The curse of the Christmas squirrel

Picture it with me.  I’m driving down a 3-lane, busy road on my way to physical therapy today listening to Christmas music on the radio.  Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a squirrel runs into the street!

The little guy barely missed the first car in the far right lane.  A split second later, it ran into the middle lane with its tail bushed up and sheer panic on its face.  A car drove right over it – and the squirrel was momentarily safely frozen under the center of the car. Confused, upset and dazed it ran it circles and headed toward my lane.

I slammed on the brakes, breathed in a huge gasp, locked my arms, tightened my grip on the steering wheel and braced for impact.

Miraculously, as it ran into my lane, it spontaneously turned around and ran the other way with no seconds to spare – crossed two lanes of traffic and was safe, for now, in the median.

Whew.  The drama!  Never saw that coming.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when an ah-ha! moment thumped you on the head?

This was my moment.  God showed up and used that squirrel to remind me of a great lesson…

Don’t be the squirrel this Christmas!

I saw that squirrel as me, only doing what I know – trying to get from one side of the holidays to the other.

The cars are all of the things that the holidays get congested with from Thanksgiving to New Year’s: bargain shopping, wrapping, mailing, make the Christmas card, buy the envelopes, buy the stamps, pick up Christmas cards, address them, update addresses in master list, go back and buy more stamps, check on online orders to ensure timely delivery of surprises, cookie exchange, volunteering, church musical, decorate the house, buy kids’ clothes for the school’s holiday band concert, fuss with half-strings of working lights, buy more wrapping paper because I thought I had enough leftover from last year, neighborhood holiday party, friend’s Christmas party, prepare for party brunch, planning teachers’ gifts and neighbors’ baked goodies, return half of what I bought because it’s wrong, or a duplicate, or whatever, search for gifts that I hid in the house and now cannot find, begin the brigade of homemade ornaments, photo calendar, etc. that I make every year for my family, more volunteering, more Christmas lunches, and so on.  And all of that is on top of regular life 24/7.

Does your holiday list look similar to mine, give or take?

Everything on the list is good.  I want to do it all!  However, in trying to do it all my attitude waffles between Merry Christmas and ba humbug!

In fact, when we were in NYC, a rolling news ticker released a poll taken asking how many Americans would rather skip Christmas with its expense of time and money.  Sadly, the percentage was high.

That squirrel was the best thing that could’ve happened to me today.  I got a bird’s eye view of how we can look at Christmastime – trying to get through the holidays without becoming overtaken by commitments that just keep on coming…one after the other after the other.  Without any time to think or respond, we merely react – which usually doesn’t end well.

You know, at first I felt sorry for that frightened little squirrel.  It doesn’t know any better.  It’s just foraging for what it must to survive.  Then, as I looked in the rear view mirror to make sure it reached the median safely, I thought, Why did it run into the street if it saw cars coming?

I hear people, me included, sometimes complain about all there is to do during the holidays.  So, why are we running into the street when we see the cars zooming past?

At the risk of sounding like a total dweeb, my favorite video game is Frogger.  Remember that one?  I have the attention span of a gnat and therefore have no use for video games, but Frogger was my favorite Atari game.  The game starts out slow.  Easy.  Anyone can do it. Then, the next level is a little faster.  The level after that is faster and has added snakes and crocodiles and bonus points.  The levels get so intense it’s virtually impossible to get that frog safely across the street and river.

I know why we continue to dart the escalating holiday rush…we want the bonus points.

We want to prove to the world, and/or ourselves, that we can do it all.  We don’t want to disappoint anyone for any reason – and this can come at any expense including money, time, energy and even our health.

I came home from Thanksgiving travel sick as a dog.  I have been frustrated this week that I am doing all of the above mentioned things feeling horrible.  So why do them at this particular moment in time?  Why can’t I just put back on my pajamas and crawl into bed and get the rest I badly need and then continue with the list later stronger, healthier?

Bonus points.  Keeping the agenda going.  Self satisfaction to name a few.

Getting sick may just be God’s way of making me slow down so I don’t miss the moments that make up the Christmas season and not merely survive the month.

So.  Where do we go from here?

I know where I am going.  Nowhere.

I’m going to stay at level one.  The slow, easy level.

Chipping away at the to-do list, I will reassess my commitments – those I have been asked to do and those I have created for myself, and will prayerfully decide how and when to do them.  I will remember that these are activities I want to be involved in, and therefore my attitude should reflect that.  I will remember who I am doing all these things for, and that the who is always more important than the what.

Most importantly, I want to remember, and live out, the reason for the season – the love, hope and joy of the world’s largest birthday party – for Jesus!

When we break the curse of the Christmas squirrel, with all of its harriedness, worry, angst, exhaustion and self-imposed chaos, we have room in our hearts, minds, bodies and lives for the blessing of the true miracle of Christmas.  That’s the real bonus of the holiday season.

We’ve made it past Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  We are safely on the median.  Where will you go from here?

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