It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Our little community has put the snowflakes up on the power poles, a sure sign the holiday season has begun. This year I want a slower pace and more precious time with family and friends, more kindness, and less stress. You too? I was taught this lesson several year ago, but still have to make a conscious choice each year and remind myself to be intentional about it…
I was a busy mom. Raising four little kids, homeschooling, teaching and singing at church. Our life seemed like an a carnival ride, round and round all day, here and there, up and down, and then stop at night to reload and go all over again! I loved it! Go, do, play, cook, read, learn, those are some of my favorite things. But I must admit, it often brought out the worst in me. Especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas when the busy-ness multiplied.
That year my baby was 2 1/2, a grandparent had been hospitalized and gone to rehab due to a stroke, and I was part of a week long nightly Christmas pageant at the new church we had joined. The holiday rush began to set in a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving with us juggling all this plus planning for that meal and another big event, a family birthday the week before Turkey Day. Between teaching the kids, keeping the house running, tending to sick grandparents, and all these extra events, I was frazzled.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I get overly busy, frustrated and overwhelmed, I’m not so nice. I was short-tempered with my husband, always rushing the kids around, and generally grumpy from trying to plan all the events and balance all my spinning plates. I’ve always tried to speak as kindly to my kids as I can. I wanted a peaceful home. How could I expect them to speak gently and kindly to their siblings if I was screaming and griping all day? So much of my frustration boils and simmers in my mind until I can’t control it and angry words pop out.
One particular day I planned some Christmas shopping for after school. These were pre-Amazon days, so I had to actually go to the stores to shop. All day long I’d been telling the kids, “Get your work done. We’re going Christmas shopping after you finish school.” As Murphy’s law would have it, every child seemed to be needy that day. Slogging through schoolwork seemed slower than ever, and my grumpy-meter was ramping up.
As the last child finished their assignments, I bustled them off to get shoes on and head to the car. I got myself together and grabbed my keys heading to the garage. The three oldest had already gone to the car, but there stood the 2-year-old in the kitchen without his shoes tied. He was my slow-moving, happy, gentle child.
In a rush I piped up with something to the effect of “What are you doing? We gotta go!”
He looked up at me with gentle, toddler eyes and said, “Are you mean at me, Mommy?”
“No I’m not mad at you!” I retorted quickly.
“You sound mean at me,” he replied tenderly.
I immediately realized my problem, knelt down beside him, changed my tone, and said, “No sweetie, Mommy is not mad. Mommy is in a rush. We need to get in the car and get our Christmas shopping done.”
As I tied his shoes, he leaned over and hugged my neck. All was forgiven. Toddlers are good at that.
We got the shoes fixed, dashed to the car and got a few presents purchased that afternoon. It turned out to be a good day, and a life-changing one. I still remember the lesson learned. Kindness and a gentle tone are always in order.
There are many reminders in the book of Proverbs about our speech and kindness and gentleness.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.Proverbs 10:19
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.Proverbs 16:24
As we get going with our busy November and December, would you join me in seeking to display kindness, compassion, tender words, and gentle tones. Let’s slow down and allow our hearts time to rest and meditate on things we are grateful for, especially the Son of God sent as a babe in a manger for our salvation. Avoid the overcommitment and rush, and allow margin each day: time to ponder, to enjoy, to revel in the love of Christ and those we love. This holiday season, let us guard our time, guard our hearts, and guard our tongues – not only for words but for the tone we use.