These Small Hours: Living Intentionally During the Holidays

‘Tis the season for extra baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating and entertaining.  Starting with the Thanksgiving holiday and ending with New Year’s, the addition of extra activities on top of our regularly scheduled lives can get pretty stressful.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m definitely in favor of doing the “extras.” Holidays mark the passing of the year. Traditions create a sense of belonging and comfort. Children relish those things that “we always do,” and the once-a-year foods and décor call up a sense of wonder and excitement like nothing else. Even now, I have a hard time refreshing and replacing Christmas decorations….because the grown kids protest!

But here’s a reminder: Don’t forget the small hours.

Don’t lose sight of the people that you live and work with during this busy season. Life happens in the moments. There’s a tendency to get impatient and frustrated with the moments when there’s so much to do.

Changing diapers, wiping noses, taking time to listen to a co-worker or child’s story—we’re in a hurry to give it a slap and a promise so we can get to the important stuff. The reality is that the small hours ARE the important stuff.

All the little moments of life add up to memories, relationships and atmosphere. Our attitude in dealing with the little things affects the entire holiday season (and life year-round).

A certain holiday season stands out in my mind. It was busy as always, running from one activity to the next. The usual gathering of family for Thanksgiving, then before we knew it, Christmas. That year was especially hectic, as several family members were preparing to leave the very next day for a mission trip to Mexico.

I remember a poignant moment, captured on video, when each family opened a certain gift in unison. It was a patchwork quilt, crafted from scraps of Grandma’s dresses. The family had gathered for her funeral a few months earlier. The grown grandchildren examined the quilts eagerly, pointing out dresses they remembered her wearing. (Who says that children don’t notice what we wear?)

What I now remember is not so much the quilt, but the fact that we didn’t know it would be my brother-in-law’s last holiday with us. He was killed in a car accident on the return trip from Mexico a few days later, and life changed forever for the family.

I remember wishing that we could rewind, like an old VHS tape. But there are no rewinds, no do-overs, no going back and stopping the inevitable after it has begun.

This holiday season, which has already begun, stay aware of the small hours. Beware the tendency to skip reading aloud and tucking in bed. Live life at home intentionally, and keep things simple and good. Encourage and love by the caring actions of everyday life: cooking meals, brushing hair, doing laundry. Wherever you are, be there. Because in the end, all we really have is right now.

Childhood and life are fleeting moments, and our lives happen in these small hours.

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.

“Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas

from Meet the Robinsons (one of my favorite movies)

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