Thursday, December 14, 2017

thoughts on a Thursday -- switching up Christmas and "seek ye first"

Lucy and I walk to school with Bo every chance we get.  It's good for all of us in different ways, but for Bo, it's a good way to teach her that really, she doesn't have to strangle herself trying to pull us forward with that leash of hers.  (yes, we have a little vest that alleviates this but sometimes it is inadvertently left at home in the hustle to get out the door...just bear with me because I'm trying to make an analogy here...:)

Lucy and I try to praise that pup of ours when she "heels" and is calm, and trots along beside us, and I wonder why she can't just be happy doing that?  Why does she need to pull with all her might causing herself to gag in the process?  Why can't she just walk and enjoy the ride?

And yesterday morning as she was pulling and Lucy and I were dragging along I realized that that right there is a perfect analogy to my motherhood at this time of year.

December is kicking my bootie, as I know it is most mothers out there.  I'm just like Bo pulling with all my might on that leash (and sometimes cutting off my breath in the process) trying to "get there," instead of enjoying the journey, trotting along taking in the beautiful view.  Why can't I do that??

Sure, much easier said than done.  I am well aware.  Because I do this every year.  And every year at about this time I vow I will do this differently next year.  And then December is once again upon us and it's like Groundhog's Day.  Over and over and over again.

I did try to switch it up this year.  When we found out that Max decided to wait until January to come home from his mission we decided we wanted to serve in our own way this Christmas, just like he is serving over on that island of Taiwan.  So we decided to go on the service trip to Ecuador we had looked in to taking Grace and Claire on last summer before Grace's China internship came into play.  We decided to go serve in a special needs orphanage there.  We had a special little council with all the girls to see how they would feel about this being our Christmas.  No gifts, no packages tied up with string, but an experience that we would get to do together and give our Christmas away.

Lucy wasn't too keen to jump on the band-wagon at first.  With good reason.  I mean, that's a tough thing for an 11-year-old to swallow.  Especially Lucy.

But as soon as she heard we'd be close to the Amazon Rain Forrest she was on board.  Because you know, that's where one of the "American Girls" went in one of the books she read and to her that is reason enough to switch up your Christmas :)

But I dumbly supposed that cutting out all the normal Santa stuff and presents under the tree would somehow make this Christmas season magical.  And I'm sure it will...eventually.  But until then, there's a lot of travel plans trying to solidify (way more complicated than I anticipated), lots of worries rolling around in my brain about each individual child of mine, and still all kinds of Christmas hoopla going on, concerts, field trips, family parties, church parties, homework to stay up all night to do, finals coming up, home school to figure out, sports to sit on the sidelines for (really, I think all sports should be cancelled in December), gifts for extended family and neighbors and Christmas cards...those dang Christmas cards!  Ha!  (We did simplify a bunch on that too...almost to the point of not doing them...but we've done them every year since Dave and I got married nearly 23 years ago and I'm much too much of a creature of habit to throw that tradition out the window...). 

Yes, December is nutty any way you look at it.

Yesterday for scriptures we came across Matthew 6:33 that tells us to  “Seek ye first..."

I loved talking to the girls about what it means to "Seek first the Kingdom of God."  And as we talked we all talked about what things we're mixed up "seeking" before what we should really seek (God). All the Christmas fluff can so swiftly take away from "seeking" the right things first.  Yes, all the giving and beauty and joy is "seeking the kingdom," but there is so much that is not.  So much that distracts us from seeking the Kingdom of God.

So I wrote a big poster that says, "Seek Ye First..." and put it up in the kitchen to help me remember...to help all of us to remember what's most important.  All the Christmas hoopla is awesome and wonderful...but it should only be filling in after we first "seek first" what's most important:

That Holy Child in that manger so long ago.  The best Christmas gift ever given.  "Oh come let us adore Him" by seeking that which is most important.

Ok, just had to get that out, because it was a good lesson to me snuggled up with my girls on the couch...Claire and Lucy were still dead-asleep and Grace was nodding, as was Dave over making breakfast in the kitchen, but for me it spoke to my tired December heart.

And I hope that little sign can help me remember to prioritize right.

In other thoughts...

The hot weather of Fall here in the desert has finally turned crisp.  We even got to turn on the fire the other night and I've worn sweaters twice :)  One night Dave turned on the heat and there's something about the smell of the heater on in the house that feels so cozy to me.

Lucy and I love listening to Tchaikozsky's Nutcracker Suite whenever we are home together.  The other girls roll their eyes and would rather listen to some rapper guy, but Lucy's eyes sparkle at the classical stuff and she's the one who most often is first to turn it on.

My neck has been kinked weird so I can't twist it for two full weeks now.  It is a little on the annoying side.

We have only read one Christmas story under the Christmas tree so far this year.  When my kids were little we did that without fail every night.  I knew it was great back then and I did cherish it, and now I'm just grateful for any moment we get.  It seems like there is something every single night I tell you!  But I think that's one thing that helps me "seek first" so we're going to make it a priority tonight.  Nothing brings in the Christmas spirit to me like letting those beautiful Christmas stories filled with goodness wash over us all snuggled up in the warmly glowing light of the Christmas tree.

Ok, so many more thoughts but I can't straighten them quite right now so signing off for today.

Off to "seek first" all the goodness of this season offers and try to let the other fluffy things slide a little better.

24 comments:

  1. I think it's great that you are doing a service trip for Christmas. I do have a couple of questions, since I'm not really familiar with "service trips" - and contrary to popular belief - I'm NOT being snarky - I am truly curious.

    What service, exactly, is being done in Equador at the orphanage? When families go there, to "do service" - other than visiting and making them happy - what is the itinerary?

    Also, is this an orphanage that is sponsored by the LDS church? Is part of the curriculum (for lack of a better term) - teaching them LDS beliefs?

    Thanks in advance to Shawni - and any others who may be able to answer me.

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    1. I don’t think Shawni has said yet what service they plan to do in Ecuador, but if you go to her blog menu, under “travel” she wrote about their service trip to India and what they did there. Their other service trips might be catalogued there too, but I’m not sure. :-)

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    2. Good question. Since this orphanage houses special needs kids there are a lot of needs. As volunteers we will help with everything. We will dress, feed, bathe, do hair, give medication, help with therapies, involve them in activities every day (we are still trying to figure out all the different daily activities we want to do with them...it is interesting to try to figure that out knowing that they can't do many of the things that first come to mind...). From what I understand volunteers are extremely busy and it can be quite emotionally and physically draining. We are trying to prepare in many different ways for this experience, because it will be very unique.

      This orphanage is not sponsored by the church, nor are any of the orphanages we will visit. I think two of them are run by nuns from the Catholic church. But the organization we are going to work for there (OSSO) was founded by a member of the LDS church when he saw the need for some extra support. You can find out more about this organization here: http://www.orphanagesupport.org/volunteer/

      This is not a missionary effort (we won't be teaching LDS beliefs...but are of course happy to share if anyone is interested :). Our purpose is to simply go and serve.

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    3. Shawni, I went to Ecuador with OSSO in 2002 and had an amazing experience! I’m so excited that my husband and I are now saving to take our 4 kids down next summer. I hope you all have a great experience. :)

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  2. I know it sounds harsh and painful but a "choke Collar" or I think some people call them german pinch collars really really work with dogs that pull. My beagle is super stocky and strong and he would drag me along every walk, harness or no harness. I now use the pinch collar and it took one pull for him to understand that it would pinch him if he pulled. Now he's the best dog to walk!

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    1. Seconding this comment. My golden pulled me beyond belief until I showed up at a pet store in tears asking for a "choke collar". Of course they also fitted him with a vest, which made me ask if that was just removing the negative consequence of pulling (gagging himself), and they said yes. So I bought the vest and the collar out of guilt, use the vest when we're swimming so we have a handle on him, and use the choke collar daily. We trained him on it so we literally never have to use it.

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    2. I highly recommend watching Cesar Millan's dog training on how to walk a dog on a leash. IT WORKS!!!! I have been successful with his methods and they are safe for the dog. Cesar is amazing.

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  3. I served in Ecuador, what a beautiful place! Loved your analogy today! Made me ponder on my December craziness. I have tried to keep this quote in mind, "Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him everything else" C.S. Lewis. My key words are "with Him". Anyway, thanks for your blog and thoughts!

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  4. Please be careful with collars/leashes on smaller dogs. I was told that using a collar attached to a leash on smaller dogs may cause severe neck/throat damage. I've always had bigger dogs and now that I have small dogs I have been learning a lot about the differences.

    I am in awe of how much you are able to do! Thanks for such an inspirational and fun blog!

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  5. For your neck. Find an amazing chiropractor and massage therapist. You don't want to be dealing with that on your trip. Prayers coming!

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    1. I agree. Your atlas is out of place. Get that back in place and you'll feel like a million bucks! Be careful the chiropractor--it shouldn't be forced. We have an amazing chiropractor here in the Northwest. People come from out of state to see him! Arizona is a bit of a trip though.

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  6. Would you be willing to share the title of your favorite Christmas stories that you read each year? I want to start this tradition with my family and would love book suggestions!

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    1. If you go back to Nov 14 blog post of this year there is a link to Shawnis favorite Christmas books and other books.

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    2. Thank you NOTOrious. Here's the link: http://www.71toes.com/2013/12/friday-q-favorite-christmas-books.html

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  7. Off topic but can you include an update on Elle!? I'm interested to hear about what it's like going to BYUH - looks like an amazing and adventurous experience. Also, as I'm absolutely fascinated by these super young college engagements/marriages, I'm curious if she feels the pressure to find herself a boyfriend/husband. I understand it's a normal part of your culture but from an outsider (non-Mormon) perspective it's wildly different. Nobody expects to be graduating college engaged/married and especially not in college. Just genuinely curious what it's like for her as she doesnt seem like the type of girl to rush into that.

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    1. Yes I need to get to a post on her...she's doing great over in Hawaii and loves it so much sometimes I wonder if she'll live there forever! She's working hard and dating a little (with no rushing into getting serious!) and having the best time. We miss her like crazy though.

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  8. I am curious about how you do this service trip. Do you exchange gifts with Dave's side or your side of the family? Or is it no gifts to anyone? I remember Dave's family draws names, but what does the Eyre side do? Also, even with drawing names do you buy for both your parents every year? Do you always buy for your brother that lives in Gilbert since you are so close? I am curious and a little stressed out over the extended family members we buy for. Just curious how you do it, especially when you are having a no gift year for yourselves.

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    1. Yes we are still doing gifts for extended family and parents. We have a gift-giving-rotation in Dave's family and mine as well. Dave's parents are serving in Africa and so we are donating to some of the things they are involved in in lieu of gifts for them (at their request). I love that because it's always such a deal to figure out what to give! We are hoping Santa will still find our kids in Ecuador and bring stockings with a few simple gifts and the kids are doing their traditional Christmas Eve gift exchange before we leave...yet to determine which day we're going to make that happen...

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  9. From a fellow 'tired December heart,' I appreciate your thoughts and the reminder that while many holiday traditions are a great way to strengthen and unify our families, we can let them go when they start get in the way. Families change and grow over time and sometimes traditions do too. My mom loves to remind us that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." And that's what shouldn't ever get lost or changed.

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  10. Shawni..... Hellooooooo?

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  11. Your thoughts are encouraging to me, as they make me feel like I'm not alone in the insanity of December. I even tried to do a little something each day in November, but it doesn't feel like I'm any further ahead. I've been writing down my top three priorities each day (yesterday's were "Kid's service and Light the World" "Read Christmas Stories and Devotionals to my kids" and "Grandparents gifts".) It has really helped me to stay focused and not worry about the rest. As a side note, a few months ago, I really tweaked my neck after doing too heavy of weight on deadlifts. It was a few days before I was set to hike Mt. Timpenogas (out of state for me) for my birthday. I have an exercise physiology background so tried to do some of the therapy on my own that I had learned. But then I discovered these guys, physical therapists who have so many great tips and teach you how to do each exercise. I highly recommend them! I did their suggested exercises religiously for three days and my pain went away within a few days. I had no issues on my hike in the snow might I add. haha! Check this out! I did about 6 of their recommended exercises several times a day, so look through their channel for neck exercises. This one is where I started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WrqTD33nDM&t=299s

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  12. This video may be the best one, I think it has all of the exercises I did, I especially loved the movements with a towel:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVctwE8TW9U

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    1. Thank you for sending these links! I'm going to check them out.

      And I've got to do the "prioritizing" thing a little better like you do...good way to "seek ye first..."

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  13. I read an interesting post that I thought you might enjoy on the subject of “seek ye first”...

    http://jenniferfulwiler.com/2014/02/the-courage-to-rest/

    Lots for me to think about!!

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