Chasing Contentment

Tuesday, November 29

Now that Advent's officially begun, I'm enjoying preparing things for our celebration. I want the month to be about joy and giving and loving.

Last night, I made cheese balls (Mike's very favorite Christmas food) and homemade butter mints (everyone's fave). Tonight, I'm going to make Oreo truffles (yum!). Once the kids are snuggly in bed each evening, I'm working on making the beaded jewelry that I will give to friends this year. And since we're not giving lots of gifts this year, I'm making for friends to give to their families, too.

I've ordered one pretty set of French Toast Girl's Christmas cards (I got to the 'Go Tell' cards), and I've ordered my holiday ornament stamps online. And tonight, we'll take photos of the kids in front of the tree for our Christmas card. (If I order them from Snapfish by tomorrow, I can get the 15% discount - code CARDS2005.)

I've gotten Santa letters written for Griff and Eliza as well as all of the nieces and nephews, and I'm working on my gift list. I like the anticipation of selecting gifts for folks that I think each person will really like. Which brings me to the last part of my Holiday Plan... the gifts.

Chel's Holiday Plan - The Gifts
Every year, the first thing I need is a list. I want a list where I can write down every single person - teachers included - that I'll do gifts for this year. Here's how I do it...

1) Make a list of everyone. Just everyone possible. Best to start big and cross people off than forget someone.
2) Decide who will get hand-made gifts and who won't. Consider each recipient's wishes. I want gifts to be about the recipient not about the giver.
3) As I complete or purchase each gift, I put a check mark by that name, until I've completed all of the gifts.
4) If I'm making gifts, I do all of the gift making the same way I would do the card making, set aside an amount of time and work during that time and then stop. Even if I'm not finished. If I need several blocks of time, fine. But I limit myself, so I don't get too overwhelmed by it all.
5) Make a list of everything needed for wrapping and such (paper, tape, bows, bags, cards, anything) and do all of that shopping at once. Take an hour and do just that stuff. And then, it's all done and available when I want it.
6) Do the wrapping in sessions, too, so it's less overwhelming.

With the list, I make a second list of all gifts that need to be mailed (we've got lots of family in other states). I plan to purchase or make those gifts first, so they can be wrapped and in the mail by Dec. 12, in plenty of time for a Christmas arrival.

This year, of course, we've decided to only do gifts for the kids in our families, so that cuts down on the shopping. Mike and I will do stockings for one another but not gifts.

I do love Christmas!

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 29, 2005  ]

Monday, November 28

I love Advent.

I love the anticipation of the holidays... the idea that we are waiting for something great... something amazing beyond our dreams.

We lit the first candle on the Advent Wreath last night, and the other couples in our weekly Bible study - along with their children - joined us, and it felt right. The eldest child in the group read the verse about light, and her tender young voice reflected the innocence of the moment. Her younger sister - celebrating her birthday - lit the first candle.

Brooklyn and Beyond had a lovely post about Advent today, and thanks to the Presbyterians, I'm reading an Advent devotional each day. I love the idea of immersing myself in the anticipation of the Lord.

I love talking with Griff about Jesus and his birth, about its meaning. He hasn't made a profession of faith yet, but I know that we are doing our job as his parents by surrounding him with love and with evidences of God. We are giving him a knowledge and a heart that will allow him to be a servant of Christ throughout his life, if he will only choose that path.

I love the holidays in general, to be honest. We had a good Thanksgiving week last week, and we are set to begin this Christmas season in earnest now that we are home and back in our routine. We will have yummy goodies, and we will have friends as guests in our home. We will watch sappy holiday movies, and we will sing Christmas songs as loud as we can. We will turn off all the lights and watch the Christmas tree lights shine. We will be together.

What could be better?

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 28, 2005  ]

Wednesday, November 23

Happy Thanksgiving.

It is interesting to me that Thanksgiving is my mother's favorite holiday. I hate Thanksgiving. My least favorite of all holidays. When I ask her why she likes it, she doesn't have a clear reason, just that she likes a day to be thankful.

We make an effort to teach our kids to be thankful daily. Every day holds blessings from God if we will just look for them. I am thankful for my salvation... for Mike... ... for Griff and Eliza... for precious people in our lives.

I'll be taking a blog holiday while we celebrate thankfulness with my family this week.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 23, 2005  ]

Tuesday, November 22

I am never disappointed in my God. So very often, when I am at a moment of confusion or deep sadness or personal disappointment, God sends His encouragement in His ways... always the ways that I need to be encouraged most.

Just when I was feeling heartbroken with my ideas of friendship, an old friend emailed out of the blue to see if we would be our hometown at the same time this week and if we could meet. A friend on vacation checked in with me when she didn't have to do so.

Another far-away friend emailed to ask her 'prayer warrior' friends and family to pray for a specific need in her family. To be included in such a group is, for me, the very highest compliment. I am humbled, as always, by how our God provides and protects.

I don't have any more answers to my questions than I did yesterday, and I don't have much contentment yet about where I go from here in terms of some of my relationships, but I do have a peace, knowing that God sent those people to communicate with me just when I needed that communication most.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 22, 2005  ]

Monday, November 21

I've heard more than one person say they chose a particular career because he or she sees himself or herself as a 'people person' or because 'I just love people.'

I'm a relationship person, though not necessarily a people person. For better or worse, I am defined in so many ways by the relationships I keep.

In my list of 100 Wonderful Things About Me, a good handful of those things were directly related to my relationships, to my friendships. Several more of those things revolved around the concept of honesty.

On Friday, I had a conversation with my oldest friend that made me think about both my friendships and myself in relation to honesty. I spent my weekend brokenhearted, wondering if my perceptions of myself have been badly skewed... terribly wrong.

I've written recently about what I believe to be my spiritual gifts. I have for years thought that both my nurturing and my desire and ability to keep in touch with people were gifts from God, personality traits that I was to use for Him. What if, however, I was wrong? What if I'm just a friend who can't let go, who can't see the forest for the trees rather than a woman with a calling from God to nurture those around her?

The situation at hand isn't important to this story, per se, but the ideas are. The woman who has known me longer than anyone outside of my family wasn't able to be honest with me and found it easier to simply not communicate with me at all. What does that say about me? I clearly am not the friend I thought I was.

At various points throughout the years, I've gotten my feelings hurt because I've kept up with this person or that, and he or she didn't keep up with me. I've spent time sad because I felt as if I didn't matter. But I continued with the things I do because I felt like God could use my actions to touch someone's life. Now, I'm not so sure that's what was happening at all (not to slight God's abilities to use me in any way. He is more than capable!).

In mulling this over these last few days, I have come up with an analogy that makes sense to me. In the world of friendship, I'm a doormat. Everyone needs a doormat - wants one, even - but they don't pay much attention to it. One day, however, we've got muddy shoes, and we're in need and so very grateful that we've got a doormat. We say to one another, 'oh, my goodness, I'm glad I have a doormat like that.' But then the rains stop, and we forget that it's there. That's me. I'm the doormat friend, always there because of this never-ending loyalty thing I've got going.

Instead, I want to be a quilt friend. Warm and comforting, made with love, soft from the breaking in process, cherished.

I am quite sure this is a crisis of something for me. Not faith by any means, but of something unnamed. I am vested in my relationships, and I'm not at all sure if I should be. But changing that changes me, and I don't know if that is right either.

For now, however, I'm quite confused as to whether or not I misread my spiritual gifts.

Nov. 22 Addendum... I've had two friends - and Mike, of course - all insist that my 'doormat' analogy isn't so swell. I'm sure more people feel like I matter than I imagine at this moment, but I do feel taken for granted lately. Aleece says she'll come up with a new term for my 'doormat' analogy, but I'll be sticking with this until she gets something better.

A big thanks, though, to those people - Aleece, Mandy, Mike, LeeAnn, Stacey, Julie - who have helped me feel better this week.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 21, 2005  ]

Wednesday, November 16

There are days when ... when I am weary... when the things that press on us in this life feel as if they're pressing way too hard... when I wish for kind words... when I long for better days.

On days when I feel like that, I know that I need to make an effort to still my heart, to tame my worried soul long enough to remember God's promise to sustain me.

Isaiah 40:31 says,
But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind. ("The Message")
I love the Goo Goo Dolls song, "Better Days." I find it especially poignant now, both with our particular situation and with the holidays coming soon. It makes me smile... reminds me that there are so many people around us wishing for nothing more than better days.
"And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days"
Better days - and the strength to carry on until then - will be my prayer for all of us today.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 16, 2005  ]

Monday, November 14

What are we supposed to do when it feels like the very gifts God gives us to use for His glory also make our hearts heavy at times?

I believe He gave me gifts of nurturing and empathy and an ability to see needs and work toward easing hurts. In no way do I believe I succeed at this, but I do believe that He calls me to work toward it using the gifts He knew would fit my personality best. He did, after all, create the personality along with the gifts.

Before it dawned on me that these might actually be my spiritual gifts (even though I don't see them listed specifically in the big spiritual gifts list in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11), I was more than once embarassed when someone made reference to how well I kept in touch with others. In this day and age, keeping up with others puts me more in my grandmother's generation than in mine.

So something I'm good at (thanks to my God) sometimes makes people aware of not being so swell at it. Why is it that nurturing those around me makes people uncomfortable? My friend, Craig, has the gift of preaching, but people don't say, 'gosh, I'd preach more often but I've been so busy lately,' to him. Why is it that this particular gift makes people want to apologize for what they see as their own shortcomings when it is less about shortcomings and more about different gifts?

It is only within the last several years that I began to see these traits in my personality as gifts from God rather than just part of me like my brown eyes (I was going to say black hair but that changes with my whims so it didn't so much fit). Once I did, I began to see that I couldn't expect other people to nurture the way I nurture. Different gifts.

And yet, I admit that through the years - and, unfortunately, sometimes still today - I've gotten my feelings hurt because I felt like people didn't care about me so very much. I know that isn't always true, and yet, I think we all yearn to feel like we are special and valued.

Mike did something that slighted me in a small way that felt like a really big way last week (he and I have talked about this, so I'm not outing his actions here). I felt like he didn't respect something about me. In the end, it matters most to me that those dearest to me make me feel special and valued, as I think, it does to all of us.

During those times when my feelings are hurt and my heart is heavy, my very human reaction is to say I'm not going to do this or that any longer. If I change me, then my heart will be a little harder and thus, harder to hurt. But that's so very wrong of me!

If I change who I am, then I'm telling God that He was wrong in the way He created me. And I can't very well do that. How ungrateful would that be?!

I've been thinking about this a lot this weekend, and I've come to the same conclusion I always do ... that this is who God made me to be... that there is going to be some heartache (both on behalf of others and for myself) if I'm going to wear my heart on my sleeve. And I think that heartache plays into the ability see to the needs people have in their hearts. And I think God expects me to use His gifts. And so...

I have a phone call to make tonight and an email or two to send and maybe a meal to offer. And a prayer of thanks to say to the One who created me just like this.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 14, 2005  ]

Friday, November 11

As with most things in my life, I put a lot of thought into the hows and whys of my blog. I have specific things that I want both for it and from it, and I work really hard to make sure that my posts fit into the image that I have for this blog.

I want my blog - like I want my home - to be nurturing and comforting... like a big, yummy hug. The blogs and sites that I link to give me some of that in some way... they make me smile. I'm not saying that all of my links will be for everyone. They're really there for me... if someone else benefits, that's a bonus.

One of my dearest friends is very different from me. She brings so many new and interesting perspectives and ideas to my life, and I am so grateful for her. I've added some new links to my lists today, and most of them are different from my blog in that their authors are in different stages of life or in different countries or both.

I've added .:[smatlife]:. which is written by Tammy in Ontario, a single girl who is newly engaged. Retrospective is written by a my-aged woman living in New Zealand. Miss Stephanie's Misc. Musings is written by a young girl, reminding me of younger days. Notes in the Key of Life is written by radio personality Cindy Swanson.

May I learn and laugh and grow from these new reads.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, November 11, 2005  ]

Thursday, November 10

I've got all of these holiday ideas rolling around in my it's been good for me that I've been thinking through my holiday plan this last week or so. Once I get the base of my plans figured out, I can get to the fun stuff.

When I start working on my holiday planning for gifts and cards, I always do cards first, as I think they're easier. So, here's the next installment of my get-ready plan.

Chel's Holiday Plan - The Cards

First, take your list (made during the initial Question stage), however long it is, and cut 10 percent. Just delete them. If you've only got 10 names on the list, cut one. If you've got 40, cut four. It's not an unreasonable amount, and quite frankly, it helps me feel like I'm paring down, making things easier for myself. It may only be in my head, but it helps. And never have more than 50 people on the list. That's just unmanageable, I think.

Everything else can be done in small blocks of time, so it's not so overwhelming. I can do an amazing amount of stuff while I watch an hour of "CSI" or "Veronica Mars" each week.

1) If you're buying cards, decide if you want plain cards from the store that you can drop a photo into or photo cards. If you want photo cards, start taking those family pictures and uploading them to Snapfish or some such place. Order photo cards early.

2) Plan to address envelopes (or key in labels) one evening watching television. Stick the labels and stamps another evening. You can buy stamps online to avoid the line at the P.O. and to be sure that you get the cute stamps.

3) If you're making your cards (which I never do), make a list of everything you'll need to make them and buy those things all in one shopping trip. Then, decide when you're going to make them. Set aside an hour or two or three or whatever, but do it in one block. And decide that you'll do it all in that amount of time and that whatever doesn't get done, just won't. And that's fine.

4) I always take my stack of envelopes and make two stacks - the folks who get a name signed to the card & the folks who get a short note. And I mean a short note! (If I get photo cards, the note is printed on them, so this step is already done!) Then, I do the signing and note writing.

My goal this year, is to have all of the cards done by Dec. 9, mailed by Dec. 10.

Because I want my purchases to be positive this year, I'm trying to make purchases from people or organizations that give back or from people selling their own goods. I'm going to buy cards from French Toast Girl because she has beautiful cards made from her own artwork and from the M.D. Anderson's Children's Art Project that allows children with cancer to experience the healing touch of art.

When buying, I always go ahead and buy the cute little form thank you notes for Griff to use for his gifts at Christmas.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, November 10, 2005  ]

A quote on contentment...
If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven, Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light, Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content:-- William Wordsworth

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, November 10, 2005  ]

Wednesday, November 9

This stage of life that we find ourselves in now is wearying. It's tiring. If it weren't for those darned kids, we'd be much more energetic. Of course, if it weren't for those darned kids, we wouldn't be in this particular stage of life.

There are some stages in our life that I know we'll look back on and think, 'that seemed worse at the time than it really was. It didn't last that long at all.' There are other stages that will bring me to tears years down the road because the difficulty of them still resonates in my heart.

I never expected Eliza still wouldn't be sleeping through the night at two years old. But, as always, there hasn't been much about Eliza at all that I expected. Griff did spoil us, though, by sleeping through the night early and well. The idea of several full nights of sleep in a row is a dream...something a grown-up me would ask Santa to leave as the biggest gift of the evening.

Single friends of mine struggle with loneliness and sorrow. They yearn for something more, for an intimate support system that can be provided best by a spouse. I remember those days when I wanted for that, when I had friends but needed that one intimate.

We have friends whose infant had to have surgery last week and who is already sick again while the rest of his family has a stomach virus. I remember those days when Griff was little and his allergies weren't yet diagnosed, and I thought none of us would ever get well again, much less all of us at the same time.

There were dark days in our marriage when Mike was gone a lot working on his coursework, and my sick little Griff and I were alone a lot. Mike's mom was dying, and we were all barely hanging on. Literally, when I think of those days, I have one particular image in mind... two maybe... and the literal darkness surrounds us.

I think about the days when Eliza was in the NICU and those months after when she was so tiny and fragile, and those days were such a struggle, and yet, when I look back now, all I have is gratitude (well, and a little, tiny bit of residual mama guilt). That time flew by and wasn't nearly as awful as it felt like at the time. Today, I'm grateful for those days.

As I think about all of these stages in my life - and the many others - I know that God held all of us in His hands, that He protected us and carried us and enabled us. But I know that not because I felt this overwhelming sense of His Lordship. I know lots of people who say that God is enough - and He is! - and that we shouldn't need anything or anyone else.

But I do. And I did.

I know He took care of us in those difficult times because He sent his human angels to minister to us in physical ways. When I was single and alone in a new town, He sent me a family to become a part of for a time. When my family was sick and broken by so many things, He sent Mandy to become my friend and confidante. When Eliza was first born and then first home, He sent so many wonderful people to care for us, to give us the encouragement and support we needed.

I know God cares for me because He provides what I need... my soul needs people around, and God made me that way, so He knows that. He made us to need one another and to be ministers to one another.

So, on these days when we're all exhausted after another long night with Eliza, I am grateful to those who listen and offer to help. And on days when I know those I love are having their own difficult days, I want God to use me to minister to them just as He uses others to minister to me.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 09, 2005  ]

Tuesday, November 8

As part of our holiday planning, last night, my boys and I discussed my Holiday Questions and talked about what we wanted for our holidays this year (Eliza's too young and non-verbal to participate in the conversation just yet).

We didn't talk about Thanksgiving traditions since we'll spend that holiday with my extended family, and we'll follow their traditions (which are not quite the 'watch the Macy's Day Parade, eat your turkey, put the tree up' event that Turkey Day is at our house). But we discussed Christmas and all of its activities and New Year's.

Each year when we do these questions, I am both surprised by some of Griff's answers and reassured by some of Mike's. This annual conversation amongst us about what we want for our holidays serves as a touchstone for me to see things we could do to better nourish our children's souls and to see so many ways that we have already created strong traditions of our own.

Neither Mike nor I come from large families nor do we have large extended families, and traditions were short in both families. I adore the consistency of rituals, and it's always been important to me to create traditions for our little family. In beginning fresh, we were able to make sure that the traditions we held dear were important for their meaning not simply for their ritual value.

I like that Griff enjoys putting up the tree (me, too!), and I'm reassured that he's not growing up too fast when he says that stockings and presents are favorites, too. (Stockings are my very favorite part of Christmas presents. I can hardly wait each year to see what trinkets Mike has found to slip into my stocking!)

I like that one of Mike's favorite holiday activities is for all of us to attend the annual Hanging of the Green at church. Last year, Mandy and Josh went with us to see Griff sing in the children's choir, and Eliza cooed at the people in front of us the entire time. These are memories I'll cherish.

Eliza's old enough and strong enough that this year, we can attend the Christmas Eve service at church, too, something we've missed these last two years with her being so young and tender.

I like that the Advent wreath that we do each Sunday evening at home during the Advent season gives us reason to pause and remember Christ and the reason we celebrate.

I love the Advent wreath just as much - admittedly - because it was given to me by my late grandmother the first Christmas Mike and I were married. It's how we began our married holidays... with a little Christ remembering thanks to an enormously special lady. Our weekly Bible study meets on Sunday evenings, and I may see if I can incorporate those dear folks into our Advent evenings.

I take it as quite the accomplishment that Mike didn't have a single tradition that we observe that he doesn't like. That means we're being successful at creating traditions that nourish us.

Poor Griff lost out, though, in that the one thing he doesn't like is in direct conflict with something I like very much. I suppose that's the price of childhood. He and Eliza can always gripe to one another about how the crazy mama made everyone put up Christmas decorations as soon as Thanksgiving was over instead of waiting until Dec. 1. It'll give them something to look forward to changing when they have their own homes and traditions.

And because we're foodies... we had to discuss what holiday foods we wanted. Griff, for the first year in years and years, will be able to eat some baked goods, complete with eggs, and so that was his only request... a request I'll be happy to fill.

I love knowing what my family wants for the holidays, not what's on their gift list but what fills them with the joy of the season. Now that I have the answers, I can balance our activites throughout the season with what I know we each need. Hopefully, we will all arrive in 2006 with a renewed sense of the love that we share with one another and with those family and friends around us and also with a renewed spirit, a greater joy in Christ.

(...oh...Griff wants to string popcorn for the tree, something I've never done. Anyone with instructions, please comment!)

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 08, 2005  ]

Monday, November 7

Every year, as the holidays approach, I sit down with our little family and talk about what we want from the holidays. It's important to me that we remember that we are in charge of creating our own traditions, that we can create our holidays in any way we wish, in whichever way best fills our souls.

This year, we are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I'm looking forward to it (as much as I look forward to any trip like this). We'll be able to visit with my extended family. Griff will get to play with his cousin, Zachary.

And I'll get to see old friends who still live in that area. Getting out of the family house to see friends is a hard thing to do when we don't visit as often as my grandparents would like and when we won't be there as long as everyone would like. But it's something that fills my soul, and so I will carve out the time for that.

As Mike, Griff, Eliza and I talk about what we want for the holidays, I have a specific set of questions that we each answer. Obviously, we won't answer them in as many details for Thanksgiving as we'll follow my parents' traditions while we are staying in their home. But our answers to these questions will determine how we spend the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

Chel's Holiday Plan...The Questions
1. Make a list of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's traditions (one list for each holiday) that you enjoy. Each person names their favorite two holiday traditions or activities. (Last year, when I asked Griff his favorite Thanksgiving tradition, it was the 'big feast.')Add those to the list. Don't let the list exceed 10 items (unless your family's that big).
2. Make a list of holiday traditions that you hate. Go on, be honest. Ask each family member if there's any one thing that ya'll have done in the past that they don't enjoy. Add those to the list. (Griff said there was too much talking and not enough eating at Thanksgiving.)
3. Make a list of activities you'd like to do during the holiday season... go caroling, attend an Advent service at a church, drive around after dark looking at lights, rent holiday movies. There's no end to this. It's an initial list.
4. Make a list of people you'd like to send Christmas cards to. Think about whether you want a photo card or a plain store-bought card with a photo inserted or a card you design yourself. Consider if you'd like to say, 'screw cards.' It's a fine thing to say every now and then.
5. Make a list of all of the people on your gift list. Include everyone you can think of... family, friends, teachers, etc. This is the BIG list from which you can cut.
6. Make a list of charities you'd like to donate time or resources to this season.
7. Make a list of your favorite holiday foods. Let each person add to the list. Be sure to include one take-out or dine-out meal!

After the list is complete, I keep it around and rest for a few days before tackling the how-tos of making the holidays happen for us. Just answering the first few questions put us all in a cheerful state of mind.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 07, 2005  ]

Friday, November 4

The struggles of the poor - of the middle class even! - in our fair state are mounting. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have caused ripples of difficulty that are far-reaching.

Our unemployment rate is higher than ever, and it doesn't look like like it's going to be getting any better anytime soon. Gasoline prices are still high, and the cost of just everything is getting higher because the transportation costs are still rising.

The good drivers are busy hauling debris from New Orleans because FEMA is paying really well, and there's a shortage of drivers (oh, to be a OTR driver or skilled laborer right now!). FEMA has billed our state for billions of dollars, and there's just no way to know how that bill will be paid.

I think our government should be helping those people who have been hardest hit - the poor. I think we all should be helping them for that matter. This situation is going to continue to be difficult for some time to so many ways.

Just today I told my brother that I think I'm becoming a closet conservative Democrat, if such a thing exists, because of my views on how we all need to be helping one another.

Now, I am completely out of the political loop. I have no idea what means what or what identifies with which party. I'm a political idiot, I admit it. I vote based upon people, not parties. Which is why this quiz I took today is so funny. The quiz says I'm a social liberal (at 71%) and an economic liberal (at 23%) which would make me a strong Democrat. It's news to me... another example of labels not feeling quite right.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, November 04, 2005  ]

Tuesday, November 1

Now that it's November and a mere three weeks from Thanksgiving, I can start doing some holiday planning. I'm an organizer, a planner, and I love lists.

I also love the holidays... well, I love the Christmas holiday season. Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is good only as a portal to Christmas (interestingly enough, it's my mother's very favorite holiday). Eat your turkey, let's put the tree up! That's my Turkey Day motto when we spend Thanksgiving Day at home.

I didn't always enjoy the holidays, though. We spent too many years driving to this family member's house and then to that family member's house and being tired and grumpy and not nearly enough time just being together and enjoying one another and the gifts God has given us. Once I physically and mentally stopped and began to determine what it was that I wanted out of the holidays and began acting upon those desires, the holiday season came alive to me.

When Griff was first born, we determined that we wanted to spend Christmas Eve at the service at our church and that we wanted him to spend Christmas morning in his own home. All of our family members have a standing invitation to be there with us. Now, it was really hard that first year when it was just the three of us. But now, it's a delight.

We've had friends join us for holiday meals, family come for visits. We've eaten omlets for the holiday feast, had potlucks with college students stranded for the holidays, and we've played in our jammies for day-long fests. In short, we've created the perfect holidays for ourselves, ever-changing as our family changes.
Last year, a friend was talking about how overwhelmed she felt by all that had to happen for the holidays, and I offered to give her suggestions on how to make her holidays not quite so overwhelming, and I wrote out a plan for her. She emailed it back to me a few days ago, and I was astounded at just how good it was (not to brag) and at how I loved the sentiments in it.

So I can remember it always (and use it myself year after year), I'm going to post parts of it here. It'll be Chel's Holiday Plan. My goodness, if I could find a job that let me do holiday and gift planning for just everyone, I think that would be perfect!

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 01, 2005  ]

It's a grey, dreary day outside which is fine by me because it matches my weary, melancholy mood.

My doctor changed my allergy shots about a month ago, and I've been sick ever since, and I'm terribly tired of it all. When I get really worn out or just plain worn down, I fall into unhappy and unhealthy thought patterns that don't do anything to encourage or uplift me. I wrote yesterday about how encouraging others comes easily to me. Encouraging myself, not so much.

Last night, as I was picking Eliza up from daycare, I was thinking about how so many women - myself included - have this idea that if this or that in our lives was different, our lives would be completely transformed. And in some cases, that's probably true. But in other cases, it's far from the truth.

If I think about my life and about what would really be different if my this or that were to be real, I can't really think of anything other than the completely superficial that would be different.

And maybe that should remind me that God loves and accepts me just as I am now. And if He does, I'm pretty sure I should, too.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 01, 2005  ]