Are you ready for Christmas?

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The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Recovering from sudden disaster

Not every storm has a name, like Harvey, Irma, or Maria.

Mine arrived without radar predictions or an evacuation warning.

An urgent voice on the other end of the phone said, “your house is on fire—you’d better get over here, NOW!”

Ash Gateway fire June 2006 police 290A few minutes later I found myself standing across the street from my home, watching helplessly as voracious flames consumed the roof.

The firefighters valiantly fought the blaze, preventing it from completely destroying the structure.  But what remained was damaged severely by heat, smoke and water.Ash Gateway fire June 2006 police 338

For the first time in my life, I was confronted with sudden disaster, devastation, and displacement.

There’s been a lot of that going around lately.  Perhaps like me, you’ve felt heart-sick over the string of calamities the past few weeks . . . hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes.

How do we recover when a major storm sweeps through our lives?

Continue reading “Recovering from sudden disaster”

Staying afloat during a tidal wave of transition

A couple of months ago I shared the post, “When life changes – but you don’t want to.”

In it I described how a treasured boss would be retiring, and shared a few tips for coping with impending change.

th[2]This month the tsunami of transition came crashing down with full force.

Perhaps I was naïve to think I might have a few days (or even weeks) of calm after my boss’s last day to grieve and re-group before my world turned upside down.

That first morning, I quietly entered his bare office and was overcome with emotion.  The pain felt very much like when I visited  my father’s vacant home after he died.

I wasn’t alone in my struggles.  There was a subdued mood across campus, and a teary-eyed co-worker said it felt like the “heart” had gone out of the building.

Yet at 10:30 a.m. that morning, before we even had a chance to dry our eyes, we received the announcement.  Our new college president had been appointed and would begin in six weeks.

Instantly, the mantra became “moving forward.”

The world as I knew it shifted, and the flood waters of change rapidly rose around my ankles.

Continue reading “Staying afloat during a tidal wave of transition”

When life changes – but you don’t want to

If we are fortunate, every so often we find a sweet spot in life . . . a time when our relationships and circumstances seem just right.  We are thriving and feel safe and happy.   And then something outside of our control happens.  Life changes—even though we don’t want it to.

thhg5zd0z4The first time I experienced it, I was only eight.  My dad was starting a new career, and we had to relocate half-way across the country. I remember the anxiety and sadness I felt over having to leave the only home I had ever known.

Similar feelings resurfaced as my high school days came to a close.  I dreaded the transition that would scatter my close friends and propel me into the unknown. Yet the hands of time dictated that a season in my life was over. 

As an adult, the pattern has repeated itself several times when circumstances beyond my control changed my world.  Sometimes it happened suddenly, like the day my house went up in flames. Other times it was a longer-term process, such as experiencing the stages of eldercare.

And now, I feel it happening again. Continue reading “When life changes – but you don’t want to”

Why I’m thankful for my limitations

A wave of melancholy washed over me the day of the holiday concert.   I was sad because I wouldn’t be singing with the local choral ensemble.group_5121

It’s not because the group didn’t want me.

This past fall I was honored to receive an invitation to join the choir, and began attending rehearsals.  My soul was immediately enlivened by the process of learning and making music again.

But I was simultaneously confronted with an old nemesis—my relentless battle with chronic fatigue.

The two-hour Sunday evening rehearsals were intense, with no breaks.  During each practice my body began to crash at about the half-way mark, leaving me hanging on by my fingernails for the duration.  Worse yet, I paid for it dearly for several days afterwards, struggling to function at work because of the resulting exhaustion, headaches, and dizzy spells.

Though I hated to do it, I knew I had to withdraw from the group. My health limitations had gained the upper hand once again.

Perhaps you know the feeling, even though your situation is different.  We all experience limitations of some sort—physical, mental, financial, educational, and emotional, to name a few.

It’s natural to feel frustrated or sad like I did when obstacles keep us from something we want.

But what if we could transform our view of the things that limit us (especially the things we cannot change) to a positive perspective?

th265r7k9f Continue reading “Why I’m thankful for my limitations”