Every year we know Christmas is coming. The date doesn't change - but it always seems to sneak up and overwhelm us.
This year I want Christmas to look different, I want it to feel different. I want to enjoy every second, I want to be intentional with how I invest my time and energy.
Several years ago we started a family tradition of walking into the wooded area behind our home and chop down a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We string lights, hang a few handmade ornaments and it is our family tree.
We thought last year would be our last year of this tradition. Our oldest moved out a year ago, our youngest is in University so my husband and I were not planning on trumping through the snow in search of a tree.
One day my husband asked our youngest if she still wanted to go into the woods to find a tree this year. Her response was unexpected and hilarious, she stated matter-of-factly, "I'm offended that you would even ask!" She went on to tell us that she had already invited her boyfriend to join our excursion.
A few nights later our oldest and her boyfriend were over for supper and we invited her along for the Christmas tree hunt if she was interested and she immediately asked for the date and invited her boyfriend along as well. Now it is a Christmas experience that has extended to include our now family of 6 - or 8 if you include the dogs. 😁
What was a random idea a few years ago, is now apparently an expected part of the Carleton family Christmas.
This made me think about Christmas traditions in my family growing up and different experiences that stand out through my almost 5 decades on this earth. I remember waking up far too early on Christmas morning and trying to be quiet to not wake my parents. There was just something about the glow of the tree, and the sparkle of the tinsel that captivated me. I remember the Christmas Cantata's at church where I sang soprano with my aunt. The Christmas Panorama in the park, and the families all together, filling our bellies with potluck and recovering from turkey coma with endless games of cards.
As I sat and smiled at the thoughts of Christmas past, I continued to paused and think of Christmas present. What Christmas memories will be created this year?
If you have attended any of my journaling workshops - you know I like to put paper to pen and ask questions. So if you click on the button below you will receive your Christmas worksheet with two questions to ask yourself.
What are your memories and traditions of Christmas past? And what do you want this Christmas to look and feel like? As you answer the questions think of it holistically- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
By investing a few minutes to answer the questions you will find that you choose to live more intentionally this Christmas. It doesn't need to overwhelm if we approach it with the right perspective. Have a very merry Christmas!
I would love to hear about some of your Christmas memories and traditions - share them on Instagram and be sure to tag me @carolyn.carleton.
I thought I would share a little video with you today about what I have been learning on my journey in 2021.
"For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." 2 Timothy 4: 3-4
What are you searching for? Are you searching for approval? For agreement for the choices you are making? Are you searching for truth?
I have been searching. I have shared briefly over the past few years that I have really been struggling. I have wrote a lot of journal pages and wasted a lot of time scrolling on social media trying to figure out how to heal from the hurt.
My husband and I have dedicated our Saturday mornings to coffee and "discussion". My husband and I met on a missions program where we toured across Canada speaking in high schools. When you are travelling all the time stuffed inside mini vans you learn a lot about each other really quickly. After the tour we both went home to our different Provinces, thousands of kilometers apart. Our long distance phone bills were outrageous and many emails were exchanged. Our only form of building our relationship was with communication. At the time I resented it, but now I really appreciate that time because it built our relationship firmly on our ability to communicate well with each other and to express our thoughts and emotions through our words - there was no Facetime - it was a receiver, attached to a cord, that attached to the phone on the wall. Yes I am that old. I still remember the party line we shared with two of our neighbours. Don't judge.
Anyway, back to our Saturday morning coffee - we have always been able to communicate well but we weren't always making the time for it. Now we do. I have been doing a lot of journaling and reading and self exploration over the past year. I was tired of struggling and it was time to move forward. I wasn't sure how but I took the first step on the journey. Last Saturday I was sharing with Dustin about what I have learned about myself over the past few months, about the people who have come into my life at the perfect time and how I am feeling lighter. I told him that I feel like sharing about what I am learning with others but I don't feel like I have the answers yet. Dustin then told me to start sharing. He said normal people don't share publicly about their struggles as much as I do (I think that was a compliment 😁), that many struggle through things alone. He gave me example after example of times I have stepped forward to share, and how it has helped others. We talked about a time in high school english class that my class was asked to write a page about ourselves. I was so honest in that page that I ended up in weeks of appointments in the student counselling centre. 😂 Dustin then told me that I was most likely the only one to write how I honestly felt, most would have written either what they felt like should write or what the teacher was expecting of them. I chose to be honest in my writing and that has never changed because it is who I am. My book became another example of that.
In my journaling workshops I ask people to write in their journal about who they are in the dark. Who are you when you are sitting in your room in the dark, with the door closed and your phone is in another room. No one is around, no one can see you - who are you?
The last few years have been a struggle for me. I do not have the answers but I know that my healing comes from me sharing and teaching. The hurt that I experienced went deep. It hurt to the core of my being. When you are hurt by something that is tied so close to who you are, it shakes everything.
I experienced a hurt that I still haven't been able to define. I was trying to figure out how to deal with it and I didn't even know the words to search on google.
It has been largely described as "being hurt by the church", or when "Christians attack their own".
Mine came in the form that it was a message from God that I needed to hear and it was one that left me feeling rejected, abused and hurt on such a deep level.
Trust me I have experienced church hurt in the past, we have pastored in two different churches that did not end well, I have had many experiences over the years that would be described as mental abuse and shaming. I know how hurtful Christians can be to one another - Christians are sinful just like everyone else. They have selfish agendas, they struggle with jealousy, they gossip, they are searching for validation. I know this can be the person sitting in the pew, the usher at the door, the person on the music team or the person behind the pulpit. I taught a youth Sunday School class where I told them not to believe anything the pastor says in the sermon that day, but to make notes and go home and search the scriptures for the truth.
I have struggled within myself because I know these things and yet I was so very hurt and didn't know how to heal. Over the last few years I have seen a deconstruction in my faith. I still attended church, but I didn't want to be there. My Bible that was once opened regularly, with worn pages and tons of highlights and notes written in the margins now sat on a shelf gathering dust. Worship music was no longer heard in our home. I just couldn't. It felt dirty. It felt like manipulation. My life of praying without ceasing didn't exist. It became words of rejecting God and anger for all the years I had devoted to serving Him and all I received was His rejection in return. I was in a very dark place.
Yet through that time, as much as I was pushing God away, there was still a desire in me that needed to figure it all out. I didn't understand why this person said these horrible things to me. I noticed that as my faith diminished, it did in my family as well. It was as I looked at my daughters that I knew I had to start figuring this out.
When COVID became a thing and the churches were closed, I was thankful. I struggled going to church, some Sundays I would go to church and stand in a location where a lot of people would pass by and they just passed by. I had no connections there, the people I did reach out to at the time of my hurt just dismissed it. I didn't understand how deep it would affect me, so I can't blame them for not knowing either. People have always said that I am such as strong individual, but everyone struggles, some just hide it better.
As months, then years of my struggle have gone by I have asked myself a lot of questions. Today my anger towards God is less, I don't hear His small still voice like I once did, but I feel His presence. I now search for truth. That is in the scriptures. That is always where I have found my hope, joy and peace. I am going back to the scriptures to search for healing on this journey. I am thankful for the deconstruction of my faith. It has helped me to develop roots that will become my strong foundation. I still have a lot of healing to do. But after a couple of years, I am beginning to feel more like myself. I am not scared about who I am in the dark. I am ready to give it light. I am ready to share more than I need to because that is just who I am.
I am ready to take the first step on this new journey and I am ready to start sharing about what many would like to keep in the dark.
How are you doing? 2020 has been an interesting year, wouldn't you agree?
I did something this year that I thought that I would never do.
I signed up for a group coaching membership. Yep, I did. The past few years have been difficult and I have really been struggling with trying to figure it all out. So I had to try something. And in my typical fashion I had to do something that was somewhat anonymous. The group is big enough that you can attend and not be seen, but you get all of the teaching. And this works perfectly for me, and I have been learning a lot. I am so thankful that I put aside my preconceived ideals and make this investment in myself.
What could have been a very difficult year - that continued to spiral downward, has become a year of healing that I am so thankful for.
Are you taking time to invest in you? It is really important that you do. I carried some baggage around for far too long, and I wasn't taking care of my health - I just kind of let everything go. This is not a good place to live your life.
Making active choices to live intentionally is where we all need to be.
I have made a variety of changes in my life and part of it includes the environment that I live in and how I start my day. I am going to share a bit of that with you.
I have been following Yoga with Adriene on YouTube for years. I am not a big fan of public displays of exercise, I like the comfort of my own home. I start my diffuser with a relaxing scent, play some relaxing music (which for me is jazz), lay down my yoga mat and spend 30 minutes relaxing and stretching. It is an amazing way to start my day.
Now that I am working from home I have more time in the mornings because I no longer have the commute. Yoga helps clear my mind, stretches out the muscles that ache from the night (which seem to be increasing year by year) and gets me motivated to take on my day!
Yoga for Writers is a favourite of mine. I like the stretching with a little bit of core.
king the time to invest in my mental wellness has so important.
I created the My Journey journal years ago and it keeps evolving and become something that is a huge part of my life. It is my weekly check in with myself and has become a place where I can see my journey unfold and give myself more grace in my journey.
If you are interested in checking it out for yourself all you have to do it CLICK HERE to download your free journal.
2020 is year that I will always remember and I am thankful that I used this time as a positive experience. It is so easy to get sucked into a negative environment - and it happens. But you don't have to stay there. You get to choose, I really hope that you will join me as we choose to end 2020 well.
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When life throws a few character building exercises at you, how do you process? How do you work through it?
I have been trying to figure this out for myself. In the past I have always used teaching. Yep, I would be struggling with something, I would do tons of research to learn and grow and then I would feel compelled to share it with everyone, whether they wanted to learn about it or not.
This time it's different. I can't explain what I am trying to deal with - I don't know what to google!!!
I feel like I am lugging this huge weight around and I don't know how to fix it. I feel broken in a way I have never experienced before, and I don't know how to move forward.
I have been carrying this for the past two years and I need to be able to move forward.
I do not have all the answers. I am not sure what moving forward means or looks like. But I am finally ready to start taking steps forward.
Are you carrying something? Want to join me?
It's always better to work through something with friends who are there to support and encourage. What do you say?
I know for me I have a lot of areas in my life that have been impacted. Through what has happened to me emotionally, mentally and spiritually has been affecting me physically as well. So there is a lot of work to do.
Through my blog and social media I will be sharing how and what I am learning (I apparently still feel the need to teach - even when I have no idea what I am doing 😂 ). I'm even thinking about resurrecting my old podcast - what do you think?
Join me on my journey on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/carolyn.carleton/ and sign up for my emails if you want to learn more.
Leave me a comment and let me know if you want to join me on the journey. We are in this together! I need all the support I can get.
Life is full of chaos and noise. It has gotten to the point where we are afraid of quiet.
Whenever there is quiet our thoughts take over and those thoughts can scared us sometimes. So we keep adding to our lives.
Tonight our daughters were working on homework assignment, my husband was at band practice so I finished up the dishes and thought I would go and sit down and rest for a few minutes. While I was sitting down to relax I turned on the TV to watch the news, then I thought that I hadn't read the paper today. When I finished the paper I picked up my cell phone and started to play a game on it. When all of a sudden I realized what I was doing. I had planned to sit down and relax for a few minutes and now I was bombarding my brain into overload.
Why do we willingly do this to ourselves?
It is time my friends, to embrace quietness and stillness and learn to just 'Be'.
It takes time and practice, it will not be easy for me - I can tell you that! But it is something that I know I need to do. The first step I believe is to find a place where you can find quiet. Also, if you have children that would include a time as well. I have friends who get up at obscene hours in the morning just to guarantee their quiet time. I am not a morning person. I get up because of necessity to take care of my family and get ready for work. I like dusk, the girls have quieted down for the night and I have time to think about my activities of the day - the conversations that took place - and what did I learn today?
Use those precious moments during your day to pause and "Be". I am told that your quality of life will increase dramatically. Life throws so much at you each day - I want to be able to treasure those moments of silence and solitude, and use them to become a better wife, mother and friend.
Anyone want to join me on this journey? I am going to need all the encouragement I can get!
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