While there’s a tribe of like-minded people on the internet listing out their lessons from the fall months, I realize that “fall” doesn’t have a bit to do with this time of the year for me. September first in the Philippines begins the “-ber” months and the start of Christmas time. Forget waiting until after Thanksgiving to listen to Christmas music – the malls are playing it while the northern hemisphere is still in full summer mode! While last year I resisted because of years of tradition (and pure stubbornness), this year I embraced the four months of Christmas decorations and celebration.
Along with embracing a new set of traditions, here are some things I’ve been learning and reflecting on:
If you can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um.
My full head first jump into all things Christmas came this year after the realization that not all countries celebrate Christmas. Many friends live in places where there are no Christmas trees, no Christmas music in the mall, no garland and lights and anticipatory time at the end of the year. For my whole life, I’ve taken this for granted. Then I thought – I get to live in a country that not only celebrates Christmas, but celebrates it for FOUR MONTHS. Why would I not embrace that fully? So the tree went up as October came to a close and there has been Christmas music in our condo (and coffee shop) for weeks. My sister isn’t too happy about it, but I truly am!
Every good story contains tension.
Advent almost slipped me by. We’re in soft opening of our coffee bar right now and a lot of life outside of that has slipped me by. But earlier this week we had two days off (an intentional day off and a holiday we forgot about – bonus!) and I finally sat still. I asked God how I could prepare my heart for Christmas – what I could reflect on or read that would draw me to Him. I ended up starting to read the stories from the minor prophets. I read Joel first and then Amos – I think the last time I spent any time in these stories is back in college.
What I noticed this time is that while so much of their words are delivering messages from God – how they have failed him, how they have not listened, and He’s calling them back. But he’s also speaking words of destruction if they don’t listen. But in both books, there’s a message of hope. God tells the people what He promises to do for them. How He promises to pour out His spirit on them and how He promises to bring them to a place of stability.
These words are filled with tension – destruction and hope, disobedience and love. But as I read, I think of the taste of a promise fulfilled that came at Christmas. I think of my own story and how often it feels like it’s filled with tension and questions – but if every good store contains those things, I can rest in the One who has come. I can rest because it’s His story to begin with.
I really can’t drink coffee in the evening.
Come on, I knew this. And even as I write this, I’m sipping on a flat white from Toby’s Estate. Why? Because it was free and a part of the Netflix Gilmore Girl’s promo. How could I pass up a chance to celebrate the Connecticut girls I know and love in my new far-away home of Manila?
Holiday celebrations have hereby captured my heart and my sleep schedule.
I can choose my attitude.
I know it’s something that’s on a lot of memes and motivational posters. And honestly, sometimes I feel helpless to it. I’m tired, weary, reactionary. I hurt people with my words and my lack of words. A few months ago, I realized that if I changed my expectations, I can better manage my attitude. I can expect things like traffic. I can also choose gratitude in the midst of frustration. I say “choose” but what I really mean is that I can fight for gratitude – it’s a battle against my own will and flesh, but it’s a way to live in the freedom that I crave.
Marriage is a wonderful gift, not to be taken for granted.
We opened a business this month. Life.Has.Been.Crazy. We get little sleep and there’s a lot of stress and my husband showed me a video of how a woman is literally a zombie in the morning before she has coffee and he told me that’s me on our ride to the shop. Ouch. But true. And this is related to my last lesson (about choosing my attitude), but it’s a big one – I get to go to work most days with my husband. We can bounce ideas around with each other – not just our dreams and lessons, but also our business strategies, concerns, and ideas.
I catch myself sometimes, in those tired moments, not thinking much of how special this is – how wonderful it is to grow together, learn together, and even be tired together. When I sit back and think about the shared life and friendship we have, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. After all, when I’m a zombie, he makes me coffee.