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On these last days of November, take a few moments to look ahead to the coming days of the Christmas celebration of Jesus. I give you permission to slow down, say “no” to too much of everything and to breathe in the quiet delights of Winter. Yes, it will take a strong will to deliberately choose more contemplative and restorative pleasures! I’ve listed a few ideas below…just to get you started!

!. Make an appointment every two or three days to sit down and listen to music for one entire hour. If small children are joining you provide them with a chunk of play dough or some crayons and paper and encourage them to listen as well.

2. Take a walk! If it’s icy, you don’t have to go far but do bundle up and stand in the crispy cold or rainy outdoors. Better yet, stand outside at night and listen to night sounds. You may hear the sounds of the city or the country but get in touch with whatever is out there!

3. Cook up a simple pot of soup or stew. If you know an elderly person or someone who is alone…take them a jar full and give them a hug to tell them you are thinking of them.

4. Pray. Thank God for His goodness toward you and ask Him for His peace. He will give it to you.

5. Count your blessings. I don’t know…maybe it’s my materialistic little self rearing its ugly head but I’ve found that I can very easily feel dissatisfied with what I have at this time of year. Contentment is a struggle for me when I am bombarded with images of expensive gifts and fancy homes.I have found that I have to make a deliberate choice to look at what I do have and to verbally talk about how blessed I am. This is good for my soul.

6. Look for simple things to change the atmosphere and feeling of your home. Sprinkle some cinnamon in a small pan of water and simmer it on the stove until the house smells “happy.” Read a good book to the children. Put food coloring in the homemade play dough or make simple construction paper and glue chains to decorate the house (but only if you don’t have to go to the store to get the paper and glue!).

It doesn’t cost any money to deep clean the house or sing while you work. Learn a new hymn together, go back and remember year by year where you spent each Christmas of your life.

7. Breathe deep and choose joy as you prepare to celebrate our Savior’s birth.