Saturday. What a lovely day. I woke up this morning with daylight shining in through my window, and I panicked… “IS IT SATURDAY!?” Luckily, it is. And I was not late for work. As a direct result of the fact that it is Saturday, I am sitting in my chair in my living room, writing to all of you who read my ramblings, wearing the effects of Saturday morning laziness: I slept in a tshirt and capris, and because I couldn’t be bothered to change when I woke up, I threw on a turquoise fleece sweater, put knee high socks under the capris, and put green ankle boot slippers on over top of those. I look classy, let me tell you. I love Saturdays. They are truly a gift from God.
Brace yourselves for this blog post, though, because I just spent the last half hour mapping it out as if it were an essay because I have many things to say and I didn’t want it to be disjointed, awkward, and poorly written. That wouldn’t be my style 😉
Waking Up In December.
We all woke up this morning, and it was December. The title to my blog here is two-fold, and I think it’s quite clever, actually. I woke up this morning and thought “oh, hey, it’s December!” And I decided to entitle this blog post that’s been ruminating in my brain for a couple weeks now “waking up in December.” But then I started to mull over all of the things that December means, and I decided it also needed to be called this so that I could address all of the things that December means to me…. and by that token, all of the things it doesn’t mean to me.
December is a time of year when many people think about things they don’t think about much throughout the rest of the year. For some, it means holidays, not Christmas. It means getting all up in other peoples’ grills about NOT saying Merry Christmas but rather being politically correct (drives me crazy, can’t we all just be happy for each other and wish each other a happy/merry whatever and move on with our lives?). A friend of mine made an excellent post on Facebook yesterday about this very thing – Here in Canada, we pride ourselves in being SO multicultural and not being the melting pot that assimilates other cultures into our own, and then we get mad when someone says Merry Christmas because apparently it doesn’t acknowledge that there are other holidays at this time of year. I am a Christian, a follower of Christ. I celebrate Christmas, and I will say Merry Christmas. But will I be offended if I hear Happy Hannukah? Happy Kwanzaa? Happy Holidays? Nothing at all? Nope. Let’s move on, shall we?
For some, it means decorating, shopping, busyness and frantic rushing, and therefore… stress. And it’s not that much fun. It means having to spend time with family you ignore for the rest of the year, and grinning and bearing that load. You do it because it’s the holidays, and it’s expected, and you have to. It means having to give gifts to people you don’t know how to buy for. It means eating until you think you’re going to explode, and then eating some more. And then taking a break, and eating some more. It means party after party after party…. and maybe going to Church on the 24th or 25th, and then partying some more.
In my line of work, December means crazy. Crazy kids, crazy schedules, and crazy is what you’ll be driven if y0u think you’ll successfully teach much actual curriculum throughout the next three weeks. It means cookies and pyjama days, it means Secret Santa, it means sing-songs in the gym and winter themed vocabulary and activities. It means fundraising for families that won’t get much of a Christmas for whatever reason (which I am NOT knocking at all, I think it’s a GREAT thing to do).
But what does December really mean? Truly, when you shake all the materialism and crazy rushing and pretending to like the family you never see save for this month out of it… what does it mean? I’ll get to that. I have a few more things to address.
For me personally, here are a few of the non-Christmas related things that December means for me.
1. December means birthdays. I will be 28 in 9 days. Did my year as a 27 year old meet all of my expectations, hopes, and dreams? No, it didn’t. But that taught me something. Quit having such high expectations, and then you’ll enjoy no matter what comes at you.
2. December, usually, means snow. I hate snow. I loathe it. I’m terrified of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful… like gorgeous. Spectacular. Stunning. There aren’t words, and it’s one of the many ways God shows off His remarkable creativity this time of year….
And when the snow sits on the tree branches like Q-tips and the light glistens off of it, making it shimmer like diamonds, how do you deny winter’s beauty?
I took a little bit of flack last week for my admission that I hate snow, so let me be very clear here and explain the circumstances behind that.
I hate snow when it makes roads slippery and hard to drive on, when I have to shovel three times in a day, and when it covers everything, making it hazardous.
A couple years ago… nearly 3 years ago now actually, I was in a very bad car accident. I shouldn’t have made it out of it alive, in my opinion. I flipped upside down at 6pm on a weeknight on the 401 just outside of Woodstock, ON. Not the busiest place, but certainly a busy time of day. I hit a patch of black ice while changing lanes and lost all control. It’s still hard to talk about, and I still don’t remember exactly what happened. It was terrifying… and it left me with a completely consuming fear of winter driving. If snow could fall on grass and trees, in parks and fields, and never blow onto or accumulate onto roads where I need to maintain control of my vehicle at all times, I would love it, because it’s SO pretty! But I don’t love it. I feel a little sick to my stomach every time some falls from the sky, no matter how slight the flurry activity is. It’s pretty ridiculous. And I feel like this is one of those things I need to wake up to in December. I need to give this to God. He spared me from that accident, and so I will need to rely on Him fully to give me my confidence back as a winter driver. Because I’m tired of visions of being in a ditch somewhere, stranded, alone, cold, and near death being what I see every time I see flurries/snow in the forecast. I’m tired of that fear controlling travel plans, and inducing mood swings throughout an entire season.
3. For me, December means some of the busyness I described above. Buying presents, but because presents aren’t how I express my love for people, doing so out of a feeling of obligation mixed with wanting to do this right. If I’m going to buy presents, I want them to be well thought out, meaningful, useful, and not just more clutter in someone else’s life. It’s for that reason that I have a really hard time with the idea of “gag gift giving.” You mean to tell me you want me to go to the Dollar Store, find the most useless thing I can, wrap it up, and call it a gift? No thanks. That’s just not how I roll. My money is more valuable to me than that, and it’s a pretty unrivaled waste of an opportunity to really do something meaningful for someone. If you don’t want a gift exchange to get expensive and out of hand, why not write your favourite Bible Verse or Christmas song on an index card, make it meaningful, and give it away? The materialism that abounds throughout December drives me bananas. I hate it. I try to finish my Christmas shopping in November so that I can avoid malls in December. You can find great deals in December… Boxing Day Shopping, anyone? I get to do mine in Calgary again this year, which means only 5% tax. But I have to constantly remind myself that a good deal is only a good deal if it was something you were going to buy in the first place. If I go to the mall, and I need/have planned to buy 2 pairs of jeans, then doing so at a store where they have a buy one get one 50% off sale, or buy one get one free, etc…. is a great deal! But if I went, intending to buy baking soda and vinegar for a science experiment from the grocery store located inside the mall….. and I left with an iPhone……….. maybe not the greatest example of self control. (I actually did this on Thursday… I went to the mall for baking soda and vinegar and came home with those things, plus an iPhone. However… the reason I went to the phone store was because my old phone wasn’t working well anymore, and I went to see what it’d take to fix it, and it would have been nearly the same price to buy out my contract and get a new phone… so I did… and now my transition to Apple products is complete. Also… if you’re friends with me on Facebook, I’ve discovered Instagram. You’ve been warned.)
4. For me, December means traditions. It’s a tradition for me to decorate the Christmas tree with my Mom while we watch the Toronto Santa Claus Parade on TV and then watch Christmas movies. This usually starts at the end of December actually. That tradition means a lot to me. I haven’t been able to decorate with my Mom the past few years because we live 4 hours apart. Last year, I did my tree while watching the Parade on TV, but I was so frustrated with my tree because it’s pre-lit and I couldn’t get it all plugged in properly for a long time, so I nearly threw it off of my 13th floor balcony (I have very little patience for stupid finicky things that should work but don’t, long story short). This year, I was a bit bummed at the prospect of decorating because I don’t even have cable television anymore, so I couldn’t watch the Parade while I decorated…. until I found out that my Mom would be here November 22nd and that she wanted to help me set up my tree!! My tree is set up! I even skipped Bible Study to do it, that’s how much this tradition means to me. It’s one that, if I have my own children, I’ll pass down to them as well. Because we had no parade to watch, we listened to my ever-growing collection of Christmas music. p.s. since it is now December 1st, it is now socially acceptable for Christmas music to be played everywhere. I’m pleased.
5. For me, December/late November means parades. Last weekend, I was in my town’s Santa Claus Parade with my friends from Zumba, and we Zumba’d through the streets (and did Gangnam Style right downtown!) for an hour and a half… what a workout! Tonight, I’m in another one with my friend who runs the kennel where I board my dog when I’m away, and next weekend, I’ll likely go with her again to another one nearby. I love Santa Claus Parades, they’re so festive… even though they don’t mean anything about Christmas, at least not for me.
6. December is about Christmas. That’s what December really boils down to me. Some of the versions of Christmas that pop up are tainted and materialized and commercialized, and they irk me and make me sad. But some of the versions of Christmas are beautiful and pure. Random giving, kindness, laughter, spending time with family. I have the privilege this year for the first time ever of HOSTING Christmas. I am having both of my sides of the family over at MY house to serve Christmas dinner, laugh, visit, catch up, be together. It’s exciting, and I’m grateful for that. It’s busy, yes… parties here, parties there, work party, Bible Study party, school parties, family parties, fly to Alberta… more parties. But it’s relational. Those parties are about relationships and about the people and spending time together. And THAT is my love language. Yeah, there are preparations that must be done and food that must be made, we can’t just sit and not eat and do nothing… but it’s still about bringing people together. And the best parties… the best times…. they’re the ones where not only are we coming together to BE together, but we’re coming together to be together in God’s presence. Why else? What other reason is there to come together at Christmas? It’s sure not alcohol… that’s what New Year’s is for! Haha just kidding. It’s not presents, it’s not food, it’s not obligation… it’s Jesus. It’s cliche, but Jesus truly is the reason for the season. He came to be here for us. Not for any of those other things. He came for us.
I follow a Bible Reading Plan called She Reads Truth on YouVersion. This morning, we just started one for Advent. For the next 28 days, we’ll be focusing on preparing ourselves for the true meaning of this Christmas season. Here’s the link to the first day on YouVersion’s website. I encourage you to read it, it’s thought provoking. It got me thinking – what do I do to prepare for Christmas? Normally, nothing. I follow along at Church… Advent has started now. I sing Christmas music, but I don’t really truly reflect. So this Christmas, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Kind of like Lent, but I didn’t really think of it that way when I decided to do it. Anyone who’s been following this blog for any length of time at all knows that I’ve been struggling with my weight, and with my love of food, and that I haven’t been successful in anything I’ve tried. I’m to a point where I feel like I’m made for more than just feeling sorry for myself and not liking what I see in the mirror, and then eating because I feel crappy. But I need help, support, and strength to be more than that. I have two huge traps when it comes to my love… let’s be honest… addiction, to food. A) Fast Food, and B) Snacking.
So here’s the deal. To accomplish what I know I need to do, what I know God wants me to do, I am going to give those things up for the entire month of December. I will not hit a drive thru when I have perfectly good food at home and I’m on my way there anyway. When I feel like it, I will pray. I will focus on God and I will recognize the reason for this season. I will be thorough with my grocery shopping, making sure that I have food in the house that I will enjoy and that is healthy. I will learn to make more things in my crock pot, and I will share recipes on here as I find ones I love. This way, I will have food at home ready for me when I get there, which will eliminate I would say 90% of my “need” for fast food. Exceptions: 1) One trip to the FroYo place ON my birthday for a free FroYo. And that is the only FroYo I will eat through all of December. 2) While travelling, especially as we head for airports and such, fast food may not be avoidable. If it is my only choice, and it comes down to “eat this or don’t eat” at a meal time, I will eat it, because once in a while is not a bad thing. Letting it perpetuate my laziness and making me spend money that I don’t need to spend is, however.
I will not eat unless I am hungry. And when I am hungry, I will reach for fruit and vegetables instead of chips and cookies. I will stop buying chips and cookies to make this easier for myself.
One major area that I see myself struggling through the month of December is sweets. I haven’t opted to give them up this month, because I feel that it’s setting myself up to fail, however, I would like to stick to a 1 dessert maximum (two if they are little tiny squares) at Christmas parties, and just not buying them to have them in my home.
I know it sounds like I’m putting a lot of exceptions into this, but I know I’ll fail if I don’t. Go big or go home has never been a motto that’s worked for me when trying to eat better. It tends to mean I go home with a box of nanaimo bars, a couple donuts, and some frozen yogurt (I’ve never actually taken all of those home at once, they’re just my favourite things).
In conclusion, and I feel I should conclude, because we’re at 3000 words here and this has taken over an hour, and it’s like writing an essay… except from the heart…. If this is all you’re getting out of Christmas, no wonder it’s busy and stressful and crazy and hectic. Consider slowing down. Consider giving something up. Consider Jesus.
I leave you with a song. It’s on Taylor Swift’s Christmas album. I bought it last Christmas, and was pretty sad to find it only had six songs on it, but alas, it’s really good anyway, so out of my inability to dislike anything Taylor Swift has ever done, I thoroughly enjoy it anyway :p
Merry Advent 🙂