Today, I am peering out the bedroom window watching rain falling on our pond as huge egrets and blue herons fly back and forth across the water and three tiny ducks swim quickly from the pond to the ravine and back again, diving intermittently. These adorable little ducks with colorful feathers and tiny bodies look so happy and content as they paddle around in frigid temperatures on a, seemingly, gloomy day.
It is one of the final days of autumn. The year has proven to be one of tumultuous weather, politics, and news in general. Not many things seem to invoke feelings of peace and goodwill towards men. The end of autumn ushers in a time to reset our minds and focus on the gifts given to us by Jesus Christ. Jesus came to Earth that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” as He states in the book of John in the Bible. “Abundant life” means many different things to many different people. For a lot of people, abundance means material abundance. More money equals abundance in their eyes. It may mean newer gadgets, nicer cars, better clothes, fancier restaurants, and similar things that can signify a certain social status.
For me, living an abundant life is to feel joyful and grateful as I look around at what I already have. Smiling at the thought of my husband and children. Laughing and playing with our animals. Enjoying our property. Catching up with old friends. Calling my mother almost every day. Welcoming people into my little farm shop, The Rusty Coop. Eating a sit down meal every night with The Outdoorsman. Relaxing in front of Christmas movies almost every night in December. This year, I am definitely feeling much more relaxed and content just hanging around on our property and relaxing in our own home. No need to go out to eat. No need to travel much at all. Just plain old contentment washes over me every day as I wash dishes and look out the windows in our cozy new kitchen.
For the past month, I have fully embraced the new season of retirement and rest where God has placed me. It is much slower, much more quiet, and much more solitary. After working for so many years, it has taken me almost two years to learn to sit still, to embrace retirement, and to enjoy every moment. After traveling more than I prefer during the month of November, it has been such a joy to be at home for most of December. The Outdoorsman and I have worked on some bigger and some smaller projects that have been put off for months. It has felt wonderful to get some of those completed during this season at home. We have cleaned up the feed room, burned trash and debris left from our kitchen renovation, worked on animal pens, decorated for Christmas, and slow-cooked chicken and sausage on our huge smoker. It has been so relaxing and enjoyable to do those things. It feels really, really good to complete small projects and to grill at home after being gone so much recently.
During the upcoming week, we have two big family days planned for Green Acres. My family will be arriving on Christmas Eve for our semi-annual Christmas Eve on the farm. We will have chili, taquitos, queso, chips, and Christmas desserts while we celebrate and spend time catching up! We will also play some games and make some s’mores and hot chocolate around the fire. On Christmas Day, it will be pretty quiet here with our own little family while we enjoy Christmas Brunch and open some gifts. On the day after Christmas, The Outdoorsman’s family will be arriving to visit, to cook out on our smoker, to make s’mores, to go on a hayride, and to stay warm around the fire! We have a lot of family time to look forward to in the next week!
At past gatherings, I have allowed stress to enter into the equation due to expectations and anxiety, but God has been working on my mind and my heart concerning anxiety. He is helping me to recognize how much joy is stolen when I am anxious about uncontrollable things. Like I tell our children all of the time, I can only control myself in a given situation. I can’t control what anyone else says, what anyone else thinks, what anyone else does, or what anyone else doesn’t do!! It only steals my own peace, my own joy, and my own energy when I allow myself to be concerned about what other people are doing. My new favorite phrase, stolen from the author Bob Goff, is “keep your eyes on your own paper” which is what Bob’s wife, Sweet Maria, always said to him when he needlessly concerned himself with other people. I can totally relate to that saying since I recently retired from teaching middle school! I said that phrase many, many times to my middle school students so it makes me smile when I say it to myself now! I have recently adopted that saying to remind myself to only be concerned with the things under my own control which is, solely, things concerning myself!!
During this Christmas season, “Keep your eyes on your own paper,” as Bob Goff would say. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, what anyone else is planning, where anyone else is going, or what anyone else is wearing. Comparison is the thief of joy. Do not steal your own joy by comparing your Christmas plans to anyone else’s plans. Do what makes you and your family happy. It can be as simple as watching a Christmas movie and eating popcorn or as elaborate as going skiing over Christmas Break. Whatever it is, make it count. Enjoy the moments with your family. Make memories together. Walk around the block looking at lights. Walk around your property looking at animals and signs of winter. Stay off your phones when your children are talking to you. Have FaceTime calls in real life!! Enjoy the days spent baking cookies together…..even if they aren’t homemade! Your life will, most likely, not look like a Hallmark Christmas Movie or an Instagram post by The Pioneer Woman or Joanna Gaines. Release yourself from your own expectations. I promise it will be a Christmas to remember once we allow ourselves to be human.
Merry Christmas to all of you from our family to yours!! May you experience the abundance of Christ this Christmas season and forever!
The Head Hen