Gifts, shopping, Amazon, Target, Amazon, Target, Target, Target... Does anyone else feel me? The season is so easily swept up in shopping with the greatest intention to give treasures to those we love. And somehow those treasures become the focus of our time and more importantly our thoughts. The treasures compromise treasuring.
For me, this season has been pretty different than any other season of life. I have been running (more on that later) full steam ahead since I was 19. God has given me the opportunity to lead one of the greatest communities on Earth: ESP. But with that honor comes a responsibility that I take seriously and one that I want to continue protecting, growing and helping to thrive, much like my own child. And the holiday season is typically no different… company parties, shopping for last minute gifts, kids’ school parties. All wonderful things but moving so fast I look back and can’t even remember some of the memories of the holidays.
This year I have been given a precious gift a little early. It is a Christmas gift that money couldn't buy and one that has taught me to see the story of Christmas in a whole new light: the gift of maternity leave. For the last 7 weeks I have completely checked out of work and checked into my family, for the first time in 14 years. Owen and Finley came when we did not have the support for me to "check out" and so life, and work, kept moving. Despite my six-page document sharing the maternity leave plan, I (and many others) questioned whether or not I would be able to truly let go this time around. One ESP mom even bet my staff that I'd be back into the office before the baby was two weeks old. (Needless to say, she lost the bet and the staff benefited from a nice lunch. Hooray!) It has been strangely natural and weirdly comfortable. This gift has been given mostly by my AMAZING staff, my board and our partners. But ultimately, it is a gift from above and one that has taught me new lessons. I recently sat at a women's Christmas luncheon and gained a lens of understanding like never before.....
"They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told." Luke 2: 16-20
There is the virgin Mary and the whirlwind she went through since the angel appeared announcing she would carry the greatest celebrity of all time. I'm sure her nine months were full of every emotion (and craving and ache) that pregnant women like us still go through today. And on Christmas Day, she watched the glory unfold before her. What Luke chooses to share about Mary, and what stuck out to me so very differently this year, is that she meditated and she treasured. I imagine her meditating over her and Joseph's journey. I imagine her treasuring the coos of her baby, the way that Joseph held him, the joy as she watched him sleep soundly. And I imagine her treasuring every gift from the wise men and every time the message of her child was shared. It takes time for us to stop, think, pray, meditate and even journal the special memories that we are sharing as a family.
This Christmas will certainly be one that I will never forget as I, too, will continue to treasure in my heart every gift, every visit, every meal and each moment with my last little baby. But I hope to change my view in the years to come as I work to emulate Mary. In the hustle and bustle, I want to take the time to stop, mediate and treasure each moment.....every cookie, every friendly smile at the checkout, every quarter given to the Salvation Army, a life-giving conversation, gifts given and received, every smile on Christmas morning, hot chocolate, sweet fudge, kind hug and laughter of family. Join me this season following the lead of the first mother on Christmas and let’s spend time adding not only treasures to our homes but treasure in our hearts.
My mom started a tradition of writing a “Christmas Story” in the same journal every holiday. The stories are full of funny, messy and joyful memories of the holiday season as a family. I now see that she is following the lead lady Mary and plan to adopt this tradition this year.
I'll also *try* to share this weekend how I'm working to teach our two oldest the true treasure of Christmas.