At the beginning of Christmas break, I prayed repeatedly for God to grant me peace and presence to enjoy the holidays with my family and prepare well for the return to school for the last three weeks of the semester. Knowing myself, I didn’t want pressure to work on school prep to steal my attention away from the joyful moments of Christmas celebration.
Two days after Christmas, as I continued to battle a nasty cold that left me voiceless and tired, I realized that God had answered my prayers! Ironically, illness had stripped away my constant striving for productivity and cleared my schedule. It quieted all the “shoulds” that typically echo in my mind as I accepted my condition and allowed myself to rest. Gratefully, we made it to Christmas Eve’s Lessons and Carols celebration at church, though my coughing kept me from singing very much.
Christmas morning, my cold was at it’s worse. My throat and ears hurt. I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for my stocking stuffers and asked my family to forgive my reactions! But, in that moment, I prayed again. Lord, help me to accept how I’m feeling and be present with my family today. Help me remember that the blessings of Christmas abound far beyond today and just rest if your grace.
The inclination to have unhelpful thoughts such as, “I hate that I feel so sick on Christmas morning!” is a very normal, human reaction. We build up a day or an event and want it to live up to our expectations. But we’re not in control of so many factors, including how our body feels on any given day. Letting those thoughts guide my spirit would only make me feel worse.
I am so grateful for these little moments of stillness and contemplation of what is most important. Our Christmas was cozy. We played with our rambunctious puppy, watched movies, and said prayers of thanksgiving for the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem all those years ago. I had just enough energy to make Christmas dinner and my family was compassionate all day. Sienna kept looking at me with concern, asking: “Mom, how are you feeling?”
All this unscheduled time at home has led to a lot of interesting studying in preparation for units on the Peloponnesian War and the Magna Carta when school resumes in January. Rather than feeling stressed to fit in work over the break, I’ve had fun curiously studying these topics. The fact that I didn’t have much else to do just provided extra motivation to study!
This has been an intense season of learning and growth as I teach history (to teenagers!) for the first time. It’s hard and humbling and fun and fulfilling. I’ve been praying for peace and presence over and over again. God truly gives me the energy and focus I need, when I get out of my own way and cease striving to do it all and do it all perfectly. Admitting my limits and therefore not expecting unreasonable performance helps me remember how needy I am for the grace and guidance of Jesus, our beloved manger king.