Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Travels

Two days before Thanksgiving I began my holiday travels by boarding the Texas Eagle for a trip to the Midwest to visit my daughters for Thanksgiving. I have been longing to make this train trip for many years and was thankful for the opportunity to finally do it. Austin to Chicago takes about 28 hours each way; that is ample time for visiting, snoozing, reading, and thinking. At the end of this journey I  have lots of stories, ideas, reflections, and observations to share so beginning today, and continuing through New Year's Day I plan to share them with shorter, and more frequent posts.  All aboard - let's take a trip!

The first thing that struck me was the complete absence of responsibility I had on this trip. I wasn't in charge of the schedule, the meals, the stops along the way, fueling the engines, or making sure the staff got along. This was a very new experience for me, and seemed an exceptionally great way to start the holidays. All I had to do was board the train and the rest was up to them. I had some non-critical decisions to make: I could eat what I brought, go to the snack car, or splurge on a full meal in the dining car; I could read this book or that magazine or play games on my computer; I could talk to the person next to me, someone in the observation car, or no one at all. None of these decisions was worthy of worry.

This got me to thinking about all the things we fret about around the holidays: where to go, what to eat, whether to order it or make it, who to invite, to have a real or fake tree, to attend this or that or the other event or party. We can work ourselves into a frenzy over a lot of things that don't have watershed consequences during the holidays. We want to create Christmas memories for our kids, but much of what we remember most happily from Christmas past was not orchestrated by anyone. Maybe it was the ice storm that shut down travel in all directions and left us huddled around the fireplace with nothing but candlelight and cookies for our Christmas supper. Perhaps it was the gift we didn't even know we wanted until we received it, or the way the Christmas story flooded our hearts at the annual Christmas pageant.

I know it's counter-intuitive, but I want to suggest that you may make the best Christmas memories for your children by letting go of some control and making a few spontaneous decisions. It seems scary but the One whose birth we celebrate is the Engineer on this train. A scrap of scripture comes to mind. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7) Let the Lord know your fears and anxieties as you go into the holiday season, and then let go and enjoy the ride!

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