightforward levels are challenging. The mind kicks in and begins to send thoughts into overdrive. “WHY AM I DOING THIS!? “You aren’t strong enough.” “This is a good day to take a break. You deserve a break, you work so hard” And then the other side kicks in. “Don’t quit.” “You’ve got this.” “You will feel so much better on the other side.” Finally, the last part is the toughest. How much do I want to push myself? Do I set challenging levels, or do I do enough to say, “I did it?” All this happens in real-time on the bike.

And in life.

Holidays are the same as a bike. Certain aspects are so fun and enjoyable. I love people during the holidays. The creativity, joy, and ability to celebrate is fantastic. I enjoy the corny Hallmark Christmas movies. I do. I am willing to risk my “man card” and admit it. (Where else can you eat whatever you want, hot cocoa is always handy, snow is falling, and everyone is happy? Plus, it always ends in a hug.) I love seeing the season through the eyes of my kids and grandkids. The wonder and newness of it all is so refreshing.

For some, the holidays are hard. Relationships, finances, and life situations can be challenging. Our thoughts can be our most prominent foe. Instead of celebration, we find ourselves questioning who we are, why things happen, or even the path we are on at the moment. None of us live in a Hallmark Christmas movie. What is wrapped into a beautiful picture of joy on our television screens does not materialize in real life. People, schedules, and expectations can take such a special time of year and make it a time of turmoil.

Take a breath. Let me share some items that keep me from getting overwhelmed in the holidays. (And they work in daily challenges too!)

  • Know Who I Am. I know who I am and, more importantly, who I am not. I appreciate the personality, wiring, gifts, and talents that I have in my life. I respect those things I don’t have that others possess in their lives. I truly believe that God created me with my unique design and purpose. The more I focus on that and using it to accomplish that purpose, the more self-worth, fulfillment, and confidence I enjoy.
  • Know What Energizes Me.  You and I can be busy all day long. There is not a shortage of things to do on any given day. During my sabbatical a few years ago, I learned what I need to do each day that energizes me. For me, I need to spend time with God, exercise, read, and get a solid night’s sleep. I try to incorporate that into every day. It is different for each of us. I encourage you to find the things that give you the best foundation for your day.
  • Know What I Need to Do.  The keyword there is “Need.” I have come to a place where I am pretty fluid with “what has to be done.” In an ever-changing world, I am learning to be “ever-changing.” I have to steward “me” to determine what is most important. Let me give you the golden ticket in this area. It is ok to say, “No.” Someone else’s need or pain is not my need or pain. It sounds selfish, but it is actually healthy boundaries. Here is the kicker – you engage in that person’s situation when you choose to be a part of it. I ask God to help me determine those times every day. I allow myself to steward the time and talent God has given me to be most effective.
  • Know What is Important.  In my life, here is my priority list: God, Kristin, my family, and the church. I will stop meetings to text/call if Kristin or family members are trying to reach me. I will miss some things at church because of family events. It balances out. I haven’t celebrated a lot of birthdays or anniversaries on the actual days because of the church. You will have those types of challenges and decisions. Know what is important to you and work to find balance in it.
  • Know it Matters.  Everything you think, say, and do everyday matters. You are a growing, vibrant expression of your life. Each day is an opportunity to take new ground, learn something new, make a new relationship, and swing the bat. It all depends on you. Either you are going to take a step forward, backward, or standstill. All have merit. The one thing you can’t do – nothing. You don’t win by quitting.
  • Know Whose You Are.  God loves you. Suppose you didn’t change a thing with all your challenges, problems, inabilities, fears, concerns, and defeats; he would love you. We are all broken. The people who look like they have it all together actually don’t. My prayer is that you would see yourself through God’s glasses. He sincerely loves you. In that relationship, He wants to step into your life and allow Him to bring the wins, answers, empowerment, peace, fulfillment, and confidence to continue on your journey. In that love comes one of the greatest gifts – Hope. What is happening in your life today has the hope of changing for the better when Christ is a part of it.

Take a breath. We celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas season. Jesus left heaven and came to earth as a baby. He left royalty to take his first breath as a human. Thankfully, that changed everything.

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