(in no particular order)
1. Well, except maybe this one. Get some quality time in with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be in the morning, but last thing at night is maybe pushing it. I’ve tried this and I don’t think prayer and/or Bible study work quite as well by osmosis. Also, if you sleep drool, (I know, none of us do, but let’s say a ‘friend’ does), then it makes the pages stick together.
A ‘quiet time’ is not a magic formula without which God will spend the day slyly bowling us Herculean tests because we haven’t clocked in. It’s not even about how long we spend, or whether we stick to a particular reading plan. This can be useful, but I don’t need Joni or Spurgeon to intercede on my behalf, great though they are. Nor does my day click over into ‘godly’ if I spend half an hour rather than ten minutes. (Though again, I can eat on the run for short periods, but after a while spiritual snacks aren’t enough to keep me going).
The more I care about someone, the more I want to spend time with them. And it’s incredible how the tenor of my day and my priorities can be shifted, just by talking them over with the Lord. I say this, because it’s an area where I struggle. Already today I’ve spent a large swathe of time pottering around and approximately eight minutes praying and gulping down a morsel of Scripture. I’m not half so pressed for time as most people I know, with kids or dogs or proper jobs. Nor do I live with a partner, friends or family who are antagonistic to the gospel. But despite this freedom, I frequently find myself talking for hours with friends about something that’s worrying me, without even mentioning it to God.
And it’s not that He’s too busy or doesn’t care. He is intensely interested in every area of our lives. But Jesus is not one of those mates I can just pick up with every few months or so. I’ve got a relationship with the living Lord. That’s what being a Christian is all about, right? So if we aren’t talking, then it’s not about a black mark on my heavenly copybook. The issue is that I’m blanking the person who gives me life and meaning and strength and peace and joy. And even if everything else is just peachy, without God at the centre, my life doesn’t hold together. I’m dissatisfied, sullen, or charging from one activity to the next. Conversely, when I’m having any sort of trauma (from badhairday to existential meltdown), when I know who I am in Him, it’s all ok.
Christmas IS Christ. Otherwise my contentment is index-linked to whether or not my friends are getting on, if we’ve got the right brand of brandy butter, who’s spent more money on whom, whether or not we’re snowed in, whether or not I get the Glee BoxSet, how good I look in my reindeer outfit, (the best lighting here is darkness), what we’re doing on New Year’s Eve…you fill in the blanks.
Lots of these things are good, but if I’m going to love other people and to step outside of myself, I need to have an identity that’s built on more than my reflection. A celebration that’s more than a glorified HallMark card. And a sense of purpose that extends a little further than my front door.
What else? I thought you’d never ask. Here, at great personal expense, are just some of the many nuggets of wisdom I’ve amassed in my capacity as Vicar’s Wife..
Firstly, my legendary traybake recipes. You can never, repeat never, do enough baking. Or…
that could be a great big juicy lie!!
From the same women who bought her hubby sarnies from Asda and then wrapped ’em up to look home-made, (but ruined the illusion by telling everyone anyway).
No, I’m afraid bakerycleaneryniceness is not really my forte (I’ve been giving it a go recently, but early days my friends). So here’s the real wisdom;
2. Ironing. Pile up the clothes on top of the sofa, drape a rug over and let your guest’s bums do the walking.
3. Cranberry sauce. Buy it from the supermarket, squeeze an orange in, et voila. As good as home-made. (This one actually does work).
4. Dim lighting or candles. Atmospheric, cosy and a cunning disguise for dust and smudges.
5. Delegation. Sometimes people like to feel involved. (Sometimes they don’t, but that’s just too bad). And do it early (maybe as you hand out a glass of mulled wine or mince pie) – that way people know what’s happening and you don’t end up barking orders once you’ve hit boiling point.
6. Stick on a nice Christmassy (or otherwise) film in the background. Maybe not Nightmare On Elm Street, but it’s all a matter of taste.
7. M+ S. For everything! Yes it’s pricey, but so is a year’s prescription for anti-depressants and for the sake of one day, there’s a strange beauty to the words, ‘ready-cooked’.
8. Have a pet on standby to blame for the post-sprout fall-out.
9. The world is not going to end if you run out of …pretty much anything. (Except maybe toilet roll. And as mum is fond of reminding me, when she was young they used newspaper. And presumably also rode dinosaurs to the shops).
10. Ban the words ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘need’ and ‘perfect’.
11. When people are winding you up, send up a prayer flare. The Lord know what’s happening and a simple ‘help’ can make all the difference.
12. Also, when people are winding you up, go to your happy place. Think of your brain as a little sheep, gambolling across the living-room floor and away from Charades. That’s it – be the sheep. Leapfrog the sofa, out the window and off into the sunset. No-one need ever know..
13. Be aware that stress comes out in different ways. That’s ok. A friend of mine was telling me about her experience hosting a dinner party. She was chatting at the table with friends and laughing so hard at the witty repartee, that she had to get up and get a glass of water. When filling up her glass she was horrified to discover that her laughter had turned to huge racking sobs. I think that’s probably par for the course.
14. Yes, everyone LOOKs normal. So did the Waltons but they’re probably still drying out at Betty Ford. Don’t compare yourself or your family to anyone else. It’s a recipe for discontentment or unbearable smugness.
15. If all else fails, ease into a tactical retreat – under the table, in the wardrobe or under the coats. No-one will miss you, honestly. This is a great place to play the DVD and you may get to catch up with some old friends.
16. Whatever happens, Jesus is still seated at the right hand of the Father. You still have an eternal inheritance in heaven and a heavenly Father who loves you exactly as you are. You don’t need opiates or Terry’s Chocolate Orange. You’re filled with the Spirit of the Living Lord. And even when the boat’s rocking, He’s in there with you. Ho-dee, ho, ho.