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.
Almost every summer that I can remember I spent at least one week at camp. I loved the feeling of acceptance at camp. My absolute favorite part of camp - either as a camper or a counsellor was bedtime. Not for the reason that you are probably thinking.
At the end of a busy day, as quiet comes over the campground and the lights are turned off for the night - that was when the most honest and real conversations would happen. As I camper I loved this sharing time, as a counsellor I looked forward for the opportunity to speak truth and encouragement into the girls lives. Those are the moments that I continue to cherish today.
It is those camp experiences that inspired the bedtime moments with our daughters. Every night I make time to spend time praying with and listening to our daughters. It has become a part of our daily routine, they give their Dad a hug goodnight and I get to spend time with them individually. As we sit on their bed it becomes our sacred time and place.
Some nights it's just prayer time and tuck in, some nights it's sharing a burden or situation. They know that this is their time with Mom and that it happens everyday. They don't have to make a special time to talk with me, that may be awkward or uncomfortable.
I am so thankful that even now that they are teenagers they look forward to this time, and they miss it when they are away at a sleepover or camp.
I wish I would have kept a journal of all the prayer requests through the years. We have had the privilege to pray for so many friends and family. So many moments that have encouraged and shaped us. Admittedly, some nights I use this time as an opportunity to talk to them about some choices that they have made that may have not been the best use of their gifts and talents. But mostly this is our time to pray and be thankful for our day.
My oldest went through a difficult time in school and many nights she would cry herself to sleep. This Mama's heart broke repeatedly and I felt so helpless. I read as many books and articles that I could to find a way to help her hurt. Somewhere along the way I read that in order to wake up and start your day with a positive attitude you need to fall asleep with a positive attitude. So each night I would ask her what her favorite part of the day was. She would usually start telling me about something negative that happened that day, but I would encourage her to find something good. After a few weeks it was easier to start finding the good in her day and it even got to the point where the list would get so long that we would be chatting a long time. Maybe it was a ploy to stay up later, but the changes I began to see in her was such an answer to prayer.
Bedtime is my sacred time and place with my daughters. Is this something that you can create with your daughter(s)? Your daughter(s) need this space and time with you.
I tend to worry more than I should. It's not a good quality - as in I even lose sleep because I play the worst case scenario repeatedly in my mind. Control freak (maybe?) I worry about a variety of things in my life but mostly our daughters.
With each stage of life there are new experiences, trials and changes. Ah change!!!!! Change and I are not good friends, we do not get along. Give me my structure, schedule and lists and it's all good.
Our family loves after church visiting. Generally we are one of the last families to leave. It was like that when my husband was the Youth Pastor and now that he plays on the majority of the music teams we can generally be found at the front of the church cleaning up music equipment and visiting.
One particular Sunday I was visiting with someone and I was sharing about our oldest daughter going to work at camp this summer and that she would be gone for four weeks! I don't know how I am going to handle it!!!!! She goes away to a youth retreat weekend, or a sleepover and I miss her terribly and have trouble sleeping. You know what my friend said to me:
"Do you think you can take better care of her than God can?"
Sometimes you need a friend to give you a kick in the butt. At first I was like, "Wow, harsh!" Then I slowly began to realize how true her words are.
Two weeks later I had an opportunity to exercise this new found wisdom. Our daughter left for a youth retreat at a Christian College that is a couple of hours away from our home. I dropped her off at the meeting spot - went back to my vehicle, paused for a moment and prayed for her weekend.
As she came to mind that weekend and worry began to settle in - I would stop and pray.
And you know what happened? I found peace and I felt freedom. It was AWESOME!!!
Whenever I would quiet my heart to pray for her, I would listen to what my heart was telling me to pray for. So instead of worrying I began praying that she would meet a mentor - someone that would be a positive influence in her life, that would be a good listener for when she needed someone other than her Mom and someone that she could connect with occasionally.
On Sunday I was excited to pick her up to hear about the weekend. I got to the church early and wrote in my journal while I was waiting anxiously for her return. Eventually my very sleep deprived daughter arrived and had enough energy left to share about the weekend. She had an amazing time - lots of fun activities, found a new love of lattes and she met an amazing girl that is a student at the college and just happens to be dating a guy from our church.
I could feel the smile in my heart, as I was so very thankful for a Father who listens, and cares and protects what we hold so very dear. This girl, this answer to prayer has attended our church a few times with her boyfriend's family and she always makes time for our daughter and the other teens she connected with that weekend.
There is freedom in giving our cares & worries to the One that holds us in His hand - that knows the number of hairs on our heads.
The next time worry sets in and steals peace and freedom from you, quiet your heart and place your worries at the foot of the cross. He's got this.
This is my new lock screen on my phone.
I need this reminder.
I spoke with a group of Mom's this past week. As I was preparing I had this special message drop on my heart. We as Mom's are going to fail. We are going to say and do things that we regret. Whether it is toward our husbands or our children - some days we are going to go to bed with a heavy heart after a long, hard day.
But as the sun sets and as the sun rises on a new day we are given this gift found in Lamentations.:
It's hard to believe that my new favorite verse, that gives me so much hope and strength comes from a book about lamenting. About the destruction of Jerusalem, about poor choices. Lamentations is a hymn of sorrow and regret. How many nights do I crawl into bed thinking those exact things about myself, my day, my choices.
But the book goes on to show us that God's faithfulness and mercy is the key to a restored relationship with Him.
I live in Saskatchewan and we are known as the Land of Living Skies, which comes in part from the dancing Northern Lights in our night skies, but we also have the most amazing sunsets and sunrises. I have sat on my porch swing many nights enjoying the view of the setting sun.
When I meditate on the words in Lamentations, it gives that sunset new meaning. As the sun closes on the day that is now behind me, I have made many choices that day. Some amazing and maybe some not so amazing. But as the sun will rise the next morning I have the opportunity to wake up and be amazing. Why?
Because my Heavenly Father's faithful, loyal, constant and trusted love, combined with His patient and compassionate mercy restores my soul every morning. How overwhelmingly beautiful is that! Oh my word! Do you understand the magnitude of that! Dear Mama's - every sunset and sunrise presents another opportunity for us to experience God's grace.
What hope that gives this Mama's heart, as I passionately desire to be a godly example to my family, as I pray for wisdom and discernment in the parenting of our daughters, as I faithfully come alongside and do life with my husband - May my attitude become one of "I get to" instead of "I have to".
As you journey through life today I want to leave you with this promise found in Romans 15:13 - have a beautiful day.
"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."
** feel free to save the wallpaper to your phone and use it as your lock screen, it will change the way to you see today.
Get notes from Carolyn