A December Rest

There have been rumblings around the water cooler of my small world, and the rumbles are saying this, over and over again:

We are tired. We are weary. December is wearing us thin and our knuckles are beginning to dry and crack, souls soon to follow. For some of us, it’s the endless sales and deals of a crazy consumerist Christmas. For others, it’s grieving the loss of another place setting at the dinner table. For others still, it’s the rush of dinners and parties and expectations, celebrations designed to dazzle but leave us feeling frenzied. For a few more, it’s the anticipation of family drama and dredged memories that leave our shoulders tense, lips biting, waiting for the blow.

Ken and I decided early on in our marriage that we would fight – hard – to protect December. We’d keep it quiet, with loads of silent nights and midnight clears and peace-on-Earths. We’re pretty good at jam-packing things into the far corners of our calendar, so we promised ourselves that December would be a month of less. Of slow. Of subtraction. If a year is a week, December would be our much-awaited Sabbath.

And for the most part, we’ve been semi-successful. We decided not to send holiday cards this year, one less check mark on the list. We decorated the tree, watched the movies, practiced being weak-strong and began to define what Christmas means for our family. We’re releasing the rest, one year at a time.

And on the outside, it’s working. The calendar is sort of wide open, and I’ve been playing with Bee a lot, and we’ve been wearing our slippers and baking candied pecans.

But then, I’ll yell, just like that. And the sweet, maple syrup roasted pecans turn sour.

My skin is just so, so thin in the winter. I often wonder if it’s not the lack of sun that gets me, but instead, the thinning of my skin. The outside world just permeates me to the core and slips inside – it always has. I need that extra layer of skin to keep from taking on the stress of others and using it to fuel my own.

Yesterday, I watched a mother slap her child in the candy aisle of Target, and it stung me to the core. It seeped into my cracked knuckles and stayed there, and I felt it.

Less than two hours later, I heard another mother scream in anger that her child was never getting another present again because he was horrible, horrible! And it seeped in, and I felt it.

I know these mothers; I am these mothers. I know (or I think I know, rather) that they’re upset about something else, something different, and the reaction is just right there – just under the surface. That their skin is a little thin these days, this month, and they’re really just working hard to put one foot in front of another all of the other months, and December feels a little like the finish line, but the kind where you’re loaded with extra gifts to wrap and weird appetizers to create and – when you’re really just trying to run a good race – it puts quite a bit of extra luggage on your back.

I read a passage this morning, from Matthew: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28)

It seeped into my cracked knuckles and stayed there, and I felt it.

Come to me. Learn from me, he says. I am gentle. I am humble. You will find rest.

In December, few are gentle. Few are humble. We’re all kind of just running around with tinsel on our feet and to do lists in our head. And it’s pretty hard to find rest in our inbox, or in the aisles of Targets, or even while baking those candied pecans I so love to love.

And so, this month, this day, I will seek to learn. I will seek gentleness and humility and I will seek rest.

And it will seep into my cracked knuckles and stay there, and I will feel it.

  • Your words are a gift :). Thank you for not being afraid to share your heart and God’s truth. “It seeped into my cracked knuckles and stayed there, and I felt it.”

  • Thank you as usual. For voicing things people don’t even know they’re feeling or how to articulate.

    Sending sunshine & passing on a blessing I received earlier in the year: blessings for a year filled with ease and grace

  • Thank you for sharing this with us. Nice to hear those words and not feel so alone.

  • Oh this is so good Erin. I’ve been feeling thin as well. So blessed and excited for the holiday but at the same time SO overwhelmed by the idea of making it perfect and especially finding the right gifts for everyone. I go into stores and can’t make even the simplest decision because there are so.many.darn.choices. And so much grief in the world that is hard to turn off. I’m going to try to lean on that verse…it’s a good one.

  • This is so, so perfectly said. My skin is wearing thin too. I keep reminding myself to walk away and breathe deeply when I feel myself ready to snap. It helps. Meditation and prayer daily helps too. I’m not sure if it’s the divine or just being able to take 20 minutes and be quiet (probably both!), but when I don’t do it, I can tell in my mood. Love and light, sister ❤️

    • I am EXACTLY the same way! Just scheduled an hour yoga session today and just cannot wait. The quiet is just so healing for me!

  • Thank you so much for writing this. It’s true and beautiful and everything I needed to hear.

    December 2014 is going by at a rate I am not ok with. If I want to rest, I have to schedule it or it won’t happen. Is that the antithesis of true rest? I’ve wanted to spend Advent *waiting*…but I haven’t given myself time to feel the weight of waiting.

    I love thinking of December as the Sabbath of the year. I have a feeling that thought is going to stick with me for a long time, and I hope I can be more intentional about implementing it in the years to come.

    Bless you.

    • Ah, thank you Lisa – it’s really helped us in re-shaping a month that almost always begs more, more, more of us. :) Wishing you peace and rest this month, sweet friend.

  • This brought me to tears because it is exactly how I feel right now. Thank you for this expressive post.

  • A restful peaceful December is truly a gift, for so many reasons! I loved the passage you shared from Matthew…humility intrigues me.

  • Yes! Breathable Moments!! I’ve been intentional scheduling them in this month and it has been huge! I read this ” an overwhelmed schedule leads to an underwhelmed soul” Lysa terkeust. This is why I have more breathable moments as my soul was underwhelmed! I love the message trnslation of the same verse you chose! Meryl Christmas!
    28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

  • Thank you for this post. It definitely resonates with what I am feeling now. I wish you and your family peace.

  • YES! We are learning this approach year over year as well with our girls. This year we are slowing down and enjoying Advent. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend “unwrapping the greatest gift” by Ann Voskamp. It’s beautifully written, along with beautiful artwork to ignite the little ones imagination. The meaning and expectation of the Savior’s birth has gained a whole new perspective and meaning for us. Merry (restful) Christmas!

  • Amen. Ours has not been as slow as I would have liked it, but God is good and has let it all pan out, at least before Christmas week. Thanks for writing this, Erin! A much-needed reminder. Hugs.

  • This is perhaps my most favorite post that you’ve written. Hoping you found rest today. I love those verses from Matthew.

  • I really loved reading this and never thought of doing less in December. The world expects so much! All of a sudden, I’m supposed to care about everything all at once because it’s Christmas. Less IS more.

  • How beautifully put! We are also desperately trying to keep those times quiet that should be! It is ever so important and forces me to keep myself guarded from this hectic world and not let it steal the joy of the true meaning of the season! Matt 11:28 is one of my all time faves! -Probably because I don’t sit still very well ;)

  • Thank you Erin. Rest for my soul is what I was so thirsty for this Advent. I am trying to figure this new year out. Thank you for reminding me where my Rest is. I know that going to Him will replenish me. Its the getting there that I get stuck in. My desire is to create a habit of going. Each and every day.

  • I love your commentary on December and managing the extra stress – hulabaloo – joyfulness. I love your analogy of our skin thinning. And I relate to how you are feeling. I am in a very different phase of my life, but I also feel these stresses. This year we also slowed down and did less. We need fewer things – nothing more to sit around, nothing more without a purpose. More donations, fewer items to wrap. Back to the basics and loving it.

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