Or is it? I'm not sure...maybe...what do you think??

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas is coming...

"Peace on earth and goodwill to all men" sang the angels that first Christmas.  

What would they have thought if they could have foreseen our typically frenetic approach to the event?  Would even an angel keep its composure in our 21st century Christmas? 
When faced with writing hundreds of Christmas cards to long-abandoned friends, baking dozens of mince pies, and frantically checking the e-mail updates on those elusive on-line orders, only to spend the day itself cooking and clearing up after people we wouldn't normally choose to spend a day with?!

Sometimes it seems impossible that we could find peace and joy in the heart of all the bustle and preparation.

And yet there are those precious moments hidden away amongst the busyness.   The not-so-muffled-whispers of excited children early on Christmas morning.   The wide eyes of a loved one opening a present they'd longed for but not expected to get.  The sudden, awkward hug of that annoying family member that did appreciate spending the day with you after all.

So this year I am making a mental catalogue of the things that are special to me, in an attempt to keep my heart warm and my head a little clearer.  I am sifting through my memories, and pulling out and admiring those moments I treasure: my son trying to decide whether he was most excited about his presents or our traditional Christmas Eve holly hunt; singing carols together by the warming shimmer of candlelight; waking up to my husband on Christmas Day and knowing that we still love being together; seeing the glow on my children's faces when they discover their magically-filled stockings (even though one of them isn't sure he believes in Santa anymore).   The amazing truth that we have a God who loves us so much that he would consider taking on the limitations of a baby, to be born in a smelly cowshed, in occupied territory.

It doesn't make the preparations any less; but it makes me smile whilst I work through them - both in gratitude for moments passed, and in anticipation of the new treasures that may be my presents this year.

A Happy Christmas to All.   See you in 2011!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

I Just Can't Help Myself...

My name is Eliza and I am a self-help-aholic.
There, I've said it, made my confession.  Despite all rational thoughts to the contrary (and my husband's silent despair) I am a sucker for self-help.

A look at my bookshelf gives this away.  How to be more organised, Feeling Good, 10 Steps to Positive Living, How to Stop Worying - there they all sit, a testament to various tried and abandoned attempts at self improvement over the last couple of decades.

Fortunately I've been happily married for most of that time so I've skipped the Men are From Mars, Women who love too much section.   But motherhood brings its own neuroses so I've been able to add How to raise happy children, The Baby Whisperer et al.  Throw in a few Christian titles and I've got quite a collection.

I have tried to give it up before.  A purge of my bookshelves a few years ago saw a number of happiness manuals bite the dust.  

But I noticed this week, when trying to clear out the paper rack, that I seem to have moved on to what you might call "self-help lite".  I have a backlog of magazines that I've saved because of a tempting headline of the "transform your life in 5 minutes" variety.  From weight loss, to happiness, to decluttering the house, I've hung on to a whole stack of publications in the hope that those few glossy pages are going to make all the difference.

A small part of my brain knows just throwing those magazines away would be a good move towards the "simplyfying my life" that the articles promise.  And I am going to.  Honestly.  When I've just read this one more...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Smiling through the snow

Outside my window is a winter wonderland of gleaming white.  Schools are closed, the buses have stopped running, everything is grinding to a halt in the face of all this innocent-seeming fluffy whiteness.

But a strange thing seems to have happened.   Not only has the snow transformed the landscape, it seems to have transformed the people too.

The snow has made us all slow down - it is just not possible to rush around at break neck speed.  Suddenly we start to see which of our commitments are really vital and which we can live without.  In particular, driving has become so difficult that we have all started walking more: to school (when its open), to the local shops, the local cafe.   Life has become simpler and closer to home.

Most noticeably, people have started talking to each other.   In the shops, or just passing in the streets we smile, we stop and speak to one another - about the weather, about how we are managing, if anyone needs any help.  Neighbours look out for each other, families gather together in front of the fire.

It is not that the snow doesn't have negatives, of course it does: passengers trapped on trains or in their cars, disruption to work, dangerous conditions.   But in the face of all these difficulties it seems that we have the ability to pull together and to start to see what is really important.

It makes me wonder whether there isn't a way to try to replicate these feelings, without needing some sort of crisis to bring us to it.  As Jan Struther's Mrs Miniver observes "It oughtn't to need a war to make us talk to each other in buses, and invent our own amusements in the evenings, and live simply, and eat sparingly, and recover the use of our legs, and get up early enough to see the sun rise."

So maybe the real challenge for us all is to keep smiling, keep talking, keep walking, when the snow is no longer with us.