A Practice of Presence While Exploring Arizona

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Our family just returned from a delightful road trip vacation through Arizona!  By the time we left last Friday, I was beyond ready to vacate regular life, relax, and enjoy time with Dennis and our little ones.  Leading up to our departure, I’d been struggling to let go of my critical thoughts telling me how I wasn’t doing everything right.  Oh, that old fixed mindset rearing her ugly head!  So, I prayed… and prayed, asking God to help me embrace being present, accept each moment, and allow all of us grace to grow and learn.  God is always faithful!  I found myself completely present, focused on all the fun and new experiences rather than being distracted by my thoughts and plans.

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As I’ve been on this journey of growth the past several years, I’ve been struck time and again by how much I LOVE going to new places and letting the days unfold without planning ahead.  It’s just the best!  There’s something about being away from home (with all the responsibilities it contains) and in a new place (where I don’t know what to expect) that creates the perfect environment for me to just BE.  I absorb my surroundings.  I really see and hear my kids and husband.  I’m present in a way that can tend to allude me in the familiar places of home and work.

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We first headed to Tombstone, Arizona to experience the Old West!   Dennis is very interested in Wyatt Earp and has read a few biographies about his life and experiences in Tombstone.  Most of what I know is from the Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer movie!  We checked in at Tombstone Monument Ranch on Friday evening, just in time for a steak and potatoes dinner, followed by cowboy music in the saloon.  The ranch is a replica of an Old West town, with each room built into the town.  We were in the Wyatt Earp Room!  Across the “street” was the Marshall’s office.  It was so cool!  The musicians played covers of lots of old country and western songs.  My heart soared as I watched Mateo’s face light up when they sang “La Bamba” – one of his favorites!

Our first breakfast was a classic “chuck wagon” meal down by the campfire.  Arizona Bill was our host, and he taught us a lot about the ranch.  He would feature in the rest of our trip too!  After breakfast, the kids begged to go swimming.  The pool was small and unfortunately had attracted a lot of hornets.  Sienna and Teo were afraid, so I got in the pool and started swimming laps to show them it was okay.   But, they were obviously wiser than their mother because, as I reached for the wall right in front of Dennis and the kids, I got stung in the index finger!  Oh man, it hurt!  I came out of the water yelling and then plucked the stinger out of my finger.  It stung me right in the bend of the knuckle.  It continued to swell for the next two days, until it was so swollen I couldn’t bend my finger.  But, other than being annoying, it really didn’t impact the trip, except for not being able to bowl at our hotel near the Grand Canyon!

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We visited Tombstone’s historic downtown, saw a reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral, toured the Courthouse, and generally soaked up all things Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Old West.  Back at the ranch Dennis got to shoot several different types of guns.  Arizona Bill was the instructor for Dennis and the three other guests that participated in the shooting.  He was such a throwback to the era of the Old West!  His commentary was insightful as he discussed border issues (it’s very close to Tombstone).  He also told endearing stories of his wife outshooting him after he had hundreds of hours of shooting training in the army.  Arizona Bill even gave marriage advice, telling us to always do things together, that’s the key to keeping your relationship strong.  We loved him!

We all tried archery, which was really fun!  Later we had a family horseback riding lesson.  Both kids were scared and Sienna opted out, but she loved the horses and kept asking to go visit them in their stable, so hopefully she’ll try another time.  I got to follow the lesson with a trial ride on my horse Pablo.  It was a great way to see the dessert landscape and have some alone time.  Pablo was a lazy walker so we dragged a bit behind the wrangler and other couple on the trial ride, but that was okay with me.

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After three days of enjoying ranch life, getting to know the other guests, and having all our meals provided for us, it was time to start the second leg of our trip.  We headed northwest toward the Grand Canyon!  The drive was pretty easy and we kept entertained with music – country, Broadway musicals, and some 90s pop.  I loved overhearing the imaginative stories that Sienna and Mateo made up.  Sienna has the liveliest imagination and she gets Teo involved in long stories.  This trip the themes were the west and horses (obviously) and Star Wars, because they both love it despite being afraid to actually watch the movies!  We don’t take any electronic devices on our road trips (except cell phones for texting, GPS, and music), which definitely helps them engage with one another and their imaginations.

Tuesday morning we headed into Grand Canyon National Park to view the canyon from the South Rim.  It was more tremendous than I was expecting!  You hear people joke that it’s “a big hole in the ground” which is true.  But, it’s so immense and beautiful.  We spent several hours walking the rim and talking dozens of pictures.  Every angle seemed new and photo worthy!  The kids were interested, but got much more engaged with the visit once we got Teo a souvenir: a ring-tailed cat stuffed animal that he named Ringo.  We expected the kids to start complaining about the hike back, but they got really involved in caring for Ringo and explaining the canyon to him, so they walked back happily.  It was the best timed souvenir ever!

272The rest of our vacation included a day trip to Flagstaff – such a cute mountain town.  We explored downtown, found a great little bookstore, had brunch and then headed back to our hotel to swim and read.  I got to read a bunch on this trip – my favorite!  Our hotel also featured a small bowling alley and arcade!  We concluded our day in the arcade for the last two nights and all enjoyed playing basketball, pinball, Mrs. Packman, and racecar driving.  Teo’s poor driving skills had me hysterically laughing!

So, we’re home now and I’m reflecting on this delightful vacation.  Going in, I thought that the Tombstone part of the trip was mostly for Dennis.  But, it was so enjoyable!  I loved the inclusiveness of the ranch, getting to meet new people, having all our meals prepared for us.  It felt like summer camp!  We definitely want to go back.  But, we’ll see… there are so many places to explore!

The Relationships that Help Me Grow

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Every once in awhile, I find myself reflecting on life and seeing the loving hand of God guiding my life and shaping my growth.  This week I had a couple experiences that helped me appreciate the relationships in my life, particularly the ones that challenge me to grow.

I am very fortunate to have a mentor at work.  She’s reads this blog regularly too, (“Hi Debby!).  Over the past few years, she has encouraged, pushed, and challenged me to be a better manager (and person, for that matter!) through regular feedback. She has walked side-by-side with me through several difficult work situations, always with the delicate balance of empathy and advice.  Beyond work, when I experienced acute anxiety in the summer of 2013, her office is where I retreated to cry and seek counsel.

As I grew, both professional and personally, I relied on her less and less for the daily management decisions I needed to make.  But, when the bigger issues arose, she was the first person I ran to for advice.  However, I wasn’t as moldable as I’d been previously.  Sometimes I bristled as her feedback, thinking that my track record must mean that I had figured something out.  But, even when I couldn’t immediately accept the gift of feedback she provided me, her training kicked in and I would reply, “Thank you for the feedback” and then go away to wrestle with it awhile.

GERBERASI realized this week that, when I struggle against accepting Debby’s feedback, it’s a very good indicator that I’ve slipped back into a fixed mindset.  When I feel the need to justify my actions and deflect blame, it’s a good sign that my struggle switch is flipped and I’m not owning my behavior.  Fortunately, Debby also gives me the grace to struggle with the feedback before accepting it.  In doing so, I’m able to humbly surrender and acknowledge that she has given me the gift of information to help me grow.

There’s such amazing peace that comes from accepting responsibility and recognizing when your thoughts and behavior in a given situation are causing you pain.  In another workplace relationship, I caused myself years of heartache by perceiving a coworker’s  actions as antagonistic and then acting out in response.  A few years ago, we both decided that we wanted to move forward with a different kind of relationship.  It wasn’t easy and there were several missteps as we tried to overcome years of distrust and build trust with one another.

This process of growth has brought me indescribable peace and hope.  This week, I went to lunch with this coworker for the first time!  We had a delightful conversation and she gave me a most treasured compliment.  She said that she truly feels heard and understood when she talks to me.   That moment was so special and provided such healing.

I have a reminder that pops up on my phone each day.  It helps me be mindful to stay in a growth mindset through acceptance: “How I perceive a situation dictates my emotional state, which dictates my behavior.”  Given my experience with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (“ACT”), I think of my perception as the thoughts I fuse with about that situation.  So, if I tell myself that a piece of feedback is a challenge to my abilities or a threat, then I respond by defending myself.  Whereas, if I fuse with the thought that feedback is a gift to help me grow, then I can accept and learn more quickly.  Likewise, if I tell myself that another person is “out to get me” or has negative intentions toward me, then I’m likely to act aggressively based on that perception.  Whereas, if I assume positive intent and seek to understand another person’s actions, I can remain calm, learn, and grow from the experience.

There are times when I consider my employment options in life and wonder if something would be a better fit for me.  But, then weeks like this occur and I realize that God has put me in this particular vocation with these particular people in my life, for a reason.  Growing, learning, accepting, and understanding are happening to me every day.

I’m so grateful for the relationships that challenge me and help me grow.

Mateo’s Moment of Connection and Compassion

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After Palm Sunday service, we decided to go out for brunch downtown. Sienna’s sweet friend Gracie had spent the night and gone to church with us, so the five of us drove down Park Boulevard on a beautiful early spring morning on a hunt for food.

Our brunch was yummy and they actually made my hash browns extra crispy, but as typically happens after eating out at a restaurant, I started to have that bit of buyer’s remorse. As I was reminding myself that we were paying for the experience, not just the food, the girls and I exited the restaurant to meet Dennis and Teo, who’d left a few minutes before us.  I found them talking to a homeless man that looked in pretty bad shape.  As I approached them, Dennis asked: “Kels, do you have a dollar or two?”

I grabbed my wallet and pulled out the only two singles I had, handed them to the man, and said “God bless you.” He smiled without making eye contact and we all walked away.

Teo and I were holding hands and his questions started right away. “How much did you give him?  Could we give him more? He needs more than that, Mommy.”

I tried to explain, the best I could and asked him: “Do you want to do more to help people who don’t have homes or enough to eat?” He replied, “I want to help that man.” The simplicity of his connection to seeing this particular man’s pain was poignant.  I didn’t need to turn this into a grandiose teaching moment, Mateo just wanted to do something to ease this man’s suffering.

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We were about a block from the restaurant and crossing the street when Teo said, “I wish I could give him my allowance.” Once safely on the other curb, I stopped Dennis and the girls, then turned to Teo. “You want to give him your allowance?  We can, if you’re sure.  We can go back.”

“Yes, let’s go back,” he replied as he pulled me back toward the intersection.

His questions continued as we walked quickly down the street and noticed that the man was slowly walking away, so we had to catch up to him. “How much will we give him?”

“Well, your allowance is $7.00 and we already gave him $2.00.”

He employed his counting up method of addition: “Two. Three, four, five, six, seven. Okay, then that makes seven dollars. Mommy, what will he do with this money?… Maybe he’ll get a dog!”

“Seven dollars isn’t enough for a dog, but he could get a good meal today, that would be good,” I explained.

“Okay. Then, maybe other people will give him money for food tomorrow and for a jacket, maybe a bigger backpack to carry his stuff…”

We caught up to the man, and I handed him the five dollar bill at Mateo’s request. He thanked us in a vacant kind of way and I studied Mateo’s face as he watched the man.  His care and compassion were palpable.

We turned the corner to head to our car, just outside of Petco Park, where the Padres play. Teo said, “Oh, he could go to a baseball game!”  I again explained that a meal was probably the best way he could spend the money Teo gave him.

Walking hand in hand with my precious son, I thanked God for this moment. Sure, we spent more on breakfast than we needed to and there was the irony that parking literally cost twice what we gave this man.  But, that moment of connection and compassion only happened because we were there.  Dennis and I have been talking about finding a charity and volunteer opportunity for our family.  As I’ve been learning, more often than not, the kids lead and teach through their innocence and love.  This moment taught Mateo more about compassion and the spirit of giving than anything we could instill.

Parenting by Making Commitments and Building Trust

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Several weeks ago, Dennis, my mom, our friend Christina, and I went for a group “coffee date” during the kids’ Sunday school class. We had a lovely time chatting over our coffee when I noticed the time and said, “Oh, we better get back.  The kids will be fine in the church courtyard but it’s getting late.”  We scurried off and were just a block from the church when my cell phone rang.  It was my friend Michelle, who teaches one of the Sunday school classes.  “Someone is wondering where you are,” she said.  A tearful Sienna got on the phone and I explained that we were almost back.

As I came into the classroom, Sienna was still sobbing. I hugged her close.  “Honey, we were on our way back.  We knew you were safe here with our church family. It’s okay, love.” I kept given her reassuring words and holding her close for several minutes.

The following Saturday afternoon, Sienna started asking me questions about Sunday school. “You’ll be there to pick me up, right?”  Initially, I was a little impatient with her. Recently, Sienna has been needing a lot of reassuring and often her questions strike me as absurd.  And, if I’m honest, they make me worry about her worrying, which doesn’t feel good.  I distractedly replied: “Yes, of course we’ll be there, honey.”

Sienna’s pleas for reassurance continued the next morning and hit their peak during the sermon. She was in tears as she expressed deep fear that we wouldn’t be there to pick her up after Sunday school.  I took her out of the church so we could talk.  This time, I really listened.  What I heard and related to was genuine fear.  I could see she now had an association between coming out of Sunday school and experiencing the fear of not seeing us down in the courtyard, therefore the thought of sitting in class anticipating that moment was causing her anxiety.

As I started to promise her we would be there, a thought suddenly occurred to me: “Make and keep commitments to build trust.” This reminder has been popping up on my Outlook Task list for months, as a reminder to build trust with my coworkers by making and keeping commitments. The phrase comes from Speed of Trust, a book and program we’ve embraced at our office, which argues that making and keeping commitments to people is one of the best ways to build their trust in you. It was such a perfectly timed reminder.

“Sienna, why don’t we pick out a specific place in the courtyard for us to be when you get out of class?” I offered. “That way you’ll know just where to look for us.”

“Okay. Yes, that would be good,” she replied with a big exhale of relief.

After mass, we crossed through the courtyard on Sienna’s way up to class. “Which picnic table should we be sitting at?” I asked.

“That one,” she said, pointing. “That way I can see you right from the top of the stairs!”

As Dennis and I hurried over to the farmer’s market for an iced coffee, I explained to him that we had to get back right away. I wanted to be sure to be there in plenty of time. This was now a commitment.  I’d promised to be there and I knew she needed us to help her overcome this fear.

We got back at least 20 minutes before class was scheduled to end, so we sat on a comfy couch in the courtyard while drinking our coffee and chatting with our church family members as they came and left. As the time for class to end neared, I told Dennis I was heading over to sit at the picnic table.  Even though she could see us from the couch, that wasn’t the point. I’d promised to be there, at that picnic table.  Meeting the spirit of the commitment wasn’t the same as meeting it fully.

The look on Sienna’s face when she came to the top of the stairs and looked straight down at where I was sitting was pure relief, joy, and love. She came running down the stairs. “Mommy, you’re right where you said you’d be!” she exclaimed. I gave her a big hug and said a prayer of gratitude for being there, when she needed me.

That little moment built so much trust between Sienna and me. Since that week, she’s continued to express concern about whether we’ll be in the courtyard when class gets out.  I keep reassuring her and when I say, “I’ll be sitting at the picnic table,” she smiles and nods.  Clearly the memory of seeing me sitting there the first time I promised has given her a comforting association with getting out of class.

This experience meant so much to me. It reminded me of the simple truth that just showing up and being present, as a parent, is more than half the battle.  There’s not much that’s more rewarding than connecting with my daughter by fulfilling a promise to do what I love: be there for her.

Getting Out of My Head and Into My Life, In New York City

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Sometimes the greatest insights into ourselves come in the most unexpected ways.

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At the end of January, Dennis and I got to take an amazing trip, just the two of us!  My dad and stepmom gifted us with a trip to New York City to see my childhood friend Sara Bareilles perform in her Broadway musical Waitress.  We had a simply wonderful time!  In addition to Waitress, we saw two other Broadway shows: The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera.  In four and a half days we saw so many of the major attractions in NYC – Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial, The Met, Rockefeller Center, and Top of the Rock, to name the highlights.  It was so fun to be just the two of us, exploring and having adventures. We left plenty of space in our itinerary for spontaneous plans, which made for a more adventurous and exciting trip.

While touring the Michelangelo exhibit at The Met, I had an insight into myself that stopped me in my tracks.  Instead of gazing at the art and experiencing it directly, I was drawn to reading the commentary next to each piece.  Rather than having an emotional reaction to the art, I wanted to understand the history, context, and importance of the artist or subject.  When I realized this, it was somewhat startling.  I feel like I’ve come so far in my personal growth of being present in the moment and accepting emotional ups and downs, but still… I’m naturally inclined to analyze and think about something as emotionally significant as art.

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Returning home, I’ve been contemplating this realization.  I want to give my emotional life more of my attention, and not spend so much time “in my head”.  Why do I tend toward analyzing rather than experiencing the world?

This afternoon, I read my mom’s recent blog post at her website: A Woman’s Path.  She wrote about a book she read called “Starting With Why” and the concept of getting to the why behind your behavior through the Golden Circle exercise:

The Golden Circle, as described by Sinek, is a method we can use to bring about a clear understanding of why we do what we do. The Golden Circle represents 3 circles, one within the other.  The largest circle represents what we do.  The middle circle represents how we do it, and the inner circle, or the core, represents why we do what we do.

Returning to the epiphany at The Met, I struggled a bit with the words and then drew out a Golden Circle that went like this:

  • What: I tend to analyze and pay attention to my thoughts instead of directly experiencing my emotions
  • How: By ignoring feelings and fusing with my thoughts, I have a sense of safety and control
  • Why: I ultimately fear that I’ll encounter something that’s emotionally overwhelming

I can feel that I’m on the cusp of another deepen layer of growth that is necessary for my personal development.  It’s important and necessary, but not easy.  It’s so obvious to me that the path to peace is through Christ.  I can’t keep devastation and pain away, but I can certainly seek the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and Creator of the Universe to provide love, hope, guidance, and wisdom.

I’m clinging to my Savior as I pray for continued growth.  I want to feel life more than analyze it.  But, the only way that feels safe for me is when I’m trusting in God.  When I’m “in my head” my ultimate trust is in myself, my thoughts.  But, when I am present and not trying to control my emotions, I put my trust in God.  So much more comforting! I know that I’m a more loving wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend when I can accept my feelings and be in the moment with my loved ones.  I’m praying that God continues to draw me close and show me how to embrace Him more.

The Best Resolution of All.

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The lesson I learned this week?  Never write on a calendar with permanent marker.

Actually, this realization started to set in at the end of last month, as my hairdresser and dog groomer each cancelled appointments due to illness.  Then, just this week, I didn’t attend a meeting on Monday evening, a work trip got cancelled on Tuesday evening due to weather, and a coffee date with a friend got moved from Thursday to Friday.  That last one was in pencil.  I finally wised up.

Most of those events were entered into our family calendar in permanent marker several weeks before.  I giggled when I recognized this gentle reminder that, though we want to believe we know what the future holds, every day is an unfolding mystery.  It’s best to be prepared and then curiously watch as the day unfolds and we have opportunities to learn and grow.

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This week was full of transitions for me and our little family.  After being home for two weeks wherein we celebrated Christmas, New Years, Sienna’s birthday, Mateo’s birthday, and a surprise trip to Disneyland (Whew!), it was time to get back into the school and work routine.

I love these two weeks that cap off the year and usher us into the New Year knitted as a family unit.  For the past few years, we’ve done a family goal setting session on New Year’s Eve.  For 2018, our family theme is “Home” and we set a goal to make our home more comfortable and inviting.  I just read this book: The Little Book of Hygee: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and it brought together so many of the ideas I’ve had swirling in my mind about making a cozy home!  I recently got a reading chair for the corner of our bedroom and it’s transformed the feel and function of that room.  I love having a dedicated cozy spot to read with my cup of tea!

This year the kids were really into the goal setting!  Sienna set a goal to read 40 books  and Mateo set a few goals, one of which is to “invent something to make things invisible”.   At first I started to reason with him that this wasn’t a very attainable goal, but then I figured: Shoot for the stars, kid!

As I posted the goals on the bulletin board in the kitchen, I realized that there was something missing.  We set these goals and intentions without properly acknowledging that we live and move and have our being in Christ.  God is in control, we’re not. For goodness sakes, I can’t even write something on the calendar and know for sure it will happen that day!  So, I added a verse to our goal list: … yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes… you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

I love goal setting and annual planning.  It’s motivating to imagine the habits and behaviors that will make life valuable and fulfilling.  It’s also fun to look forward to summer vacations, holidays, and annual events.  But, it’s easy to let all that planning create a sense of self-reliance or self-determination that’s simply false.  We control so very little and God provides all.  Keeping that perspective firming in mind is the best resolution of all.

Finding Peace in Seasons of Busyness

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It feels like I haven’t written a blog post in FOREVER!  But, looks like it’s only been a month.  That speaks volumes about how full and busy the last month has been.  Given that this is the Year of “Only What’s Essential” it seems something has gone wrong… or has it?

My personal workload at the office has been at an all-time high the past couple of months.  Between upgrades to my primary software programs, busy season planning (of which I do the scheduling for all the auditors), an integration of our administrative structure and processes between six locations (of which I manage 2), and other large, year-end projects that demand a lot of time, it’s been crazy.  “My own personal busy season” is what I’ve dubbed it.

Several weeks ago I heard myself muttering about being “overwhelmed” regularly.  My brain jumped and skipped all over the place as I took mental inventory of all that I had to do.  Fortunately, the mindfulness techniques I’ve learned kicked in and I decided not to pay attention to the “I’m overwhelmed” thought and just let it pass by.

Being so busy at work actually encouraged me to be intentional with my time, and figure out ways to delegate more.  Instead of getting caught up in mental loop of all the things I potentially could or should be doing, I just jumped in and started getting things done.

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After running with my friend on a weekly basis for much of the year, I’d encouraged her to run her first half marathon (“Hi Leslie!”) and then made a hasty retreat when she asked if I was going to run it too.  By encouraging another friend from church to run the race at a Friendsgiving event, I somehow talked myself into it too.  Although I hadn’t run more than 5 miles at a time for months, this race was looming and long runs had to be done.

Since I was busy at work and wanting to thoroughly enjoy the holiday festivities with my family on the weekends, I fit running in where I could and didn’t stress about it.  The week leading up to the race last Saturday was particularly hectic.  Fortunately, Leslie and I had a good run on Monday morning.  I then decided to rest until the race, which worked out well.  Instead of feeling like I was neglecting exercise because of my office workload, it was easily reframed as rest and recovery for the upcoming race!

Going into the race, I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I’d been for races in the past, particularly in terms of recent mileage.  But, I knew that I could run the distance and would just go out to enjoy the race, listen to my Christmas music (it’s the Holiday Half Marathon, after all), and not have any preconceived notions about a finishing time.

To my surprise and delight, I ran a personal best: 1:55.51.  Over four minutes faster than I ran on the same course 2 years ago!  Also, I felt awesome during the race!  When I returned home later that morning, I got cleaned-up and into my pajamas.  Teo and I cuddled on the couch watching “Holiday Baking Championship” on Food Network.  Later, I wrapped most of the Christmas gifts that were stashed in the closet, while listening to more Christmas music and drinking almond milk hot chocolate.  Sienna came to help and I got to teach her how to wrap presents.  Sitting on the floor, I watched her carefully fold the corners and resisted the urge to “help” too much!  We all got to bed early since Dennis and I had altar guild for the 8:00 a.m. service on Sunday.  That meant we needed to be there by 7:00 a.m. Whew!  Pastor asked our family to light the Advent wreath during the early service; so special!

Throughout the entire weekend, I felt myself breathing into the moment and remaining present.  When I was running, I didn’t think too far ahead; instead, I looked around, listened to the music, and focused on the feel of running.  When I wrapped presents, I did just that; I didn’t worry about work or think of all the things we needed to get done.  Setting the altar for the divine service on Sunday morning always brings me in touch with the ultimate gift that Christ gives us, in himself, week after week.

I’ve found that, when I’m especially busy or feeling overwhelmed, it’s an opportunity to practice mindfulness and being present in the moment.  All the activities or items on the “To Do” list, don’t add up to feeling crazed, if I’m able to stay present and do one thing at a time.  Running that race didn’t leave me feeling remorseful, as if I opted to prioritize it before family/holiday time, because I purposefully didn’t schedule anything else for the day.  A very busy work week didn’t leave me feeling like I was being robbed of the joyful holidays because I left work in the office on Friday afternoon and enjoyed the weekend fully with Dennis and the kids, and celebrated the Advent season with our church family.  When, every now and then, the thought would occur to me: “I shouldn’t be this busy right now, it’s the holidays!” I chose not to give that thought my attention, so it didn’t hook me into feeling frustrated or angry.

Through this season of busyness, festivities, and joyous times with family and friends, there are so many opportunities to get caught up in the chaos and miss out on tender moments of connection.  But, there are just as many opportunities to stop, breathe, look around, and be present in the moment where life is happening right in the here-and-now.  May this Christmas season bring you hope, peace, joy, and love as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.