chronic illnessholidays

Finding Peace At Christmas

Today’s post is the last guest post in the Surviving the Holidays with Chronic Illness series and it couldn’t come at a better time! So often we can get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that we forget to take the time to sit quietly and reflect on the true meaning of the season. Finding peace at Christmas and taking refuge in our Savior knowing the HOPE and PROMISE that was given to us to many years ago. Today’s post is written by Claudia from Until I Rest In Him so be sure to visit her blog! P.S. I am working on recovering from our trip to Disney and cannot wait to share our experience and pictures with you guys!

Finding-Peace-At-Christmas

Almost within a week of having our Christmas tree up, something I could not quite put my finger on was calling to me. Every time I would look at the tree, something just kept calling to a part of me that I felt so detached from yet still something SO familiar.

As the days went on, and that “something” continued to call to me, I began to get creative visions. I would have visions of this beautiful tree that had a “woodsy” feel to it but yet still elegant. A tree that had earth tone hydrangeas throughout its branches and somehow had a vintage feel to it a tree I could keep up ALL year round that I could decorate to reflect each individual season.

I kept the vision to myself for quite some time as I allowed the feelings of confusion to stir. I slowly began to get clarity on what it was I was feeling more and more each day. Something inside me felt as if it were shifting. It felt as if there was a deeper part of me that was trying to communicate with me but somehow there was still this disconnect…and the more I felt it, the more I yearned to connect to…”it”.

I began to pray for clarity and ask God why this felt like more than just an idea I had to keep some tree up all year round. Why did this idea speak to me in a way nothing had in longer than I could remember? My mind was racing with what this was all about and how I would make this happen among the countless other thoughts whirling around my head…and then…a whisper…not in my ear…in my body…my whole body. It was an invitation to be still. Be still…and just allow the thoughts to whirl around…and see what happens.

I tried over and over and over again to….be still. I couldn’t do it. So, I continued to research on the computer all the elements I would need to make this “seasonal tree” trying desperately to piece together all the fragments of thoughts, ideas and feelings that would bring some wholeness to this…”thing” that was beckoning to me.

As I continued to ask for God’s help still not yet successful at being still, the pieces began to come together. Next thing I knew, I was finding discount stores online that carried the elements that once again spoke to me and felt as if they were each a missing puzzle piece in this creative endeavor…whatever it was to come to be in the end. From there I went on a website designed for independent artists to showcase and sell their work, found a bunch of very talented artists who made homemade gift tags that were just the right size and style, and went to town! I was thrilled to have also found a gorgeous handmade burlap tree skirt to match the burlap ribbon I used on the tree (For a list of the artists I purchased the tags from, as well as the artist I purchased the handmade burlap tree skirt from, scroll to the bottom of the blog post). I felt so blessed that God had given me the idea that if I decorated the tree with artistic gift tags, I could do the entire tree for EVERY season and EVERY holiday within my budget. Awesome! I had a BLAST picking these out. The tree was still decorated for Christmas and the research was just getting started but the creative juices were flowing!

Soon, Christmas had come to pass and the tree stood there completely stripped of all decorations and the only thing I had expressed to my husband was that I wanted him to please leave the tree up because I had an “idea” as I called it at the time. Now, to my husband this was music to his ears because at that point, he didn’t care what the idea was. All he knew was that he didn’t have to take the tree down and that alone was a wonderful idea to him! 🙂 

Day after day, my husband would see these small packages arrive in the mail from various etsy shops and discount floral stores online and my eyes would light up like a little kid…on Christmas morning. It wouldn’t matter what kind of day I had. When those packages would arrive, “it” lit up…that “thing” inside me came alive.

My husband had no idea what any of this was at this point. All he knew was that it all had to do with this idea I had to keep the tree up year round. Since I just kept the vision at bay with “you’ll see” as my standard response to any questions he had, he just let it go and said “ok, whatever makes you happy” Happy…hmmm. Well, it was more like…alive. I felt…alive. For that brief moment I held the packages in my hand each day they would arrive, and the vision began to take shape….something in me that had laid dormant day after day – would come to life. It didn’t matter that it was only for a short time. I still cherished what it felt like to feel something other than weary.

With each passing day, the racing, whirling thoughts began to settle down and were replaced with a peace…a silence from within where I began to feel what would be normal to describe as “lost” in putting this seasonal tree together piece by piece. What I find so ironic about that phrase is that this project allowed me to silence my mind. It allowed me to put the whirling thoughts to rest…it allowed me to find stillness…I FOUND STILLNESS….I FOUND SILENCE….only when I listened to the calling from within and allowed myself to get LOST in following the whispers did I FIND….MY SPIRIT.

The self-defeating thought I chose to believe was…

“A tree that you would leave up ALL year round…what?! That’s such a stupid idea. Only you would think of something so ridiculous like that. Besides, nobody’s going to get it. How are you going to explain yourself when people walk in your home and they see a tree up? Ridiculous. Besides do you have any idea how expensive something like that would be? Forget it already.”

If I were to allow myself to receive the gift of God’s grace and place all my faith in the Word, then in God’s eyes, the truth is…

John 10:27 (ESV)
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Today I recognized Jesus…

Ok, not to sound like a broken record here but let’s look at this from another perspective. I had to LOSE myself in order to FIND my SPIRIT, right? Well, what’s even more intriguing to me is that I did it while putting together my first ever seasonal tree for…
Valentine’s Day

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
– Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

My spirit chooses to trust it’s intuitive nature and interpret that as yet another sign from God that this journey for me personally, at this time, is not about trying to be like everybody else and beating myself up day after day because I can’t seem to ‘join the crowd’. No, it appears to me that this journey is at this time, about learning to LOVE MYSELF THROUGH MY FULL ACCEPTANCE OF WHO I AM IN CHRIST.

In otherwise, it’s not my job or my calling to ‘fit in’ right now. It’s my job to…

‘make peace with the silence.’ MY silence.

It is MY personal belief that then and only then, can I begin to heal…REALLY heal. So, for me, putting those hearts up on the tree one by one, started off as just decorating the tree around a theme. Now that it’s decorated and I’m able to step back and take it in day after day, I see the irony of it all.

I cannot sit here and FULLY embrace that I am a child of God in one breath if in the other breath, I’m going to turn around and continue allowing this self-talk to weaken my spirit.

I MUST continue to pray EVERY DAY that God keeps me focused on the very thing that is giving me life…MY SPIRIT.

What’s another way to perceive our spirit?
AS THE VOICE OF GOD.

So, for me, it appears this might be the toughest part of my journey now…making a decision that may take me some time to surrender to. Will I continue to allow the voice of the trauma to define who I am…or will I accept and EMBRACE who I AM and ALWAYS have been in Christ…and listen to the voice of my spirit?

“I will no longer wound myself with the thoughts and questions that have surrounded me like thorns: that is a penance You do not ask of me.”
Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

So, why did I not post this on Valentine’s Day?

Well, having gotten in the habit now of paying a BIT more attention to my spirit, I felt this post wasn’t quite ready. However, what strikes me about that is that Valentine’s Day itself is all about focusing on showing those around us just how much we love THEM…and that’s what it should be…on Valentine’s Day and EVERY day. I get that. I really do….but I have another theory as to why God didn’t settle my spirit in regards to posting this until AFTER Valentine’s Day.

As many of you know, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can often rob us of feeling ANY LOVE for OURSELVES. Now, I know that sounds like a very selfish statement. I get it….but it’s not. Why? Well, because it is my personal belief that THAT is what MY journey is all about AT THIS TIME. Discovering who I am in GOD…REALLY embracing his unconditional LOVE for ME and learning to RELEASE all other thoughts that I am less than worthy of His love.

Closing prayer to Jesus:

Dear Jesus,
Wow. Between the creation of the tree which included hours of searching online for just the right decorations, creating and recreating the tree over and over again until it FELT in alignment with my spirit, the confidence I had to allow you to build within me to SHARE this endeavor, the photography and countless pictures I took before finding just the right ones to post, etc…(deep sigh)…AND the hours it took to not only write this post but again, tweak it where it felt it was in alignment with my spirit’s message….well, it’s safe to say this tree…this post…is ALL a TRUE reflection of MY spirit…of YOU living within ME.

I now call it….my Spirit Tree.

So, for that reason alone,
the tree is perfect…just the way it is…until St Patrick’s Day 🙂

“Make peace with silence, and remind yourself that it is in this space that you’ll come to remember your spirit. When you’re able to transcend an aversion to silence, you’ll also transcend many other miseries. And it is in this silence that the remembrance of God will be activated.” 
― Wayne W. Dyer

Personal Reflection

Have you ever had a moment where you felt connected with your spirit through a creative endeavor of any kind? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Claudia De Mauro is a 42 year old woman with Spina Bifida/Chiari/Hydrocephalus/Tethered Cord Syndrome/Complex PTSD/Gastroparesis and struggles with extreme isolation due to the PTSD as well as the deep grief of being childless not by choice. Claudia is the author and creator of Until I Rest In Him (you can also find her on Twitter). The mission of “Until I Rest In Him” is to be the stepping stone on a path that leads another to trust in and rest in Jesus. 

 

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