The Holiday Rush

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.

Sweet Speech

My traveling companions were weary, I was weary. The plane was packed with weary travelers. There were 30 rows, 6 across. I am not a mathematical genius but last I checked that meant there were at least 180 passengers on that jam-packed airliner from the cozy airport in Colorado to the big Dallas one we had been diverted to. I was in the middle seat closest to the lavatory and the airplane kitchenette. I could clearly hear the airline attendants conversation as we were in flight and then later as preparations were made for landing.

They had been cheerful, willingly handing out sodas, pretzels and such. In my mind I was already mapping out the next step, we had been delayed at the Cozy airport, a canceled flight to be exact. The experienced Traveler in our caravan had declared that an outright canceled flight was not an experience she could recall. Yet there we were, essentially stranded but knowing that the King had His hand on us. We had dedicated our trip to Him, in fact it was His business that had taken the four of us Gardendale area girls across the country to the Shadow of Pikes Peak. For several days we had trained together, cried together, eaten together, taken pictures, and most importantly prayed together. In the final moments of that unplanned flight into Dallas though, those memories and thoughts were in the far corners of my mind. Getting to the gate labeled Birmingham, was my priority. As I listened to the sounds in the kitchenette, I had already determined who was in charge that night, which of those ladies who had served us pretzels and demonstrated how to buckle seat belts and place oxygen masks on “in the event of an emergency.” Each had been tasked with a job and I could discern who was who among that flight crew.

aircraft-2104594_1280I had likened this crew of ladies to teams I had worked with in the past, the experienced and usually in charge one, the funny one, the chatty one, the one who missed her baby and was more than ready to be home, the just-there-because-she-had-to-be one. They were a familiar lot, although I had never actually met them until just a few hours before.

The Baby-misser had spent much of the short flight in the kitchenette talking about child care options. I sympathized. I had been there, I recollected a time when I worked the night shift, dropped my littles off at Mother’s Day Out, and while other mamas were grocery shopping and doing the things out for which Mother’s Day Out was intended, I made my way to my minivan parked beneath a shade tree, where I proceeded to crawl into the back and sleep for a few hours until the appointed pickup time. Those days were hard, a different kind of hard than the current days. Those days when my littles were little were physically exhausting. Days when a trip to the Big Box Store never meant leaving without diapers and wipes. Now the trips to Big Box store yield no more diapers but more in the way of copious amounts of foodstuffs and costly plug-in things. I find in comparison the days of late are emotionally exhausting more than physically. My teenage children sleep and sleep, something my Littles rarely did.

I was pulled back into reality as the Leader echoed words of sympathy and exhorted the Baby-Misser to press on. She offered a few words of sage advice and was interrupted by the Funny one hanging up the special phone and giving a hearty “Hmmph.” I listened between closing compartments and announcements of time and temperature awaiting us in Dallas and then the leader made the statement of the day.

“Sugar Up Girls. That plane is not getting in. It’s been delayed.”

Groans of frustration from the kitchenette. I surmised her years of experience had taught her that the cliché that “more flies can be caught with honey versus vinegar” must have proven to be true. As the leader of the pack she was telling her girls, that they were about to meet a lot of grumpy flies and it just might prove beneficial to be sweet rather than sour.

I giggled as she said that and My companion to my left looked at me with her large dark, expressive eyes (sometimes she reminds me of a Margaret Keane painting) and smiled. Clearly my jovial manner was puzzling. I wondered what the King’s word had to say about the matter. As my friend and I buckled and prepared for landing I made a note about the Sugared Up Flight Attendants and carried on with the awaiting journey ahead.

Sometime later as I was recalling that night, I searched the King’s Word and found in Proverbs the following:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 

The Experienced and In Charge One had been right all along. I wonder how many times my speech had been like sour vinegar, my words more hurtful than helpful. Multiple I reckon. How many times should I or could I have “sugared up” before I spoke? Too many to count. May I be challenged to “Sugar Up” more often and my speech be like sweetness and healing to the body.