This Christmas is extremely busy for Peter and me—probably the most busy that we've been at Christmas…ever! That says a lot, coming from someone whose childhood years included an extremely fragmented extended family. My parents were the only one that seemed to be on speaking terms with everyone, so we celebrated family Christmas at least five times, not to mention the various church events, school events, and so on.
Then, after Peter and I got married, he became a pastor. That has its own unique busyness and set of stresses during the Christmas season.
When we got to Japan, we naturally used Christmas time as a springboard to share the good news about Jesus with many people. We've hosted several events each year, plus ESL Christmas parties, etc.
But this year is different. Within the span of three days near the start of December, we had already led or participated in four different Christmas events. Some of you may have read on Facebook about the cooking club that we hosted last weekend. A record-breaking 29 people showed up. Imagine trying to teach new recipes in a foreign language to 29 people in a 450 square-foot apartment!
This coming weekend we plan to host our home Christmas outreach party. Today we are doing the shopping. Tomorrow we start cooking. Friday we start the turkey: a 16 pound bird takes about 13 hours to cook in a toaster oven.
But that's not all that's happening this week. On Saturday, we're helping out with a Christmas party that the church is putting on especially for kids. Tonight we have a planning meeting for another Christmas service and party that we will be organizing with one other person—on Christmas day. We only found out that we were organizing it a few days ago. That party is for the entire church and community—it's likely that more than 100 people will show up. Since this week we are working on the home outreach party, we will have less than a week to organize the next one.
But that's not all, either. This year there are also some December weddings, and Peter has been asked to play violin at them. One happens on the same day as our home outreach party. So, on Friday he will be going to the wedding rehearsal, and on Sunday he will be skipping out, two hours before the party starts!
This year, I can't help meditating on the ways that God has changed my heart and outlook over the past five years.
I am a very strong type-A personality. Changes to my plans used to cause me enormous stress. I well remember—and I'm pretty sure Peter does too—flipping out following a very small change in the plans for our first home Christmas party.
But this year, though things are busy—and I won't deny that I am feeling some pressure—I'm finding myself much less stressed than I would have expected. Because I know that it doesn't all depend on me. I know that even though I can't always see the big picture, God can. He has everything under control. I am not responsible for making any of these events a success. My only responsibility is to prayerfully submit myself to Him, and obey the things that He tells me to do. He will do the rest. And, even in the midst of the chaos, I can rest in Him.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)